By Karen Pihl-Carey

Ciphergen Biosystems Inc. raised $28.6 million in a Series E financing that will help the company expand sales and marketing of its ProteinChip System.

The company, based in Palo Alto, Calif., sold 10.4 million shares to both new and existing investors. New investors include lead investor Atlas Venture, of Boston, as well as Morgan Stanley Venture Partners, of New York; Essex Venture Partners LP, of Houston; AP Asset Management, of San Francisco; and OrbiMed Advisors LLC, of New York. Existing investors include Falcon Technology Partners LP, of Devon, Pa.; MDS Capital Corp., of Toronto; and SROne Ltd., of Wayne, Pa.

Ciphergen said it will use the proceeds to expand sales and marketing, research and development and its facilities. It also will use the funds for other general corporate purposes. The privately held company said it was in a quite period Friday and could not comment.

The company's main product is the ProteinChip System, which includes ProteinChip Arrays, ProteinChip Reader and ProteinChip Software. The system enables proteomics research and is based on the surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionization (SELDI) technology. SELDI allows proteins to be captured, separated and quantitatively analyzed directly on-chip.

The company launched its ProteinChip system, Series PBS II, in May 1999. The company said then it expected to introduce a new system this year, designed more specifically for luring pharmaceutical companies to take advantage of biomarker discovery, characterization and assay services. (See BioWorld Today, May 25, 1999, p. 1.)

As of last May, the company had raised $25 million since being founded in 1995, making this Series E financing Ciphergen's largest publicly disclosed financing.

In December, the company said 12 protein biomarker candidates for benign prostatic disease and six protein biomarker candidates for prostate cancer were identified using the ProteinChip System. The study that uncovered the markers is part of a five-year, $2 million grant awarded by the National Cancer Institute to George Wright Jr. and his colleagues at the Virginia Prostate Center, along with Ciphergen. The grant is to enable the researchers to identify protein biomarkers for the detection of prostate and breast cancers in order to develop tests for early detection.

The company has a contract with the National Institutes of Health to provide up to 35 ProteinChip Systems to academic and government researchers nationwide. Already, researchers at the FDA and the National Cancer Institute used the system to discover biomarkers for prostate, breast, colon and ovarian cancers. Other research institutions, such as the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, the UCSF (University of California, San Francisco) Cancer Center, and Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk are using the system to discover and assay biomarkers for cancer, Alzheimer's disease and drug-resistant pathogens.

Ciphergen employs about 70 people and has sales offices in Boston, Washington, London and Tokyo.