By Mary Welch

Genaissance Pharmaceuticals Inc., a population genomics and informatics company, raised $60 million in private equity financings, with the proceeds going to further integrate gene variation information into the drug development process using the company¿s haplotype (HAP) technology.

The financings consisted of a $48 million Series B round and a $12 million Series C round, completed in February and this month.

¿The first round was so oversubscribed that we extended it to a Series C,¿ said Gualberto Ruano, Genaissance¿s chief executive officer. ¿We really think of it as one funding and, we believe, it¿s one of the largest private financings in the history of genomics.¿

Participating in the financing were Canaan Partners, of Rowayton, Conn.; A&A Actien Bank, of Frankfurt, Germany; Alta Partners, of San Francisco; Chase Capital Partners, of New York; Johnson & Johnson Development Corp., of New Brunswick, N.J.; Lombard Odier & Cie Ltd., of Zurich, Switzerland; and Sofinov, of Montreal. Existing investors who also participated included International Biomedicine Management Partners Inc., of Basel, Switzerland; Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, of London; and Connecticut Innovations Inc., of Rocky Hill, Conn.

¿We think the success of our financing is a reflection of the new economics of genomics,¿ Ruano said. ¿The market is very crowded with companies involved in drug discovery. What is needed are companies involved in drug development and that is what gave us the edge with investors. It¿s a philosophical difference between us and everybody else who¿s doing drug discovery.¿

The financial infusion should allow the company to operate through 2001, even with its ramping up of technology and internal programs, he said.

New Haven, Conn.-based Genaissance¿s HAP technology consists of gene-based HAP Markers ¿ or genetic ¿bar codes¿ ¿ and the DecoGen Informatics platform. The HAP Markers encompass all the gene variations that exist in a particular drug target and is a comprehensive analysis of genetic variation. The DecoGen platform is an intuitive search engine for correlating genetic markers with a drug response.

Founded in 1997, the company has already validated the predictive power of its HAP technology with a study on respiratory disease that showed that HAP Markers are more powerful in predicting therapeutic response to beta 2 receptor agonists than are single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, Ruano said.

¿The field of pharmacogenomics is so trendy now that we¿re stepping out of that contingent,¿ Ruano said. ¿We¿re into population genomics and will use our technology as a guidance system. We¿re doing genetic-aided drug discovery.¿

The company will use the funds for two major purposes, he said.

The first is to further enhance its high-throughput screening capabilities. Currently Genaissance can screen 2,000 genes in 100 people each year.

¿That¿s a lot of sequencing,¿ Ruano said. ¿We want to increase our capacity to 5,000 genes in at least 100 people.¿

The second use will be to establish an internal mednostics program, which is focused on finding HAP Markers that confer a marketing advantage to approved drugs ¿ sort of fine-tuning the drugs and tailoring them to various human populations based on their genetic differences.

¿We¿re doing that with our collaborators but we want to do it internally,¿ Ruano said. ¿We want to find the marketable differences in drugs that distinguish them from other drugs, such as a drug can be more powerful in an advanced stage of a disease or that is has different side effects. We want to use our own money to fund this program.¿