LONDON ¿ Oxford GlycoSciences plc (OGS) is raising #33.2 million (US$52.5 million) via a placement and open offer to accelerate the development of its proteomics capability for identifying and characterizing proteins.

CEO Michael Kranda told BioWorld International, ¿The fund raising is related to our strategy of going even faster. The money will enable us to expand our physical capabilities, with the number of proteins we intend to target rising from 500 to 1,500 this year.¿

The decision to expand is partly based on the opportunity offered by sequencing data from the Human Genome Project and partly on the need to fend off growing competition. ¿As sequence data comes out it gives us more to work with, and clearly there is a value to those who get there first,¿ he said. ¿Our technology puts us in a position to be first to discover novel disease targets and novel proteins.¿

In common with genomics companies, OGS, based in Oxford, England, has seen its share price surge this year. During February it rose from #8.52 to #23.40. Kranda noted that sentiment has shifted back to biotechnology in general. ¿But the real interest is in genomics because investors have realized the value of novel targets. In our case we are identifying novel protein targets, which are very valuable. Only around 500 proteins are being worked on today, so there is a huge number to go and that¿s why money is flowing into the field.¿

OGS also said it has dropped OGT 719, a cytotoxic nucleoside structurally related to the chemotherapeutic 5-flurouracil, and designed to target liver cells. This follows inconclusive Phase I/II studies in advanced solid tumors and primary liver cancer. While this was the oldest compound in the OGS portfolio, Kranda noted it was not discovered using the company¿s proteomics technology, and that this technology is providing many new development opportunities.

There has been progress with OGT 918 in the treatment of Gaucher and Fabry diseases, both glycolipid storage diseases. A Phase I/II monotherapy study in Gaucher¿s has been completed and is being analyzed. Eighty-one percent of patients completing the trial have stayed on the treatment, and further trials are being planned. A Phase I/II trial of OGT 918 in Fabry disease has commenced.

OGS has a mixed strategy of research partnerships, licensing and internal development. It recently signed new collaborations with Merck and Co. Inc. to look for targets in diabetes and with Cellular Genomics Inc. to work on immune system modulation. It also expanded an existing deal with Pfizer Inc. in the area of Alzheimer¿s disease into a second indication, atherosclerosis.

OGS disclosed this news when it released financial results for the year ended Dec. 31, showing revenue up 70 percent at #8.7 million. Most of the revenue was derived from proteomics collaborations. Expenditure on R&D rose by 40 percent to #15.6 million, and losses rose to #9.7 million from #8.7 million in 1998. It had #26 million in cash.