OTTAWA, Ontario - Precision Biochemicals Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of IGT Pharma Inc., will receive an investment of C$500,000 (US$340,000) from the Biopharmaceutical Innovation Resource Fund (BIRC), a venture capital firm that invests in British Columbia-based biopharmaceutical contract research organizations.

In exchange for the investment BIRC receives a 40 percent equity position in Precision.

Bruce Schmidt, IGT's President, told BioWorld International that Precision will become a completely separate operating entity with a new staff. The financing will support the expansion of the subsidiary as a custom biochemical and contract chemistry supplier providing chemical design, development and production services to meet the growing needs of the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industries, particularly in British Columbia.

According to John Jeffries, managing director of BIRC in Vancouver, these services are a vital component for the creation of a service infrastructure to support the province's emerging biotechnology industry, which has grown to about 85 companies.

IGT, of Vancouver, will continue to focus exclusively on drug development while, as the controlling equity stakeholder in Precision, benefiting from the sales income and profit stream created by the expanded chemical operations, Schmidt said.

IGT has several product development programs, including cancer and central nervous system diseases. Since February, IGT has been involved in a U.S. FDA clinical trial using the new drug, Anhydrovinblastine, for the treatment of advanced solid tumors. In cooperation with the British Columbia Cancer Agency, IGT also is in an advanced preclinical stage of development relating to another cancer drug (IGT 13) for the treatment of multi-drug resistance. Preliminary animal studies have shown IGT 13 is active in a range of tumors, including some which are otherwise resistant to other forms of chemotherapy.

In addition, the company has a patented platform of novel CNS therapeutics under development based on glutamate receptors of the brain. From this base, the company recently discovered a new molecule that, at very low concentrations, shows the ability to protect brain cells from oxygen deprivation. In tests conducted at the University of British Columbia the drug, IGT440103, was able to completely protect rodent brain cells from damage related to oxygen deprivation.

With this initial finding, IGT has now embarked on more definitive animal studies to show the performance of IGT440103 in actual stroke conditions. The preliminary results of these animal studies will be known in about two months.