LONDON - Pharmagene plc has raised #8.6 million (US$13.2 million) through a private placement to further develop the company's Phase Zero drug development technologies, its database products and in-house development portfolio.

CEO Alistair Riddell said attracting such funding in difficult market conditions "underlines the confidence of our shareholders in Pharmagene's business model." In the past year the company has signed contracts with seven pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Riddell said with the new funding Pharmagene is now poised for significant growth.

Pharmagene, of Royston, Hertfordshire, was founded in 1996 to focus on the use of human tissue in preclinical studies to increase the likelihood of success in drug development. It has developed proprietary methods for measuring gene expression in vitro and also has imaging technology for visualizing the cellular and topographical expression of genes, proteins and ligand-binding sites in human tissues and cultured cells. This enables it to provide high-resolution anatomical information on the localization of candidate molecules.

Pharmagene also has the capability to measure the function of drugs in human tissue, individual cells or subcellular components. Function is measured in terms of physical effects, for example, contraction and relaxation, or biochemically, such as changes in intracellular messengers.

The company has established a supply infrastructure for obtaining tissues from National Health Service hospitals, and claims it has one of the most comprehensive ranges of human tissues collected for use in commercial research. It has full consent of donors or next of kin to use the tissue for commercial purposes.