LONDON ¿ Gemini Holdings, the genomics company focused on twins¿ data, has completed a private placement, raising #9.2 million (US$14.9 million). The company believes it did well in the current climate, having set a target of #8 million.

CEO Paul Kelly said it demonstrated investor confidence in the potential of Phenobase, Gemini¿s proprietary database of the phenotypes of healthy and disease-affected twins and siblings. Version 2.0 of Phenobase, containing 150,000 data points, was launched last month.

Gemini, based in Cambridge, U.K., also announced deals with Shield Diagnostics Group plc, of Dundee, Scotland, and with Large Scale Biology Corp. (LSB), of Maryland, a subsidiary of Biosource Technologies Inc.

The deal with Shield involves the development of a diagnostic for osteoporosis, based on a gene discovery made by Gemini and its collaborators at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. The two have identified and validated in the clinic a variation in the gene for Type 1 collagen, found in bone. According to Gemini, patients with this variation have lower bone-mineral density and a greater risk of bone fracture, and would benefit from drug treatment.

At present, patients with osteoporosis, or at risk of the disease, are identified by X-ray measurements of bone density. Patients with low bone density are six times more likely to suffer bone fractures. If, in addition, they have the gene variation, they are as much as 30 times more susceptible to fractures.

Under the terms of the agreement, Gemini will receive up-front and milestone fees, and a royalty on sales.

The deal with LSB involves cross-referencing Phenobase with LSB¿s ProGEx proteomics technology platform to identify proteins and pathways involved in complex diseases. The partners will initially target osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and coronary heart disease. ¿By showing how differences in protein expression relate to the variation in key quantitative traits in twin pairs, we have the basis of a robust pipeline of novel, potential diagnostic and therapeutic targets,¿ Kelly said.

Gemini, which was founded in 1996, had its first revenues at the end of 1998 and is expected to move into profit in 2001. Kelly said the next 12 months will be¿ the critical commercialization period,¿ and said the company plans a stock-market flotation within the next 12 months to 18 months. n