LONDON ¿ Novo Nordisk, of Copenhagen, Denmark, has secured US$17 million in venture funding to spin out BioImage A/S, a former research unit, as an independent company. The lead investor is Apax Partners in Germany.

BioImage uses proprietary cell-based imaging technologies to track redistribution events in intracellular signaling pathways in real time, exploiting the information for the discovery of novel compounds that modulate these events, and to identify drug targets. The company will aim to partner drug candidates it generates, and will maintain its existing research collaboration with Novo Nordisk in the field of diabetes. Novo Nordisk will retain a minority equity stake.

Bruce Carter, chief scientific officer at Novo Nordisk, said that, while the pharmaceutical company needs access to this type of drug discovery technology, its focus on diabetes meant it was not able to fully exploit this tool. ¿By establishing BioImage as an independent company, we are able to fully realize the commercial potential of the company¿s proprietary discovery technology while retaining rights to use these valuable tools in diabetes,¿ he said. ¿We welcome the founding of a significant new biotechnology company in Denmark.¿

BioImage was established in 1994 as a research unit within Novo Nordisk to provide cell-based assays for internal drug discovery programs. It has been successful in profiling interactions between drug candidates and intracellular targets, and claims to have significantly reduced the time from early stage screening hits to selection of lead candidates.

The $17 million will be used to further automate BioImage¿s assay technologies and to establish several internal drug discovery programs. n