DUBLIN, Ireland ¿ The London-based venture capital fund 3i Group plc and the Northern Ireland Department of Economic Development have provided GBP900,000 (US$1.4 million) in seed funding for a drug-delivery start-up company called Gendel. The Coleraine-based company is a spin-off from the University of Ulster. It is based on the work of Tony McHale, of the university¿s school of biological and chemical sciences.

Gendel plans to use modified human erythrocytes to target tissues via the blood system. Business manager Alan Paterson declined to provide further details since Gendel is still in the process of securing patent protection for its technologies. McHale has previously published work on the use of photosensitized erythrocytes as carriers of anticancer agents such as methotrexate, and of urokinase for treatment of deep-site thrombosis. His group has demonstrated light-dependent release of active agents using low-energy laser radiation.

Paterson, who is a former CEO of the Newry, County Down-based veterinary pharmaceutical company Nor brook Laboratories, is managing Gendel on an interim basis. The company will recruit a CEO later this year.

Roger Craig, the founder of Therexys (now Cobra Therapeutics), of Keele, U.K., is chairman of Gendel. James Scott, professor of medicine at Hammersmith Hospital, London, is also a board member. Gendel¿s first tranche of financing will fund the company for its first year. ¿After 12 months, we¿ll be going for a second round,¿ Paterson said.