By Mary Welch

Genaissance Pharmaceuticals Inc., a pharmacogenomics company, raised $10 million in a private placement.

Gualberto Ruano, CEO and co-founder of New Haven, Conn.-based Genaissance, said the race is on to "show the pharmaceutical world which approach is the best. There are a lot of approaches out there, and now it's time for the market to make a decision."

The company will scale up operations to include robotics for handling the yeast-based clones in its Clasper gene-capturing system. It will also create a sequencing factory and expand the company's information systems to process all data produced, correlating it with therapeutic outcomes. Staff will increase from about 25 to about 40 by year's end, with plans to double that number to about 80 next year.

Genaissance's platform consists of four parts. The first involves harvesting, characterization and expression of isogenes and their corresponding protein isoforms using Clasper, which can produce a gene's entire chromosome footprint from several individuals. The resulting variation of isogenes has multiple genetic markers and includes the entire diversity of isogenes that normally occur in populations. (See BioWorld Today, May 29, 1997, p. 1.)

Next comes development of the isogenes as targets for drug screenings and lead prioritization, in order to design drugs customized to each isogene target. The third step is validating the isogenes based on their pharmacodynamic properties, and the fourth is developing a diagnostic to prescribe medicines based on isogene profiles.

Partners First, Drug Discovery Later

Ruano said the "one-size-fits-all" traditional approach to drug discovery "ignores molecular evolution and population genetics, which is the natural diversity of drug targets. Our goal is to harvest and validate these isogenes."

He said Genaissance's isogene platform is applicable to any disease. The company is in talks with three pharmaceutical companies that are considering the pharmacogenomic strategy in designing their clinical trials.

"We eventually will get into drug discovery but right now we are working on the research partnerships," Ruano said.

Among those participating in the placement of Series A convertible preferred stock were Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, of London; Connecticut Innovations, of Rocky Hill, Conn.; Merifin Capital, of Brussels; Winchester Healthcare, of New Haven, Conn.; and International Biomedicine Management Partners Inc. (IBMP), of Basel, Switzerland.

Ruano said Genaissance is "especially proud" to have supporting its work Jurgen Drews, board chairman for IBMP, "who is a sage and sometime critic of the pharma industry." Drews is former president of international research and development for Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., of Nutley, N.J., a subsidiary of F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG, of Basel, Switzerland.

With its new infusion of money, the company is well-positioned to prove its point, Ruano told BioWorld Today. Genaissance can operate for another two years, after which it expects an initial public offering.

"Everyone is now beyond the hype," Ruano said. "There have been so many meetings about the potential of pharmacogenomics that it's time to show it really works." *