DUBLIN, Ireland - Copenhagen-based functional genomics company Display Systems Biotech A/S is planning to ramp up its U.S. presence over the next six months.

CEO Thomas Warthoe said the company is transferring its technology platform, a technique for high-throughput gene expression analysis based on what it calls restriction fragment differential display (RFDD) PCR, to the U.S. It also is negotiating terms to lease a 40,000-square-foot facility in partnership with Bio 101 Inc., of Vista, Calif., which sells nucleic acid products to the research market.

Company co-founder and R&D director Peter Warthoe - a brother of Thomas Warthoe - is moving to the U.S. to oversee the technology transfer process.

In addition, the company expects to enter a partnership with Ontogeny Inc., a privately held biotechnology company based in Cambridge, Mass., to seek joint drug discovery deals with pharmaceutical companies.

Ontogeny's developmental biology focus complements Display Systems' strengths in gene discovery and gene expression profiling, said Thomas Warthoe.

Display Systems Biotech's technology, which it calls display PROFILE alpha RFDD-PCR, uses the four-cutter Taq restriction enzyme to generate double-stranded complementary DNA (cDNA), followed by a proprietary adapter-ligation step.

This, the company said, gives it an edge over competing technologies as it allows the complete RNA coding region to be visualized. Conventional gene profiling technologies, according to the company, result in a significant bias in the population of differentially expressed cDNAs toward sequences corresponding to the RNA poly-A tail.

Display Systems Biotech originally was incorporated in the U.S. in 1994. It currently operates an American subsidiary, Display Systems Biotech Inc., in Vista.

Money Easier To Raise In Denmark

It also has a small research group, based at Albany Medical College, in N.Y., which offers contract services in single-cell analysis and gene expression. The company relocated back to Denmark to seek investment.

“It's a lot easier to get the funding when you're an insider,“ Warthoe said.

The company raised US$2 million from private investors in Denmark earlier this year in return for 60 percent of the company's equity.

“We expect to go for a second round of funding between six and 12 months, approximately,“ said Thomas Warthoe. At the moment, he and his brother hold the remaining stock.

The company has forged four agreements with other Danish companies and research organizations on the strength of its core technology, three of them since late May. The most recent of these, a collaboration with Vedbaek-based Exiqon A/S and the Danish Microelectronic Center, aims to develop biological and microarray chip technology. (See BioWorld International, June 3, 1998, p. 1.)

The company has entered a preliminary agreement with the pharmaceutical firm H. Lundbeck A/S, of Copenhagen, for discovery of novel gene targets associated with neurodegenerative diseases.

It also is collaborating with the Center for Biological Sequence Analysis at the Technical University of Denmark, in Lyngby, and the Statens Serums Institute, in Copenhagen, on the identification of novel gene targets and gene expression profiles in HIV.

Last year it entered an agreement with Novo Nordisk A/S, of Copenhagen, for discovery of gene targets associated with metabolic disease. *