PARIS - ExonHit Therapeutics SA, a Paris-based start-up specializing in qualitative gene profiling, has obtained a grant of FFr5 million from the French National Research Support Agency (ANVAR - Agence Nationale de Valorisation de la Recherche).

The funds will take the form of subsidies for hiring additional researchers and for financing ExonHit's ongoing research and development program. In addition to this funding, ANVAR also will help finance ExonHit's participation in various trade shows, including Biotech '98 in Japan and EuropaBio in Brussels.

ExonHit was founded in November 1997 by three former research chiefs from Rhône-Poulenc Rorer Inc., of Collegeville, Pa. Its initial funding was provided by three venture capital funds: CDC Innovation and Sofinnova Partners, both of France, and Oxford Biosciences Partners in the U.S.

The company's principal asset is technology called differential analysis of transcripts alternatively spliced (DATAS), which is designed to detect qualitative changes in genomic expression that are controlled by a process known as alternative splicing.

Disruptions in the regulation of alternative splicing are associated with the contraction and progression of diseases such as cancers and neurodegenerative diseases. By identifying deregulated genes in this type of pathology and situation, the DATAS system should help generate diagnostic tools and identify new therapeutic targets.

According to ANVAR's business manager, Alain Lefèbvre, “the technology developed by ExonHit Therapeutics is bound to play a key role in exploiting the knowledge derived from analyzing the genome. This technology does not provide just a map of the genes, but a swoop into the heart of the function of genes.“

ExonHit's chairman, Bruno Tocqué, said the company's strategy will remain focused in the first instance on the utilization of DATAS “in order to loosen two brakes on the rapid development of new drugs: toxicology and the monitoring of the effectiveness of treatments in the clinic.“ *