TORONTO - While still not completely understood, information related to the functional aspects of DNA is central to its chemical reactivity. Scientists at the emerging Canadian company Tm Bioscience Corp. have uncovered some of this information, which they call the second genetic code.
Although the term second genetic code is not new, many scientists have used it to explain a variety of molecular biological phenomena ranging from protein structure and folding to recognition of RNAs by amino acids.
According to Don MacAdam, president and CEO of Tm Biosciences, the second genetic code underlies multiple platform technologies through which the performance of any product that incorporates or reacts with DNA can be improved.
MacAdam's company describes itself as a second-generation genomics company. It develops and commercializes DNA products for diagnostics, therapeutics, biochips, functional genomics and bioinformatics, he said.
For several years, Tm remained a small company that was strong on science but weak on products and business development. That all changed in 1997, when it was refinanced and refocused on commercial applications of its technology.
Post-Financing Plans Include TSE Listing
To boost its commercial development, Tm has just closed a C$14.7 million private placement of 18,471,250 special warrants at C$0.80 per warrant. Each warrant entitles the holder to receive, without further payment, one common share and one-half of one common share purchase warrant. Each full common share purchase warrant will entitle the holder to acquire one common share for C$1.00 until June 24, 2000.
The issue and sale of more than 13 million of these special warrants, representing C$10.477 million of the total raised, was by way of an underwritten private placement by Yorkton Securities Inc., of Toronto.
The remaining 5,375,000 warrants were purchased by Canadian Medical Discoveries Fund Inc., of London, Ontario, a leading investor in the Canadian life sciences industry, for $4.3 million.
Tm will file a final prospectus qualifying the common shares and common share purchase warrants within 90 days. The company currently trades on the Vancouver Stock Exchange and intends, following this round of financing, to apply for a listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Tm also plans to introduce a number of products that will enable DNA sequence information to be analyzed in new ways.
Company Intends To License Out Technology
For example, the first product to be commercialized will be one that predicts polymorphisms. Tm scientists are able to predict polymorphic domains from gene sequences, and are in the process of building a database to make these predictions more accurate. A second product will analyze genes and gene sequences for functional homologies.
The company also has a DNA product that can detect, at low cost, any gene or gene mutation from a drop of blood. This product can be used by diagnostic companies with knowledge of disease targets, or by biopharmaceutical companies that have a proprietary position in a disease gene they want to convert into a test.
Additional molecular diagnostics include tests for infectious disease, blood screening and viral load.
Using its knowledge of the second genetic code, Tm has developed three distinct biochip products that will allow manufacturers to scale their biochips to higher densities and improve their informational output, accuracy and sensitivity.
Rounding out Tm's technology platform are therapeutics and gene expression systems, including antisense compounds, drug discovery screens for telomerase inhibition and a method for producing genetically engineered proteins.
Tm's telomerase test eliminates the need for amplifying DNA through PCR by providing for direct detection and quantification of telomerase activity.
MacAdam said Tm intends to follow a licensing model to grow the company. *