Orchid Raises $27M To Fund Varied DNA Chip Programs

Orchid Raises $27M To Fund Varied DNA Chip Programs

By Mary Welch

In the largest equity financing by a privately held company this year, Orchid Biocomputer Inc. netted $27.5 million to further fund research and development of the Princeton, N.J. company's platform microfluidic-chip technologies.

Prior to Orchid's achievement, the largest private placement was accomplished by Evotec BioSystems GmbH, the Hamburg, Germany, drug discovery company that attracted $25.4 million in March.

"We think it's phenomenal," says Dale Pfost, Orchid's president and CEO. "It was well oversubscribed. We were seeking between $10 million to $20 million. And the quality of the investors shows a lot of faith in the company. This was our first concerted financing effort since we started." The company has 5 million fully diluted shares outstanding.

The financing was led by Orbimed Advisors LLC, of New York, and INVESCO Funds Group, of Denver. Also participating were Oxford BioScience Partners, of Westport, Conn.; WPG-Farber Present Fund LP, of New York; and Millennium Ventures, the venture capital arm of Motorola Inc., of Schaumberg, Ill.

The company also added the following to its board: Sam Isaly of OrbiMed Advisors, of New York; Jeremy Levin, former president of Cadus Pharmaceuticals, of Tarrytown, N.Y.; and Ken Noonan, vice president of Booze-Allen & Hamilton Inc., of New York.

Chemical Reaction Chips Under Development

Founded in 1995, Orchid designs systems for the rapid synthesis and screening of molecules for drug discovery. The company is developing a glass chip the size of a business card that can carry out thousands of chemical reactions simultaneously. The goal is to synthesize and screen up to 10,000 compounds against genetic targets on the chip.

The company said the chips have applications in drug discovery, DNA synthesis, genetic analysis and clinical diagnostics, particularly in immunology, microbiology and oncology. *