TORONTO — Canada's first dedicated bioinformatics company, Base4 Bioinformatics Inc., has raised C$4.5 million in a private placement involving several major Canadian investment groups including BioCapital Investments Limited Partnership, of Montreal, and Tera Capital Limited Partnership and Working Ventures Canadian Fund Inc., both of Toronto.

Bioinformatics is the emerging scientific discipline that uses computers and sophisticated software to address the acquisition, management, and useful analysis of biological information. According to Base4's president, Martin Sumner Smith, the need for this approach is being fueled by an unprecedented growth in the quantity and diversity of biological information, a great deal of which is being generated by the Human Genome Project.

A survey conducted by Base4 revealed more than 2,000 internet sites which provide access to biological databases. It is therefore not a simple, straight forward process to extract useful information from these databases.

Allelix Formed Base4 As Subsidiary

This complexity was the stimulus for the formation of Base4 in 1996, originally as a subsidiary of Allelix Biopharmaceuticals Inc., of Toronto. In its early stages, the company established scientific partnerships with the Canada's National Research Council and the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto. As a result of the new round of funding both Allelix and Mount Sinai Hospital will retain their equity stakes in Base4.

In operation, the company provides integrated systems solutions to researchers including systems administration, custom programming and project support. The new injection of funds will allow the company to accelerate its business development program. Specifically, Base4 will extend its library of software solutions for their biotechnology and pharmaceutical company clients, and open additional branch offices to serve those clients better, Sumner Smith said.

Base4 operates under an innovative, distributive structure geared to maximizing its high-powered bioinformatics technology by creating multiple nodes of operation. The first node is located at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, which is affiliated with the University of Toronto and is widely recognized as one of Canada's premier research facilities, focusing on molecular biology and the genetic basis of disease. Several Base4 bioinformaticians are located at the institute.

Allelix is also a client for a number of Base4's services, including administration of its computer infrastructure and various custom programming projects as well as for support for several drug discovery and development projects. Approximately four Base4 staffers are based at Allelix at all times, providing system administration services. Other Base4 employees are involved in custom programming and project support services.

The company has just moved to a new facility in Mississauga, Ontario, and additional nodes are planned in Canadian and U.S. locations.