Mercator Genetics, a three-year-old privately held genomicscompany, raised $4.5 million in a third round of financing andlaunched research collaborations with U.S. and European institutionsaimed at finding genes associated with asthma and schizophrenia.

The new round of financing from current investors _ Robertson,Stephens & Co., of San Francisco, and Interwest Partners and OakInvestments Partners, both of Menlo Park, Calif. _ boosted the totalraised by Mercator, of Menlo Park, to $15.5 million since thecompany was formed in 1993 by scientists from the StanfordUniversity Medical School Department of Genetics in Palo Alto,Calif.

The company's most advanced gene discovery program is focused onhemochromatosis, a dangerous build-up of iron in organ cells causingtissue damage and other complications, such as diabetes. Mercatorsaid more than one million Americans may be affected by the geneticdisorder.

In Mercator's efforts to find genes associated with schizophrenia, thecompany will be working with Finnish researchers at the UniversityCentral Hospital, of Helsinki, which has collected genetic data fromFinland's relatively small, isolated population. The chromosomallinkage analyses also will include other families in the U.S., Europeand Middle East.

The hunt for asthma-causing genes will be carried out in associationwith researchers at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis; TelAviv University in Tel-Hashomer, Israel; and the Institute ofPreventive Medicine in Copenhagen, Denmark. Together the threeinstitutions have data from 3,000 asthma sufferers in selectedpopulations in their regions. n

-- Charles Craig

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