Forget $1 million mass spectrometers and $50,000 high-pressure liquid chromatography systems. Officers of a newlypublic carbohydrate-based biotechnology company think theycan bring carbohydrate capability to the average researcher,clearing the last hurdle in examining basic biologicalcomponents.

"Nucleic acids, protein and carbohydrates are the three basicbuilding blocks," said John Klock, M.D., president of Glyko."When people are able to look at something they couldn't lookat before, it will drive the whole market."

He eventually expects a $1 billion annual market, similar to themarkets that have developed for chemicals and supplies usedin protein and nucleic acid applications.

Glyko completed its initial public offering through its newCanadian holding company, Glyko Biomedical Ltd. (GBL), on theToronto Stock Exchange on Dec. 21, 1992, selling 2.9 millionshares at $2.75 (Canadian) per share, raising $7.9 million(Canadian), that is, $6.3 million (U.S.). The company has 9.7million shares outstanding, including 0.75 million to be issuedMarch 1 on conversion of bridge loans. There are 0.66 millionoptions outstanding.

The majority of new investors were from Canada and Europe.Thirty percent of shares are publicly held, 25 percent are heldby Millipore, 25 percent by investor Gwynn Williams, a UnitedKingdom physicist, 14 percent by Glycomed (an Alameda, Calif.carbohydrate therapeutic company) and 6 percent by Klock,who founded the company after leaving Glycomed.

The company intended to raise between $12.5 and $7.8 million(Canadian), said John Hamilton, vice president and CFO. Theoffering was registered in Canada in March 1992 because theUnited States market "was very cold and the Toronto marketappeared to be more receptive," he added.

Glyko is based on four core patents licensed in from Glycomedand Gwynn Williams, as well as one for which the company hasreceived a notice of allowance covering diagnostic applicationsof the gel electrophoresis of carbohydrates.

Klock said he spent months at Glycomed trying to sequenceadhesin molecules that with Glyko's patented fluorophore-assisted carbohydrate electrophoresis he was able to sequencein one afternoon.

Attaching a fluorophore to the carbohydrate confers charge tothe molecule so it will migrate in the gel during electrophoresisand allows the substance to be visualized under ultravioletlight. The systems use dense gels and very high voltages incooled devices, separating components in about an hour.

A proprietary imaging system converts photons into pixels,allowing quantitative analysis.

The system can detect one out of100 billion molecules, Klocksaid, and is more sensitive than radioactive labeling, requiringperhaps 1,000 times less sample than any other method.

Glyko, based in Novato, Calif., has also already cloned sixcarbohydrate enzymes that cleave specific linkages to allow thesequencing of particular classes of carbohydrates of biologicinterest.

Carbohydrates coat cell surfaces and are part of many surfacereceptors. They also stabilize biologically important proteins,contribute to three-dimensional structure and targetcompounds to cells.

Their structural diversity makes them prime information-carrying vehicles--five subunits can create more than 2 billionstructures--but most structures use similar linkages, allowingthese molecules to be sequenced.

The structure of a carbohydrate bonded to a particular proteincan be determined from a single protein band cut from a gel.

This tool can be used with blood and body fluids to testcarbohydrate analytes in metabolic diseases, cancer, and otherillnesses, Klock said. His company has tested up to 500 samplesso far and he believes "it's very clear this technology is going todiagnose new medical conditions."

In fact, he is aiming to use money raised by thecommercialization of analytical systems to develop diagnosticsand manufacture carbohydrates, which he calls "really thefuture of the company."

Formed in 1990, the company has a consulting service and haspointed out to AIDS vaccine researchers that only potentialvaccines with a carbohydrate component show real promise,perhaps because the virus coat is half carbohydrate by weight.

Millipore has an exclusive sales and distribution license forproducts worldwide, and launched the first sales in October1992. However, Glyko consultants can sell specialty productsdirectly to customers and the company will do some of its ownmarketing, Klock said. "Everyone we've shown it to has adoptedthe technology and bought the equipment," he said.

The company expects initial revenues from royalties onhardware and reagent sales by Millipore, and from reagentsales and fees to consulting customers.

-- Nancy Garcia Associate Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.