Gentris Maps Series A Deal

A year after its founding, Research Triangle Park, N.C.-based pharmacogenomics company Gentris Corp. has secured its first round of institutional financing.

Research Triangle Ventures of North Carolina and Exelixis Inc., a Silicon Valley-based genomics drug discovery company, split the $1.5 million Series A deal. Tim Gupton, a general partner with Research Triangle Ventures who has been a strategic business advisor to the company since its founding, took a seat on the company’s board following the transaction’s close.

Gentris is a pharmacogenomic services company evolving into a pharmacogenomic products company. Pharmacogenomics – the study of how an individual’s genetic makeup will affect his reaction to drugs – may allow physicians to order genetic tests and prescribe medications and dosages based on an individual’s genetic profile. While the company has spent the last year partnering with pharmaceutical companies like Montreal’s MDS Pharma Services to collect genetic samples for use as reference controls for product development, Gentris also is developing its own line of genetic test kits for doctors and control reference labs.

“The services market this company participates in right now is a very big market,” says Bud Whitmeyer, a general partner with RTV. “The product market right now is much smaller because there’s few actual pharmacogenomic products on the market today. But from all industry accounts we can gather, the product market is looking to grow very significantly over the next five years to 10 years, and will outpace the services market.”

This round of venture funding, coupled with the Gentris’ current revenue stream, is expected to last the company 12 months to 14 months. At that point, it will creep back into the market for another round of funding. Whitmeyer anticipates a $6 million to $10 million Series B round in the second quarter of 2003.

In the meantime, the company will use its most recent venture windfall to add both a head of product development and a head of quality and regulatory assurance to its team. Today the company has six employees, including its four founders. Company CEO Michael Murphy is also the founder of Intek Labs, another pharmacogenomics company that was acquired by Fremont, Calif.-based DNA Sciences Inc.

“Intek capitalized on an emerging need in 1997 to have an industrial place to supplement gene-based clinical trials to understand if drugs would create adverse events,” Murphy says. “Gentris is a company that’s initially providing services to research the market and to exploit its needs, but will have products available for clinical diagnostic labs for physician reference testing.”

The company also will use the capital to ramp up its current capabilities in an effort to keep up with the orders placed by pharmaceutical companies and clinical research labs, and also to produce beta kits for genetic testing.

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