German Genomics Start-Up Raises DM15 Million

Artemis Pharmaceuticals, a new German biotechnology company, was launched this September with backing of more than DM15 million (ecu 7.6 million). As well as soft loans and grants from the regional German governments of Baden Wurttemberg and North Rhine Westphalia, Artemis secured investment from groups including FEI Biomedicine Private Equity Holding of Switzerland, Atlas Venture of the Netherlands, Life Science Ventures and Max Planck Gesellschaft of Germany, and Advent and Forward Ventures of the US.

Artemis’s founders are: Professor Peter Stadler, the former head of biotechnology at Bayer; Professor Christiane Nusslein-Volhard, the winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize for medicine and director of the Max Planck Institute for developmental biology; and Professor Klaus Rajewsky, director of the institute for genetics at the University of Cologne, who is one of the world’s leading experts in the fields of immunology and mice genetics.

The company has built on its world-class expertise in zebrafish and mouse genetics to develop a powerful technology base to identify and validate novel drug screening targets and therapeutic proteins. Initially, Artemis’s research will focus on the identification of therapeutics for cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, cartilage- and bone-related diseases and metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

In addition to its close links with the Max Planck Institute and the University of Cologne, Artemis has established an alliance with Exelixis Pharmaceuticals of San Francisco. Exelixis, a leading edge genetic modes systems company, uses nematode worms and fruit flies to identify and validate novel pathways and drug screening targets. The integration of the two companies’ model organisms technology platforms will enable them to offer potential corporate partners a comprehensive portfolio comprising a unique array of genetic model systems.

Exelixis has taken a minority holding in Artemis.

Artemis, which will have its headquarters in Cologne and research facilities in both Cologne and Tubingen (home to the Max Planck Institute), currently has 25 employees.