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German Proteomics Co. Gets off the Ground with $16M in Seed Financing

NEW YORK, Nov 20 – Meltec, a new German proteomics company whose robotic system allows researchers to perform high-resolution analysis of the location of cell proteins, announced Monday that it has completed its initial round of seed financing with 38 million German marks ($16 million).

Based in Magdeburg, Meltec was founded by Walter Schubert, a researcher at the University of Magdeburg’s Medical Neurobiology Institute, who developed the robotic system.

Schubert secured financing from the Magdeburg Volksbank and the community task program of Saxony-Anhalt, as well as a grant from Biochance, the German government’s program to facilitate commercialization of new biological technologies.

The system allows researchers to figure out the precise location of a protein within a cell in addition to determining the amount of protein in the cell, the company said. The program, which runs on an Oracle platform, scans human cell samples at extremely high resolution, and then compares different areas of different cells to arrive at a protein profile of each cell.

This analysis technique is designed to enable more precise comparisons of diseased and healthy cells than traditional 2D gels, the company said, because it can allow researchers to isolate the cells with the most protein activity, and figure out how the protein activity in the diseased cells has changed—for example, whether they have moved inside the cell or to the surface.

In this way Meltec hopes its technology will provide a key tool for pharma companies looking to winnow out the useful protein targets from among those being currently generated by genomics research.

“Genomics is creating so many targets at the moment, “ said Christine Lemke, Meltec’s chief operating officer. “We can help prioritize them. That’s what’s missing.”

Lemke, who comes to Meltec from a career at Solvay pharmaceuticals and Denver medical device maker IntraEar, said Meltec already has one partner in the pharmaceutical industry.

The company has also generated two targets and drug leads internally that it plans to sell to pharma, she said. Additionally, by 2002, Meltec plans to market a database of proteins generated from its proprietary proteomic analysis methods.

Meltec expects to work with conventional proteomics companies, like Oxford Glycosciences and Protana, to provide enhanced analysis of the cells and proteins these companies find to be of interest or to seek additional information about the targets it finds.

“If we find a target, and want to more about it, and want to isolate it, they can help us to do this,” said Lemke. “There are ways of working synergistically.”  

Ronald Henrickson, president of research and development at Indiana University’s Technology Institute, and Norma Selve, head of pharmacology at Schwartz pharmaceuticals, have been hired by Meltec to give advice on the US market as well as potential customers, respectively.

Meltec has so far hired four bioinformaticists and soon plan to move from their present incubator location to a larger, 3,600 sq. ft. space.

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