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German VC Firm Invests in Chicago-based Genomics Company

NEW YORK, Jan 16 - A German venture capital fund has purchased an eight percent stake in Chicago-based Integrated Genomics, which specializes in sequence-based cell function modeling, as well as DNA extraction, cosmid and plasmid gene libraries, and sequencing, the fund, Deutsche Effecten-und Wechsel Beteiligungssgesellschaft, AG, announced Tuesday.

This investment by a German fund in an American company flies in the face of recent venture capital trends.

The flow of American venture capital into European life sciences startups has been well-documented, with Boston-based Atlas Ventures, for example, backing a large portfolio of companies, from UK-based Oxford Glycosciences to German proteomics company Cellzome. European venture capital funds, on the other hand, have so far limited almost all of their investments to European life sciences companies.

But DEWB’s decision to invest in Integrated Genomics has nothing to do with trends or counter-trends, said Steffen Schneider, an investor relations spokesperson at the Jena, Germany based fund.

“Integrated Genomics is a really a good company which can grow very fast in the future,” said Schneider. “They [have] their own software, sequencing and understanding the functionality of genomics, and [their] own big   exciting database of sequenced genomes.”

Integrated Genomics, which is headed up by a team of molecular biologists from the University of Chicago including Robert Haselkorn and CEO Michael Fonstein, aims to solve the problem of how to derive cellular function from sequence data.

The company offers a web-based bioinformatics system that reconstructs and mathematically simulates cell function using genomic sequences and ESTs, biochemistry information, results of high-throughput analysis, as well as genetic, physiological, and structural data.  

On the software side, said Schneider, Integrated Genomics could even be compared with German bioinformatics powerhouse Lion Biosciences, although he added that “it has a slightly different focus.”

Another difference: while Lion is still in the red, Integrated Genomics, founded in 1997, has recently posted a solid profit.  

“We are very convinced by the management,” said Schneider.
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