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Protein Biochip Startup LumiCyte Garners $20M in Financing

NEW YORK, March 26 - LumiCyte of Fremont, Calif. has obtained $20 million in private venture capital to fund its protein biochip program, the company said Monday.

The financing round, which follows the company's initial $5 million fundraising effort last year, was led by Tullis-Dickerson & Co., with additional funding from OrbiMed Advisors and Redleaf Group.

The company, established in 1999 by former Ciphergen executive William Hutchens, has developed protein biochips to identify stages of common diseases such as diabetes and cancer by detecting changes in their protein profiles. 

"We have built important strategic alliances and have advanced our operational capabilities significantly over this last year and are pleased to complete this latest milestone in LumiCyte's corporate development," Hutchens said in a statement. "We have already begun to expand our operations worldwide, providing enabling services and mission-critical information to pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and diagnostic companies."

LumiCyte's biochips use a patented method of catching the protein on the surface and reading it, called Surface-Enhanced Laser Desorption/Ionization. In this process, pulses of laser energy read molecular profiles of the proteins trapped on the chip, LumiCyte said.

LumiCyte claims to have patented this process, but in October rival protein biochip maker Ciphergen sued LumiCyte and Molecular Analytical Systems for violating technology transfer agreements between the companies. The suit seeks an injunction against LumiCyte and MAS to prevent the companies from operating within the same market as Ciphergen, and seeks to bar the companies from using Ciphergen's trade secrets in their products. Hutchens also serves as president of MAS.

Ciphergen has marketed its protein chips for drug discovery, whereas LumiCyte hopes to capture the clinical diagnostic market. LumiCyte has also developed BioPhore, a database of molecular maps derived from experiments with its protein biochips, as well as bioinformatics tools for analyzing its arrays. 

In February, LumiCyte signed an agreement with mass spectrometer manufacturer Kratos Analytical, in which Kratos agreed to supply LumiCyte with at least 105 AXIMA-CFR systems within the next 30 months, and to help fund LumiCyte's development of biochip readers for its internal proteomics research efforts.

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