NEW YORK, May 2 - Ambion is sitting pretty these days. The Austin, Texas-based RNA provider not only finds itself in the center of the RNAi technology explosion, it has the luxury of having raised $10.5 million in venture capital financing this week, just to have in its coffers in case it wants to make an acquisition or expand a business area.
"We didn't need this funding for ongoing operations, we just took the opportunity at this point in time to raise some relatively inexpensive working capital, " Ambion president Bruce Leander told GenomeWeb. "We just put it in the bank and if an opportunity comes up in the next year or two, we will have the opportunity to make an acquisition or do aggressive licensing."
The financing, which comes from San Francisco VC Telegraph Hill Partners, will not be earmarked only for growth of Ambion's burgeoning RNAi business, said Leander, but the company does see siRNA as one of the places where it may choose to use its extra funds to expand.
Ambion is one of four companies to hold a license to the MIT's pool of patent applications for short interfering RNAs for use in target validation. The company markets its Silencer siRNA expression kits and sells them in the
SiRNA "is just exploding, especially in the research segment, said Leander. "It's so inexpensive for a researcher anywhere at any institution to try, that's the beauty of it."
But even before this growth in the siRNA business, the company was profitable, according to Leander. Its only VC money comes from Growth Capital partners, which led an initial round of financing in Ambion seven years ago, and has a minority stake in the company. The majority of the company is held by founder and CEO Matt Winkler, Leander said.
Contacts at Growth Capital made the initial connection between Ambion's management and Telegraph Hill, according to Leander. As part of the financing deal, J. Matthew Mackowski, a partner in Telegraph Hill, will now serve on Board of Directors. Mackowski is the founder of Kinetikos Medical and initial CFO of Health Systems Design, as well as a former partner at Robertson Stephens. He also has served on the board of Genomic Solutions, Micro Interventional Systems, and Managed Health Network.
This conversation about RNAi and siRNA promises to go from print to the microphone in the coming week, as Gene Expression Systems sponsors the first "RNA Inteference Technology in Drug Validation & Development" event in
GenomeWeb will feature coverage of the event in next week's installment of this weekly RNAi Roundup.