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India's Ocimum to Use New VC Cash to Build Array Catalog, Expand Staff, Rebrand Tools

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Ocimum Biosolutions, a Hyderabad, India-based life sciences company, this week said that it will use $6.5 million in recent private financing for company-wide marketing and development purposes — two areas where its line of microarrays could use the help.
 
Separately, Ocimum announced last week that it has acquired the oligonucleotide synthesis segment of Dutch company Isogen Life Sciences in an effort to expand its offering.
 
The financing, from International Finance Corp., the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, fulfilled Ocimum’s promises earlier this year to seek approximately $5.5 million in private investment. Last week, the company also signaled that is contemplating another round of financing to occur over the next 18 to 24 months.
 
In May, Subash Lingareddy, Ocimum’s chief financial officer, said the firm anticipated raising the funding “by end of June or early July” (see BAN 5/23/2006). Lingareddy told BioArray News at the time that Ocimum would use the cash to help integrate its offices in Hyderabad; Munich, Germany; and Indianapolis, Indiana; to buy an oligo manufacturer; and to develop a line of disease-specific chips.
 
This week, Lingareddy told BioArray News via e-mail that the company now plans to use the money to grow its marketing team, rebrand its products, and invest in a new facility in Hyderabad.
 
“We will increase our sales force in the US to 8 from our current team size of 5 and in Europe to 11 from 5 within the next 4 to 6 months,” Lingareddy wrote.
 
“A lot of effort will also go into branding our LIMS products, arrays, and oligos.  We are also investing in a huge, 10-acre life sciences facility in Hyderabad which will cater to global genomics outsourcing needs of customers,” Lingareddy wrote.
 
According to Lingareddy, the recent purchase of Isogen for an undisclosed sum will also benefit its array line, which currently includes whole-genome arrays for human, rat, mouse, and other organisms, as well as custom arrays.
 
“This will result with us sourcing oligos internally faster.  Also it will make us very competitive in custom arrays, which is a market we intend to focus on in the US going forward,” he wrote.
 
He also shed light on Ocimum’s pipeline of disease-specific chips, which the company said is necessary for growing its array business in a market saturated with whole-genome chips.
 
The company recently launched chips for cancer, inflammation, and diabetes: The Inflammation OciChip array, which includes 135 regulated genes most relevant to various inflammatory processes, is available in either human or mouse; the Human Cancer OciChip array includes 1,853 human genes associated with cancer development and progression; and the Rat Liver OciChip array comprises 1,353 rat liver genes, spotted onto one array.
 
Now, Ocimum has an interest in developing diagnostics for flaviviruses (like yellow and dengue fever), alphaviruses (like chikungunya) and arboviruses that are relevant in the Indian clinical diagnostics market, Lingareddy said.
 
“These viruses have led to widespread epidemics in India, and continue to adversely affect public health,” he wrote. “These add to the burden of other insect-borne protozoan parasitic infections like malaria. Several cases have been observed and reported wherein multiple pathogens — viral and protozoan — have been found in a single patient. Symptoms in these patients can be additive or manifest new dimensions and pose as a challenge to physicians and health workers. High-throughput DNA-based diagnosis will be an important contribution to public health initiatives,” he added.
 
According to Lingareddy, Ocimum Biosolutions has been “interested and is working towards creating one such broad platform in detecting various classes of arboviruses and different species of malarial parasites. 
 
“A single DNA microarray will be made available for early diagnosis of these infections,” he wrote. Lingareddy gave no timetable for when the arrays could become available.
 

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