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Protagen Raises $5.3M to Fund Platform Expansion, Dx Programs

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By Justin Petrone

Protagen said this week that it has received €3.7 million ($5.3 million) in funding from existing institutional European investors.

The Dortmund, Germany-based protein biochip maker said it will use the funding to invest in its UNIarray platform and patent position, and to clinically validate proprietary diagnostic marker proteins. Specifically, Protagen said it will focus on developing serum-based molecular diagnostic tests for early detection of multiple sclerosis and for differential diagnosis of prostate cancer.

Protagen's UniArray chips allow users to survey up to 400 recombinant human proteins for quantitative analysis of antibody binding.

The investors involved in this funding round include MIG AG of Munich, S-Capital Dortmund, and Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau of Bonn.

CEO Stefan Müllner told BioArray News this week that Protagen expects to close another round of financing worth around €6 million with a potential new investor by year end. He declined to name the investor.

Using the proceeds from the recent round, he said Protagen will hire new personnel and further invest in the development of diagnostic panels for multiple sclerosis and prostate cancer.

"We have defined our clinical partners for validation of marker set and we will go through studies with them," Müllner said. He said that Protagen will work with international centers in the US and Europe to evaluate its marker sets for eventual clinical use.

"We will use these funds to pay for those samples and to pay our collaboration partners," he said. There are also development costs for consultants and materials to go forward with diagnostic development for prostate and MS."

Müllner told BioArray News in June that Protagen is developing diagnostic panels that the firm expects to be brought to market by larger partner companies. He said that Protagen hopes to have such a deal in place by the end of 2010 (see BAN 6/30/2009).

"We will develop panels of markers, validate the panel with clinical studies, and then look for co-development and licensing partners for panels in prostate cancer and MS," Müllner said at the time.

Altogether, Protagen has three programs that might bear diagnostic fruit in the next few years: MS, prostate cancer, and prostatitis.

The closest to market is a panel for early-stage detection of MS. Protagen is currently in discussions with pharmas that wish to use the company's 150-marker panel as a companion diagnostic for drug-development programs, as well as with other companies interested in using it to stratify patients for treatment, Müllner said.

Protagen's main development partners for the MS assay are researchers at the University Clinic Bochum and the Hospital Lüdenscheid, both in Germany.

The firm is also working with researchers at the Medical University of Innsbruck in Austria to develop a test that will confirm prostate cancer in suspected cases, as well as a separate assay to distinguish prostate cancer patients from those with prostatitis.

Protagen has also announced a partnership with the OncoTyrol consortium to identify markers that indicate an inflamed prostate. OncoTyrol, also called the K1 project for Personalized Cancer Medicine, includes researchers at the Biomedical Campus Innsbruck in Austria and other international academic and industrial partners.

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