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Bionas Plans to Use $2.8M in New VC Funding to Crack North America Market

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Bionas, a Rostock, Germany-based biotech, this week announced that it has received €2.1 million ($2.8 million) in private-equity financing to help it enhance its marketing and sales activity in Europe and to break into North America.
 
It will also use the money to expand its line of label-free cell-physiology imaging systems, and to hire three or four new employees, depending on their experience, said Bionas’ CEO and co-founder Ralf Ehret.
 
He said the company will use the government funds to enhance the throughput of its existing technology, the Bionas 2500, and to develop new systems.
 
The venture capital came from Genius Venture Capital and KfW-Bankengruppe, while undisclosed subsidies came from Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Federal State of Mecklenburg Ministry of Economics.
 
Ehret said that Bionas will make its North American debut next week at the Society for Biomolecular Sciences annual meeting in Montreal, Canada. “The first part of our strategy for integrating into the North American market is just to be visible at the SBS conference and exhibition,” he said.
 
He added that the company will be “working with partners and consultants” to begin making business contacts on the East Coast of the US. Although Ehret declined to name these consultants, he did say that they have contacts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and undisclosed pharmaceutical companies in the Boston area.
 
The Bionas 2500 system, which launched last August, consists of a sensor chip that integrates electronics, microfluidics, and semiconductor technology; a detection instrument; and analysis software. It costs approximately €90,000.
 
If Bionas hopes to successfully compete in North America, it must distinguish this technology from the myriad other label-free approaches to monitoring cellular physiology in drug discovery.
 
One rival is Seahorse Bioscience, whose XF 24 Extracellular Flux Analyzer most closely resembles the Bionas 2500. The XF 24 also kinetically measures acidification and oxygen consumption in live cells.
 

“The first part of our strategy for integrating into the North American market is just to be visible at the SBS conference and exhibition. We will also be working with partners and consultants to begin making business contacts on the East Coast.”

Other potential rivals include Acea Biosciences, Applied Biophysics, and MDS Sciex, which all market technologies that use electrical impedance to monitor cellular physiology.
 
On the European front, Swedish biotech SymCel and Finnish biotech ChipMan sell instruments that monitor cellular physiology for similar applications. They use different methods, however.
 
Bionas already has a couple of pharma customers under its belt. In late summer, for instance, the company inked a deal with German drug maker Primacyt to jointly develop a cell-based assay that uses human hepatocytes to predict hepatotoxicity of certain Primacyt drugs. (see CBA News 9/22/06) Terms of the deal call for Primacyt to supply hepatocytes that Bionas cultivates on its chips using chemically defined media from Primacyt.
 
Then in November, Bionas sold a 2500 system to Belgian drug maker Solvay Pharmaceuticals Research Laboratories, which said it planned to use it to validate targets in its cardiac and metabolic drug-discovery programs. (see CBA News 11/10/07)

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