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Still Striving for Dxs After Third Wave Suit, EraGen Raises $12M for Assays

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EraGen Biosciences said this week that it has closed a $12 million round of financing that will support the Madison, Wisc.-based company's efforts to create molecular diagnostics, including one effort to create an early, quantitative HIV strain-typing method to direct clinicians to more effective treatments.

Launched by former Third Wave Technologies employees, EraGen settled an infringement suit in early 2003 with that other Madison-based diagnostic concern, and was forbidden to sell its GeneCode product.

That suit allegedly revolved around the same intellectual property upon which Third Wave's flagship Invader platform is based, and which Third Wave recently aggressively defended against Stratagene. Since then, EraGen has been developing non-infringing successor platforms in hopes of competing directly in molecular diagnostics.

The recent funding should help EraGen "to develop products that are clinically ready" from its real-time molecular diagnostics platform, James Prudent, the company's CSO, told Pharmacogenomics Reporter this week. "Right now this is in a research phase, and so to build ASRs or 510(k)s in this area is going to take the kind of money that we raised."

The project is being conducted in collaboration with Emory University professor and HIV-drug inventor Ray Schinazi. An EraGen spokeswoman declined to estimate when the company hopes to file its test for FDA clearance.

The funding will also supporting the company's work using a Luminex-based liquid bead array platform to create diagnostics that identify infectious organisms associated with certain types of asthma in order to direct clinicians toward appropriate drug therapies. "It still has to be confirmed by the scientific community with more testing, but [some corticosteroid] drugs will actually help a patient, depending on what type of infection they have," said Prudent.

EraGen's plan is to conduct enough research in asthma to publish a study, and to eventually receive FDA clearance for diagnostic marketing. "I think we almost have to do it in the next year," Prudent said.

The firm raised approximately $6 million in a round of financing held in early 2000. In addition to that funding, the company has subsisted largely on revenues and grant money, said Prudent. In 2003, EraGen said it had licensed its Aegis technology to Bayer Diagnostics to support Bayer's branched-DNA viral-load tests. And in May, it licensed its liquid bead-array assay to Bayer, which intends to create an automated cystic fibrosis mutation-screening assay. A third significant recent agreement is the company's deal to supply Promega with reagents supporting that Madison, Wisc.-based firm's gene-expression assays.

— Chris Womack ([email protected])

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