NEW HAVEN, Conn.--CuraGen has created a new subsidiary, 454, to develop large-scale genomic technologies for drug discovery, preclinical development, and pharmacogenetics applications. A $32.5 million private placement that included Soros Fund Management and Cooper Hill Partners will provide part of the funding for the new company.
Mark Vincent, CuraGen’s director, corporate communications and investor relations, said it is too soon to discuss specifics of 454’s proposed technologies. He did say that the new company’s tools will be used primarily for human health research, although he didn’t rule out agricultural applications. More information will be available once a CEO and board of directors for the new company are in place, he added.
454, named for its pre-launch code word, will enable CuraGen to focus more on its internal product pipeline--which will be supported by CuraGen’s approximately $220 million in cash, said Vincent.
Jonathan Rothberg, founder, chairman, and CEO of CuraGen, said that 454 was founded to take advantage of the human gene sequence data being made available. In his view, current genomic and proteomic technologies are being held back by the inability to analyze more than one gene at a time. “454 is developing technologies that will potentially overcome this roadblock by analyzing all the genes that comprise a genome in a panoramic, massively parallel fashion,” said Rothberg.
According to Vincent, the $32.5 million raised for 454 is significant because over the last two months, it’s been difficult to get funding because of financial market volatility. He cited Soros as an important investor because even though that fund essentially has backed out of biotech investing, it felt confident enough to fund 454.
Soros announced in April that it would turn away from many of the risky strategies it had pursued in the past, reported the New York Times. As a result, the fund has begun to lose key executives including its CEO and top three money managers, who are resigning at the end of the month. Withdrawals by investors and poor performance of the Soros funds have withered assets under management from $22 billion in 1998 down to the current $13.3 billion, said the Times.