OHSU Biotech Spinoff Takes Long Step Toward Commercial Viability

02/11/08  Portland, Ore

A $20 million venture capital commitment to ProteoGenix opens a path to market for its non-invasive diagnostics, which hold the promise of stemming the tide of premature births

ProteoGenix, an Oregon Health & Science University spinoff company which has developed a test that could displace amniocentesis — the only procedure now available for diagnosing intra-amniotic infection — has taken a long step toward commercial viability.

The company’s diagnostic products hold the promise of stemming the rising tide of premature births by making it simple, fast and easy to detect the most common pregnancy-related infections early enough for effective treatment. In the current issue of the peer-reviewed journal Journal of Proteome Research, scientists associated with ProteoGenix published four articles that relate to discoveries leading toward the noninvasive diagnosis of several pregnancy-related disorders. [Go to: http://pubs3.acs.org/acs/journals/toc.printer_friendly?incoden=jprobs&indecade=&involume=6&inissue=4]

ProteoGenix has tied down a $20 million commitment of funds from a syndicate of venture capital firms and is moving from its incubator space in a laboratory on the OHSU Marquam Hill campus to its own leased facility. “The syndicate’s $20 million investment in ProteoGenix is one of the largest venture capital commitments made in recent years to an early-stage Oregon biotechnology company,” said Dan Dorsa, Ph.D., OHSU’s vice president for research. “It’s a clear vote of confidence in Oregon and in the clinical and research strength being built at OHSU, thanks in part to the state’s $200 million investment in the Oregon Opportunity. OHSU’s biotech spinoffs are reaching a threshold of maturity at which, like ProteoGenix, they will begin attracting venture capital from outside the state and that inevitably will have a positive impact on the economy and jobs here,” said Srinivasa Nagalla, M.D., executive vice president, chief scientific officer and co-founder of ProteoGenix.

The venture capital syndicate consists of Burrill & Company of San Francisco; New Leaf Venture Partners of New York City and Menlo Park, Calif.; and TPG Ventures, Inc. of Menlo Park, an affiliate of the Texas Pacific Group. The commitment to ProteoGenix equals about one-fifth of the total amount of venture capital ($111 million) received by all Oregon businesses in 2006.

ProteoGenix’s first diagnostic products, if approved by federal regulators, could displace amniocentesis in favor of a simple noninvasive test. Amniocentesis, in which a 7.5 centimeter (about 3 inches) needle is inserted into the amniotic sac to draw a fluid sample, involves some risk to both the mother and fetus and thousands of women who might benefit refuse to subject themselves to it.

“Predictive, preventative and personalized diagnostics such as the ProteoGenix’s preterm labor and intra-amniotic infection tests are an emerging, high growth sector in the life sciences, and we are excited about working with the company to help build a successful Oregon-based biotechnology company,” said G. Steven Burrill, the CEO of Burrill & Company, one of the three syndicate members. “ProteoGenix represents Burrill & Company’s first investment through our partnership with the Oregon Investment Fund. The high quality science from Oregon institutions such as Oregon Health & Science University and the dedication of the OIF are what initially drew our attention to the state, and we look forward to continuing this collaboration to help build Oregon’s life science industry.”

The company has focused since its formation on maternal-child health, utilizing cutting-edge mass spectrometry and bioinformatics analysis techniques to identify protein biomarkers for pregnancy-related complications. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration approval process to sell the first two tests commercially will run concurrent with the clinical study and will be supported by the syndicate’s funds as will the cost of manufacturing and marketing the products. Diagnostic products tend to move through the regulatory approval process more quickly than do pharmaceuticals. “The market potential for pregnancy-related diagnostics is huge, and there are few other entities in this space now,” said Nagalla, who also is professor of pediatrics in the OHSU School of Medicine and director of the OHSU Center for Biomarker Discovery. The more than 1.2 million women in the United States who annually experience preterm labor constitute the initial market for the tests, the potential global market, he added, totals as many as 8 million women annually.

ProteoGenix was founded in 2002 by OHSU and a group of OHSU clinicians and scientists, including Nagalla; Ron Rosenfeld, M.D., Charles Roberts, Ph.D., Brahm Goldstein, M.D., F.C.C.M., and Michael Gravett, M.D., formerly chief of maternal-fetal medicine at OHSU. OHSU has a 5 percent equity interest in ProteoGenix with the addition of the new capital. For more information about ProteoGenix, go to http://www.proteogenix.com.