Tuesday, September 19, 2006

$26 Million in Funding for Two Richmond Companies

This is great news for biotechnology in Virginia.

2 biotech companies get funding
One has produced a blood test for the unborn; the other firm is focusing on tumor cells
Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Two Richmond-based biotechnology companies have secured more than $26 million in venture-capital funding.

Living MicroSystems Inc. received $18 million, its second round of financing in less than two years. CellPoint Diagnostics Inc. received $8.5 million, its first funding.

The deals closed late last month. Both firms are in the Virginia BioTechnology Research Park in Richmond and have the same president and CEO, Mike Grisham.

"The really hard work is now ahead of us," Grisham said yesterday. "Getting capital just gives you the runway to go execute, and this is all about execution."

The 16-employee Living MicroSystems will use the money to finish clinical trials of a blood test for early detection of Down syndrome and other genetic abnormalities in unborn babies.

Grisham said the blood test, performed on the mother, is safer than the current procedure, called amniocentesis. That requires drawing and examining fluid from the uterus, and it poses the risk of a miscarriage.

Funds will also go toward a strategy to commercialize the product if federally approved.

The eight-employee CellPoint will use funds in part to expand a management team and test a technology the company has developed that can analyze cancerous-tumor cells before they turn into deadly lumps.

Grisham believes CellPoint's product has potential to better target therapies -- which may work in one person but not in the next -- in patients with breast, lung, prostate or colorectal cancers.

Ultimately, the product could be used for early detection of those fatal diseases. Clinical trials allow Grisham to publish his firms' findings in medical journals. That data also can be used to apply for regulatory approval.

"Our next big milestone is commercialization," he said.

Mike Grisham is one of the speakers at the 2006 Mid-Atlantic Bio meeting next month.

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