Research firm to move to Md. State funding helps attract fledgling Conn. company

April 11, 1996|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,SUN STAFF

Gene Logic Inc., a New Haven, Conn.-based biotechnology company that is engaged in the emerging field of genetics and the treatment of disease, said yesterday that it plans to move to Maryland next month.

The state agreed to provide $500,000 in financing to the fledgling company in return for a 5 percent equity stake and a guarantee that Gene Logic will stay in Maryland for at least five years, the company said.

The privately held company, founded in 1995, hopes to open its new headquarters May 1 in the Rivers Corporate Park in Columbia, where it has leased 11,000 square feet of office and laboratory space. Several other high-technology companies are located in the park, including publicly held Biosys, Inc., a medical information company.

Dr. Michael Brennan, Gene Logic's president and chief executive officer, said the company was attracted to Maryland primarily because of its support for the biotechnology industry and the its pool of scientists trained in genetics.

"The most salient things that attracted us to Maryland were the large biotechnology infra-structure in Maryland and the availability of key people we will need for our work," said Dr. Brennan. "People who are trained in the kind of work we will be doing are rare."

The company, which employs 11 people, expects to hire as many as 14 scientists and technicians by the end of the year, said Dr. Brennan. Gene Logic expects to recruit from Johns Hopkins Medical School, the National Institutes of Health and other institutions in the region.

The company, which joins 176 other biotechnology companies based in Maryland, also believed it would be easier to recruit top genetic scientists to Columbia, because of its strong schools, housing and other quality of life features.

Gene Logic may use the $500,000 the state is providing in equity financing for any purpose.

The payoff for the state's 5 percent investment could be years away and only if the company becomes profitable, or if it were to go public or be bought by another company.

Charles Porcari, a spokesman for the Department of Business and Economic Development, said state financing came from its Enterprise Investment Fund, which assists mature companies that can attract significant private investment capital.

Dr. Brennan said the company, which this week raised $8.6 million in investment capital from a group of four venture capital firms, expects its main clients to be large pharmaceutical houses and biotechnology companies working on molecular therapies for disease.

Gene Logic will specialize in providing information about human genes and their role in triggering and preventing diseases. The company has a database system that contains the genetic profiles of many types of cells and how they change as the result of specific diseases and under other physiological or pathological conditions.

This new field of computer science is called bioinformatics.

The genetic information generated by the computers is seen as critical in developing new treatments for the molecular causes of disease, a field of research many drug companies are investing in for new product development for a diverse array of ailments, from rheumatoid arthritis to cancer.

"By comparing gene expression profiles in normal and diseased cells, we can rapidly characterize the specific changes associated with disease," said Dr. Brennan.

The database, called Gene Express, is based on technology the company licensed from Dr. Sherman M. Weissman, Sterling Professor of Genetics and Medicine at Yale University Medical School. Dr. Weissman is considered one of the pioneers in the field of genetics.

Pub Date: 4/11/96

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