$6.4 million in venture financing to help Cylex market ImmuKnow

Testing technology helps doctors gauge health of transplant patients

September 25, 2004|By William Patalon III | William Patalon III,SUN STAFF

Cylex Inc. will use $6.4 million of newly received venture money to boost market acceptance of a testing technology the company says helps doctors to better measure the health of a patient's immune system, the Columbia-based biotechnology company said yesterday.

Using the trademarked product name of "ImmuKnow," Cylex is making and marketing a test kit doctors use to monitor the immune-system health of organ-transplant recipients.

The company will next position Immu- Know as a product physicians can employ to manage the treatments of patients with cancer, Hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS and other diseases that attack the immune system. In the long term, and with widespread adoption, Cylex's technology would help doctors provide each patient with individualized treatment plans, or even "wellness" regimens that suppress illnesses and keep injuries at bay - slashing health care costs and improving quality of life, the company said.

"As we look out over the next 10 years ... we're speaking not only about the management of disease, but also about the management of one's wellness," said Judith A. Britz, Cylex's chairman and chief executive officer.

Though the company is not profitable, it had revenue of $400,000 last year and is projecting $1 million this year, Britz said.

The $6.4 million was Cylex's second round of venture financing and brought the total invested to $12.4 million since the company's 1998 founding, Britz said. Investors this time included Roche Venture Fund, NJTC Venture Fund, Early Stage Enterprises LP and The Nikko New Wave 2001 Investment Enterprise, according to the company.

Cylex plans to use the new funding to increase its work force of 15 people about 25 percent, fund new clinical trials and boost marketing, the company said.

While other technologies rely on more indirect methods to assess the vitality of a patient's immune system - looking at white-cell counts, for instance - Cylex's ImmuKnow uses a direct measure: It assesses a cell's energy level, and requires only a single drop of blood to do so.

ImmuKnow is not overly expensive as tests go, costing about $100, the company said.

Not surprisingly, ImmuKnow has first found acceptance in organ transplants, where the health of a patient's immune system is crucial because of the delicate balance required, the company said.

To counter the body's natural inclination to reject a foreign organ, transplant recipients take medicine to suppress their immune systems; too small a dose can lead to rejection of the organ, too large a dose can leave a person open to infection that often proves fatal. The fact that reactions to medication vary from patient to patient makes the balance even tougher to achieve, the company said.

If the market is any indication, Immu- Know is achieving its objectives, according to Ronald R. Hahn, founder and partner of Early Stage Enterprises in Princeton, N.J., which led the latest investment in Cylex.

"Initial market acceptance of Immu- Know and its impressive recent performance show that the company is on track for near-term success," Hahn said.

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