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Synthecell Corp. finds investor for drug research


Synthecell Corp. said yesterday that it has lined up $1 million of financing for its drug development programs and expects to ** line up $4 million more within six to eight weeks.

Synthecell is an early stage research-oriented company working on "antisense" technology that the firm hopes will yield drugs that prevent defective genes from causing disease.

The Silver Spring-based firm said Elliott Associates L.P. of New York has agreed to put up $1 million as the lead investor in a $5 million financing to support Synthecell's research. Company President and Chief Executive James Hawkins said Synthecell has been negotiating with several other investors who have said they would buy a piece of Synthecell once it found a lead investor. Dr. Hawkins said he hopes to get all of those commitments funded within two months.

"The money is essentially to bring the first phase of the antisense drugdevelopment program forward," Dr. Hawkins said.

The company has already hired research scientist Matthews O. Bradley away from Merck & Co., one of the drug industry's biggest companies, to head its antisense research. Dr. Hawkins said Dr. Bradley has been hiring other scientists since arriving earlier this year.

The research program should get fully under way when the company completes raising the other $4 million, Dr. Hawkins said. Within nine months, he said, he hopes to have developed research plans detailed enough that the company can make deals with larger drug firms to be partners in developing products.

Synthecell raises part of its research money by custom-making synthetic strands of DNA, the proteins that contain the body's genetic coding, for other researchers.

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