Connecticut has put up half the $700,000 raised by a Branford bioscience startup that is harvesting for medical use the chemical compounds produced by soil microbes.
Metagenomix Inc. received $350,000 from Connecticut Innovations Inc., the state's quasi-public investment arm, to go with $350,000 raised from private Elm Street Ventures and an unnamed individual investor.
Connecticut Innovations also obtained a seat on Metgenomix's board.
CI's stake is from the proceeds of successful investments in previous Connecticut bioscience and technology companies in which it was an early-stage investor, such as Alexion Pharmaceuticals in Cheshire.
Since this fiscal year began last July, CI says it has invested in 12 early-stage technology companies,
Using technology licensed from Yale University, Metagenomix is developing methods to synthesize the most promising compounds produced by soil bacteria and to screen them for their value as drug therapies.
Gregory Gardiner, Metagenomix chairman and CEO, said the company's business model is to license the most promising compounds to pharmaceutical and biotech companies that would convert them to drugs and treatments for cancer, malaria and fungal infections.
The process, Gardiner said, is not unlike the harvesting of natural compounds that led to painkillers such as aspirin and morphine, and cancer-fighting taxol. The potential to yield other undiscovered treatments through microbes is great, he said.
"Scientists have been screening microbes, particularly those found in soil, for potential new drugs for almost one hundred years,'' he said in a statement Tuesday. "The effort has been a very successful one, which is why it is so surprising to learn that existing technology screened only one percent of the microbes present.''