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ICE Angels Make First Investment

ICE Angels Make First Investment

Scientists could be thanking cheesecake for giving them more time to do research as a young NZ bioinformatics software company secures $240,000 in funding.

Biomatters, a resident of The ICEHOUSE incubator, is developing a research optimisation system that they believe will contribute to improving the three Es "Environment, ethics and efficiency" while at the same time cut costing and reducing time-to-market for pharmaceutical companies running in vivo trials.

It is the first company to attract investment from the ICE Angels, a network of 30 private angel investors who attend investment presentations from ICEHOUSE companies and collaborate to provide funding, advice and governance.

ICE Angel Greg Casagrande, one of the investors in Biomatters, says he was impressed by the high calibre of the team. An angel investor for the past five years, Casagrande says he is a fervent believer in entrepreneurialism and looks for a skillset fit with investee companies.

Casagrande believes SMEs face a problem with the less sophisticated domestic capital markets, and that there's room for growth both for angel investors and for business.

One-year old Biomatters, founded by a team comprising a molecular biologist, an evolutionary bioinformatician, a computer scientist and a sales and marketing manager, is well on the way to its vision of making disease research more ethical and improving the environmental risk of working in human disease research.

Two of the four Biomatters staff members are now conducting further R&D in at Oxford University in the UK.

Daniel Batten, Biomatters CEO, says the company develops software products that help scientists discover the genetic basis for disease such as diabetes, osteo-arthritis, breast cancer and HIV.

"Cheesecake is about freeing the scientist up to do more of what motivated them to become a scientist in the first place - research. It does this by automating the data-management component of laboratory organism trials, while at the same time allowing a secure research collaboration environment that radically changes the efficiency with which research can be done"

"This is better for everyone, because they then have more chance of making breakthroughs in diseases that affect much of the world population," says Batten. "Cheesecake also reduces the number of lab animals required by half, and manages environmental risk at the same time." Batten says that because data is effectively managed, fewer transgenic animals are required resulting in more efficient experiments. He says that, on the back of genome projects, use of lab animals has been predicted to rise 200-400% in the next 5-15 years.

Cheesecake helps ensure that important research involving transgenics is kept in the lab - and all organisms can be instantly traced and tracked.

"The product is called Cheesecake because it originally was developed for mice, it makes data management a piece of cake, and it is sweet to the scientist, because their likelihood of a publication or research breakthrough is increased. We are now extending the functionality to help scientists manage any laboratory organism."

Daniel Batten says he believes the company was successful in its pitch to the ICE Angels because they could see that the company had a product answering existing gaps in the market, that the team was not only software savvy, but also had expertise in biotech, bio-informatics and disease research. Additionally, he said, they made the comment that the management team was particularly mature for a start-up company.

As a result of the ICE Angel $240,000 investment, Biomatters have been able to leverage a further $100,000 from Technology NZ to accelerate the development of their bio-informatics product suite. This will include their second product, currently in design stage, which gives researchers tools that assist in the development of personalised medicine customised to a given person's genetic makeup.

The additional funding means the company can concentrate on the necessary R&D, whilst making moves for local and UK market penetration. Batten says biological information volumes double every nine months, and without the right tools to manage this, research is suffering. He says that there is a large and growing market for sophisticated bioinformatics products that overcome these problems.

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