PINEHURST, NC – Gentris Corporation, a provider of applied clinical pharmacogenomic products and services, has closed $5 million in new venture funding from Mitsui USA.

The announcement came Wednesday at the annual Venture 2005 conference put on by the Council for Entrepreneurial Development. The funding news comes on the coattails of an FDA guidance release on pharmacogenomic data submissions, which test patient genetics to learn of adverse drug reactions prior to therapy. Gentris is pioneering these tests.

“These tests improve safety by identifying at-risk patients,” Gentris President and CEO Michael Murphy said. “At the same time, pharmaceutical companies can conduct more efficient trials by eliminating the population that won’t respond well to the drug. This selective process…driven by science…will get drugs to market faster and into the hands of patients who will benefit most from them.”

Company leadership reports that the Gentris business model paired with this FDA announcement appealed to Mitsui investors.

This technology is culminating to personalized medicine, which Murphy says is coming quickly. He also notes that this round of funding will push the firm into Series D funding while allowing Gentris to proceed with developing and distributing pharmacogennomic diagnostic testing kits.

Mi-Co Showcases Customer Testimonials

Mi-Co brought more than presentation notes to Venture 2005. The company, who provides a unique mobile data capturing software system, offered live customer testimonials on site.

Debra Harris, RN, director of Wilson County Home Health and Rose Williamson, QI Coordinator manned the Mi-Co booth, sharing their success with visitors. The government health agency started a program last October to take all of their visiting staff to wireless tablet notebooks…and no more paper.

The two could not be more satisfied with the new technology. “Since taking the final group live in December, 90% of the staff like it and 50% love it,” says Harris. “We have 350 to 400 patients at any given time and a nurse on call seven days a week. With this technology, that nurse can access patient information any time and know exactly how to handle a call.”

Williamson noted that the change has assisted in dealing with HIPAA. “It was not a patient care issue that influenced our switch, it was a risk management issue,” she explains. “The new technology minimizes opportunities for error.”

Local Tech Wire spoke with Barrett Joyner, senior vice president of sales and marketing and long-time SAS exec, who says Mi-Co is seeing VC activity. “We have been in a nice position recently and started fundraising before Venture. Some of those VCs are here and we have been talking.”

Joyner noted that the VCs are local and out-of-towners…two from the West Coast and one from the Southeast. “We’ve had good discussions with one Atlanta investor.”

Queen City Bobcats Owner Speaks Out

“The key to getting involved with entrepreneurs and making them successful is not just money, because there is lots of that out there– As investors, you must put your credibility and prestige behind that entrepreneur,” said Robert Johnson, Black Entertainment Television (BET) founder and CEO, and NBA Charlotte Bobcats owner, in his keynote speech to almost 250 people at the conference Wednesday.

Those lucky enough to present at the conference were excited by the suggestion.

To those seeking funding Johnson recommended, “The first impression is so important– An entrepreneur’s ability to articulate your passion can help win others over.”

Show Buzz

Some points of interest from presentations included:

  • Motricity chairman and CEO Ryan Wuerch gave a powerful presentation citing: They now provide 85% of all mobile content for PalmOne; company projections show that Motricity will sell more music than iTunes this year…all in ringtones; 80 percent of funding thus far has come from outside of NC

  • Oriel Therpeutics CEO and founder Paul Atkins is looking to have three new patents in the next three months with 11 other pending for their oral drug delivery devices.

  • William Janzen, vice president of operations for Amphora Discovery Corp., plans to offset a 30 year decline in drug research productivity with their small molecule pharmaceutical discovery pipeline.

  • In a continuing string of announcements from NC IDEA (formerly MCNC Ventures), a strategic partnership was announced Wednesday by CED. CED and NC IDEA leadership believe the alliance will help North Carolina become the country’s leading state for innovation-based entrepreneurs.

    Laura Childs is a freelance contributor to Local Tech Wire. She is also director of client relations for Articulon, a boutique PR and marketing firm in Raleigh.