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Wake Forest Spinoff Gets $2.6 million in Financing

Amplistar Inc., a spinoff company from Wake Forest University School of Medicine that is developing cancer screening products, today received $2.6 million in financing from Eno River Capital, manager of the $26 million N.C. Bioscience Investment Fund.

Amplistar''s main focus is on an ovarian cancer screening test. This is significant because there are now no good tests for this disease, which is the sixth most common cancer cause and the fifth leading killer among women.

"Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest cancers, precisely because it is almost always detected late," said George Doellgast, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry at Wake Forest and chief scientific officer of Amplistar. "However, it is always found that there had been a hitherto undetected immunological attack on the cancer, which was unsuccessful."

The company will develop an ultrasensitive early warning method of detecting that attack by the immune system. "It is an approach for identifying and measuring the very low levels of immune response in early stage cancer," Doellgast said.

Venture Capital Solutions of Winston-Salem also participated in the financing.

"We believe the success of our financing, particularly in today''s difficult biotechnology financial environment, is a testament to the scientific progress being made at Amplistar and the strong business model we have developed," said Eric Button, president and chief executive officer. "We will use the proceeds of this financing to aggressively move the ovarian cancer screening blood test to clinical trials, providing the validation of our platform technology to develop screening tests for virtually any type of cancer."

Doellgast will retire from Wake Forest on Feb. 29 to devote his full energy to the company, which he founded under the name Elcatech in 1984. Elcatech started with blood coagulation technology and evolved into tests for food toxins such as botulism. Doellgast once based his operations at the Small Business Technology Development Center on South Marshall Street. In 1998, he moved the company to Albert Hall in the Piedmont Triad Research Park downtown.

"George and Eric deserve all of the credit for this wonderful company, but the university is to be commended for working flexibly with George in the creation and development of Elcatech and through the associated issues," said Spencer Lemons, director of Wake Forest University''s Office of Technology Asset Management. "It is a big win for everyone involved, the university, the company founders and Winston-Salem."

Button managed the PSA (prostate screening antigen) cancer diagnostic business unit at Hybritech in San Diego, and was founder and chief executive officer of Proteomix, a San Diego biotechnology company that developed a diagnostic and drug discovery technology called ProtoClear.

"Amplistar''s technology is first class and the market is acute and substantial," said Paul Jones, one of the managing directors at Eno River. The U.S. market for a proven ovarian screening test is estimated to be $200 million.

The American Cancer Society predicts that there will be about 23,100 new cases of ovarian cancer in this country this year. About 14,000 women will die from ovarian cancer. The society says that more than half the women who develop ovarian cancer are over 65.

The chances of survival from ovarian cancer are better if the cancer if found early, the cancer society says on its web site. If the cancer is found and treated before it has spread outside the ovary, 95 percent of women will survive at least five years, the society says. However, only 25 percent of ovarian cancers are found at this early stage.

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