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Foundation Venture Capital Group Makes Eighth Start-Up Investment
Date:6/29/2012

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J., June 29, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- GeneAssess, Inc., a New Jersey-based biotechnology company, has received a commitment of up to $500,000 from Foundation Venture Capital Group (FVCG), Inc., to validate FRY, a cancer molecular signature gene discovered by GeneAssess scientists that could provide a more accurate diagnostic biomarker for cancer staging.

According to James M. Golubieski, president of FVCG, the company invested in GeneAssess because the FRY gene appears to be found in the breast cancer model but also shows potential for other cancers. 

In research performed to date, mutations in the gene increase rat susceptibility to mammary cancer and FRY reduced the growth of highly aggressive human breast cancer cells in animal models.

GeneAssess plans to use the investment to validate FRY as a predictive biomarker for breast and other cancers, to detect genetic mutations in at-risk populations and to explore target validation for FRY. The company has an exclusive license to the intellectual property developed by Dr. Zarbl.

"Our findings suggest that FRY could potentially be used as a platform to develop cancer gene-based susceptibility tests, for disease progression and for tumor grading," explained Dr. Helmut Zarbl, founder of GeneAssess and a professor of environmental and occupational medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. "This tumor suppressor gene could be useful for developing new targeted drugs, especially for the treatment of aggressive and/or advanced breast cancer."

Dr. Zarbl is also a member of the Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI), which is a joint Institute of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Rutgers University and the Associate Director for Public Health Science at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

Dr. Zarbl's research team found that:

  • While rats with a normal FRY gene do not develop mammary cancer when exposed to carcinogens during puberty, rats carrying a mutant FRY gene are highly susceptible;
  • Many human breast cancer cells expressed decreased levels of FRY and that putting the gene back into these tumor cells allowed them to return to a more normal state and prevented tumor growth; and  
  • Reduced FRY expression in breast cancers and many other cancer types is associated with more aggressive tumor growth and may predict poor clinical outcomes.

Despite substantial advances in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, this disease still accounts for one third of all female cancers in western countries.

"We see great promise in Dr. Zarbl's discovery of the FRY gene and how it might be used to affect the diagnosis and treatment of aggressive breast cancers," noted Dr. George F. Heinrich, vice chair and CEO of Foundation Venture Capital Group.  "We are looking forward to working with him to advance his work and help to bring his ideas to commercialization."

For more information, contact James M. Golubieski, president of FVCG, at (908) 731-6601 or at jgolubieski@njhf.org.

About Foundation Venture Capital Group
Foundation Venture Capital Group, an affiliate of New Jersey Health Foundation, was founded in 2006 to invest in commercially viable new start-up companies developing technology by faculty at or affiliated with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.  In addition to GeneAssess, it has invested in: 

  • Actinobac Biomed Inc., developing a therapeutic agent targeting blood cells for the treatment of hematological malignancies;
  • Affineti Biologics, advancing research in the development of therapeutic and diagnostic products based on new discoveries in oral biology and dental medicine;
  • CellXplore, Inc., engaged in the development of biomarker-based in vitro diagnostic assays for cancer;
  • Celvive, Inc., working to develop technology to treat patients with chronic spinal cord injuries with their own adult stem cells;
  • Durin Technologies, working to develop a blood test to diagnose Alzheimer's disease;
  • Longevica Pharmaceuticals, Inc., developing a chemoprotective agent that may keep normal cells healthy during cancer treatments (FVCG's equity interest in Longevica was recently sold to Rostock International, LTD, a subsidiary of a Moscow (Russia) based global investment firm);
  • Snowdon Pharmaceuticals, a drug discovery company focused on several major therapeutic areas.


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SOURCE Foundation Venture Capital Group, LLC
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