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Aurora Biosciences Corporation announces $13.6 million first round financing.

LA JOLLA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 18, 1996--Aurora Biosciences Corporation announced today that the Company, which focuses on novel, mammalian cell-based ultra-high-throughput screening for new therapeutics, has raised $13.6 million in a private financing.

The financing was led by Abingworth Management Ltd., with Domain Partners, and New Enterprise Associates. Additional investors included Avalon Ventures, who provided the company's seed funding, Biotechnology Investments Ltd., and Kingsbury Associates. The aim of Aurora Biosciences Corporation is to develop and commercialize its advanced screening technology and services for multiple pharmaceutical and biotech customers.

Aurora was founded by Roger Y. Tsien Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry and Pharmacology at the University of California, San Diego, and two UCSD colleagues, Charles Zuker, Ph.D., Professor of Biology and Neurosciences, and Michael Geoffrey Rosenfeld, M.D., Professor of Medicine. Dr. Tsien is the leading expert on optical probes of cell function and has received numerous awards for his work, including the 1995 Gairdner International Award. The company's fourth founder is Kevin J. Kinsella, President and CEO of Sequana Therapeutics and Managing Partner of Avalon Ventures.

Timothy J. Rink, M.A., M.D., Sc.D., serves as the Chairman and CEO of Aurora. Until recently, Dr. Rink was President and Chief Technical Officer of Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and was previously Vice President, Research at SmithKline Beecham (U.K.). Aurora has also recruited Frank Craig Ph.D., and Harry Stylli Ph.D., who previously led advanced screening technology groups at Glaxo Wellcome plc, as Senior Director of Screen Development and Senior Director of Screen Technology respectively.

Members of Aurora's Board of Directors include James Blair, Ph.D., of Domain Partners; Stephen Bunting, Ph.D., of Abingworth Management Ltd.; Kevin Kinsella, Hugh Rienhoff, M.D., of New Enterprise Associates; Lubert Stryer, M.D., Professor of Neurobiology at Stanford University; and Timothy Wollaeger of Kingsbury Associates. Dr. Stryer, who is the author of the leading text book of biochemistry and was the first President of the Affymax Research Institute, will also serve on the company's scientific advisory board.

"Advances in genomics and combinatorial chemistry have dramatically increased the biological targets and chemical diversity available for drug discovery, creating an urgent need for faster, ultra-high-throughput screening methods," commented Kevin J. Kinsella. "Aurora's breadth of technology plus its focus on providing solutions to challenges faced by virtually all research-based pharmaceutical and biotech companies clearly address a major market opportunity. I am delighted that we have been able to attract such a powerful team of world-class scientific founders and advisors, proficient management and board members, and experienced investors to launch this new venture and help ensure the company's success."

Stephen Bunting added, "Given the quality of the science and the people involved, together with the timing of the formation of Aurora, this has been one of our easier investment decisions!"

Timothy Rink said, "We see the ability to conduct hundreds of thousands of tests per day with novel, and sometimes intractable, targets in mammalian cells as relieving a critical bottleneck in the drug discovery process. Discussions with potential partners and customers reinforce our view that our focused commitment to integrating the necessary range of existing and of novel proprietary technologies is ideally suited to a well funded, start-up company. Aurora continues the trend to horizontal integration and outsourcing of new technologies in therapeutic R&D, exemplified by the success of genomics and combinatorial chemistry companies."

Aurora Biosciences Corporation's primary mission is to advance the drug discovery process by commercializing novel, automated systems for ultra-high-throughput screening. The company's systems primarily use fluorescence-based screens in mammalian cells, but are also adaptable for enzyme or receptor-ligand assays. Internal research and development efforts will focus on developing novel screens, and establishing screening systems at Aurora and in customers' facilities. The company will partner with industry leaders in adapting and developing robotics, informatics, compound and liquid handling systems, and miniaturized assay and detection devices. Aurora expects to set the new standard for drug screening and to enable multiple pharmaceutical and biotech customers to speed up the discovery of innovative medicines in return for research fees, milestone payments and product royalties.

CONTACT: Aurora Biosciences Corporation

Timothy J. Rink, 619/452-5000 or 619/454-3803 Ext.31
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Date:Mar 18, 1996
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