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Great River company gets $2.5M in venture capital

Hassan Bennani of KellBenx in the company's lab

Hassan Bennani of KellBenx in the company's lab in Great River. (Aug. 15, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

KellBenx Inc., a Great River-based biotechnology company developing prenatal blood tests to check for genetic and inherited disorders, was the only Long Island firm to receive venture capital funding in the second quarter of this year.

That’s according to the MoneyTree Report, published by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, based on data from Thomson Reuters.

Founded in 2010 by Hassan Bennani,  chief executive, and Leonard H. Kellner, president, KellBenx received $2.5 million from three venture capital groups and one angel investor.

It was among 98 companies in the metropolitan area to receive funding — a total of more than $624 million. That was an increase of one percent over the first quarter of this year and up 33 percent from the second quarter of 2010.

“We have self-financed until we were really ready for funding” and were “very lucky to find the right people,” said Bennani, especially in “a rough time all around when people were struggling to get funding.” The company employs two full-time researchers and four consultants.

The financing, in part, he said, has secured licensing from a German-based diagnostics company for certain antibodies that are used in the extraction of fetal cells from the mother’s blood. Those cells can be tested for disorders such as Down syndrome.

Such blood testing is noninvasive and less risky than other procedures, says Bennani, who came to Long Island 15 years ago from Morocco, where he was practicing internal medicine. The company has also contracted with a London-based manufacturer to produce the antibodies.

In addition, the funding has gone to:
• Set up a research and development laboratory in Great River.
• Contract with a Toronto laboratory to develop kits that other labs can use to perform the test.
• Start collecting clinical data.

In the first quarter of this year, Mirimus, Inc., a Cold Spring Harbor biotech firm, received $2 million in venture funding, one of 69 metro-area companies to receive investor money during that period, according to an earlier MoneyTree Report.

Mirimus provides genetically engineered mice for laboratory and clinical-trial studies of disease. It was the first Long Island company to get venture capital funding since the second quarter of 2010.

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