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September 24, 2010


DiNapoli: NYS Pension Fund Invests an Additional $500k in Rochester-Based OyaGen

Nearly Doubles Fund Investment in UofR Spin-Off Brings Total to More Than $1 Million

DiNapoli to Hold Media Availability in Rochester at 2 p.m.

The New York State Common Retirement Fund (the Fund) invested an additional $500,000 in OyaGen, Inc., a Rochester, NY-based bio-pharmaceutical company focused on drug treatments for HIV/AIDs and other viral diseases, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced today.  The investment was made through the Fund’s investment partner Trillium Group, LLC.

“OyaGen is a perfect example of how we can do well for the members of the Retirement System while doing good for New York businesses,” DiNapoli said. “OyaGen performs groundbreaking research to advance the treatment of HIV and AIDS.  Not only is this an area where research is much needed, but it is also a great investment for the pension fund.”

As part of its In-state Private Equity Program, the Fund invested $500,000 in OyaGen, which more than doubles the Fund’s investment in the company bringing the total to more than $1 million since 2006. The Fund’s investment also leveraged a matching investment from a private investor.  Trillium is leading the latest round of investment with a goal of raising $3 million.

“OyaGen represents a sound biopharmaceutical investment opportunity and leverages the considerable investments that are being made by our university-based scientific community,” Kevin Phelps, a Trillium partner, said. “The latest funding is a follow-on investment that the Fund made in the evolution of the technology.  We are excited about the novel work Dr. Harold Smith is doing in this space and the continuing progress OyaGen has made to commercialize the technology.”  
“Our understanding of the basic science that drives the biology of editing enzymes and disease processes has led to the identification of new drug targets,” Dr. Harold Smith, OyaGen’s Chief Scientific Officer and founder, said. “OyaGen has used this proprietary information to develop a unique set of assays for drug discovery.  All indications are that the company has achieved a capability that has drawn significant interest from technology leaders in the HIV therapeutic market.  We are grateful to Trillium and the New York State Common Retirement Fund for their support and investment in OyaGen. This relationship is a keystone to technology development and commercialization in Upstate NY.”

The infusion of capital will be used to fund on-going research as well as to acquire key robotic equipment and build infrastructure that give unique capabilities to OyaGen to further its pharmaceutical development.  These activities will position the company to file an investigational new drug application (IND) within the next year, which is a critical milestone to a Phase I clinical trial.  

Through the In-state Private Equity Program, the Fund invests with private equity managers who seek to invest in companies in New York state that require capital for growth.  The program, created in 1999, targets investment of state funds in the New York state economy.  The program is designed to provide investment returns consistent with the risk of private equity while also expanding the availability of capital for New York businesses. The program aims to help generate jobs and private sector investment in the state.

Since 2000, $480 million has been invested in 155 companies through the In-state Private Equity Program. The Fund has achieved a 30 percent rate of return on the investments it has exited. DiNapoli added $518 million to the program since he took office in 2007, bringing the total amount committed to the program to $971 million. The Fund has approximately $490 million available to invest in New York-based companies.

DiNapoli will be in Rochester today to hold a media availability at 2 p.m. at the State Office Building located at 16 W. Main St. The availability will be held in the 8th floor conference room.

About the Common Retirement Fund
The New York State Common Retirement Fund is the third largest public pension plan in the United States with more than one million members, retirees and beneficiaries from state and local governments. The Fund has a diversified portfolio of public and private equities, fixed income, real estate and alternative instruments.

About Trillium Group, LLC
Trillium Group is a Rochester-based venture capital group with a primary focus on growth equity investment opportunities located in western New York. Trillium’s current portfolio consists of more than 20 companies in a broad range of industry sectors and businesses.

About OyaGen
OyaGen is an emerging biopharmaceutical company focusing on the commercialization of editing enzyme technologies developed at the laboratory of Dr. Harold Smith at the University of Rochester Medical Center.  The company uses editing enzymes as the basis for therapeutic drug developments for HIV/AIDS with a platform technology that embraces other viral diseases such as hepatitis A, B and C as well as certain cardiovascular conditions and cancers. OyaGen has received grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.



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