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University of Iowa News Release

March 11, 2004

IAgen Locates At UI's Technology Innovation Center

At its meeting March 10, the Board of Regents, State of Iowa approved a lease for biotech start-up company IAgen LLC as the newest tenant of the University of Iowa's Technology Innovation Center (TIC).

IAgen, LLC is a research and development laboratory established to explore development of new biocatalysts for the bioproducts industry and the development of a new generation of peptide nucleic acid (PNA) building blocks for use in gene therapy treatments.

The bioindustry looks to harness the molecular building blocks of biomass (crops, trees, grasses, and crop and forest residues) to create products that are now primarily manufactured from petroleum. With Iowa's agricultural based economy, the importance of the continued development of the bioproducts industry in our state cannot be overlooked, according to company founder Eric Zirbes. IAgen plans to develop biocatalysts from microbial and plant sources for use in the growing bioproducts industry.

Though initially developed for use in gene therapy, peptide nucleic acid is primarily used as a research tool in molecular biology and as a lead compound for the development of gene-targeted drugs. IAgen is developing a new generation of PNA that will overcome the cell uptake problems associated with the current PNA, thus providing a new tool for use in molecular biology as well as medical research.

IAgen, LLC was established in 2003 by Eric Zirbes of Iowa City who received a B.S. degree in pharmacy in 1987 and a Ph.D. degree in medicinal and natural products chemistry in 1995, both from UI. Through his post-doctoral research and industrial biotechnology experience Zirbes, developed a diverse background and experience in biocatalysis, synthetic chemistry, molecular biology and peptide nucleic acid research.

"I am very excited about the opportunity to launch my biotech start-up company right here in my home state and to join the growing biotechnology industry in Iowa," said Zirbes.

The company's lease will be effective April 1 for an office and laboratory in the UI Multi-Tenant Facility, 2501 Crosspark Road on the Oakdale Research Park in Coralville.

With the addition of IAgen, the TIC will have 15 tenant companies. Since 1984, 29 TIC "graduate" firms have expanded their business or met other business goals after leaving the incubator and a half-dozen other companies remained in business after leaving TIC.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: George McCrory, 319-384-0012,; IAgen: Eric Zirbes, 319-621-6918,