Stephen Evans-Freke, Craig Venter, G. Steven Burrill and David Kingsbury, all household names in biotech, believe that the planned merger of ValiGene SA and Kimeragen Inc. will create - in their view - the only company capable of rapidly and inexpensively validating gene targets for drug discovery.

ValiGene (Paris, France) and Kimeragen (Newtown, Penn.) were putting the finishing touches to the merger over the weekend. The combined group will create a transatlantic functional genomics company, ValiGen N.V. (Rotterdam, the Netherlands), which will identify and validate targets for both pharmaceutical and agrochemical products. The new company also is expected to announce a private financing of $15-$20 million to fund its initial efforts.