ManChem funding round-up

This week's funding follows the general trend in the industry towards supporting biotechnology, featuring investments from the UK and Israeli governments, but also private investors such as M Ventures and Hikma

Antibodies

IGEM Therapeutics (IGEM) has been awarded £0.75 million grant from the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK. The immuno-oncology company will use the Biomedical Catalyst Primer Award to develop novel IgE antibodies targeting HER2, a commercially-validated cancer antigen expressed on a variety of tumour types including breast, ovarian and gastric cancer.

Currently marketed anti-HER2 IgG antibodies are only able to treat patients with cancers expressing high levels of HER2 antigen. The majority of HER2 positive patients have cancers expressing intermediate or low levels of HER2 and cannot be treated with anti-HER2 IgG antibodies. To address this substantial unmet medical need, IGEM is developing novel, human IgE antibodies that bind to HER2.

Pre-clinical studies in the laboratory of IGEM Founder Dr Sophia Karagiannis at King’s College London have demonstrated superior efficacy with a number of IgE antibodies when compared to their IgG equivalents. The immuno-oncology company is also developing anti-cancer IgE antibodies targeting folate receptor alpha and CSPG-4.

Dr Tim Wilson, CEO of IGEM, said: “We are very pleased to have been awarded our second grant from Innovate UK. Our goal is to harness the potency of the IgE-mediated immune response and thereby provide patients with new safe and effective treatment options for these serious diseases.”

Enzymes

ArcticZymes has been granted €254k as part of a collaborative project on the development of novel enzymes for synthetic biology.

The project proposal was developed in collaboration with the University of Tromsø and Danish company, Legomics, has been positively evaluated by the Eurostars programme. ArcticZymes is to participate in developing novel DNA ligases, enabling novel chemistry for synthesising DNA and genes to be further developed by Legomics.

Working alongside the University of Tromsø, ArcticZymes have used Arctic marine bioprospecting and engineering to establish a substantial base for the development of enzymes with novel unique properties.

ArcticZymes Managing Director, Jethro Holter, said: “This project supports ArcticZymes ambitions towards building a broader synergistic product portfolio, with wide applicability across all three molecular biology market segments it serves – research, IVD and therapeutics. We are also excited to partner with Legomics and the University of Tromsø in enabling a novel gene synthesis technology.”

Stem cells

Stem Cell Medicine (SCM) has received funding from the Israeli Ministry of the Economy to build a gene therapy facility. The new facility will enable the biotechnology company to manufacture gene therapy products for commercial launches, benefiting from the favourable global regulatory and marketing environment for its products.

The first gene therapy product under development at SCM is for the treatment of neuropathic pain.

The plant will be built in Jerusalem, a Zone A region, allowing tax and grant benefits, in an investment of over 20 million NIS (approximately US$5.5 million), of which 20% will be covered by the grant.

The new production facility will make available production space in SCM's existing GMP approved facility for production of exosomes from stem cell for collaboration with large biopharma companies.  

Ehud Marom, SCM's Chairman, said, "SCM is currently raising $30 million in a pre-IPO round, which we expect to be followed by an IPO in the next few years. We are expecting our first cell-based product, for cosmetic uses, to be on the market this year."

Biotech

Biolinq has closed a $10M Series A financing led by M Ventures, in collaboration with Hikma Ventures. Biolinq is a digital health company with a wirelessly-enabled biosensor patch that is capable of continuously monitoring multiple biomarkers.

Grey Sky Venture Partners, Three Leaf Ventures, LifeSci Venture Partners and a group of high-net-worth individuals specialised in the diabetes field are also contributing to the round.

Biolinq’s first commercial product, a unique minimally-invasive technology, will allow patients with diabetes to continuously monitor their blood glucose without the pain and hassle of traditional continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) systems.

“We are leading this round of investment with an excellent group of co-investors, all with the same goal of making the convenient and painless monitoring of multiple biomarkers a reality for patients in need,” said Edward Kliphuis, Investment Director of the New Businesses fund at M Ventures.

Jared Tangney, CEO of Biolinq, said, “This funding round will fuel the growth of our technology platform. Our first product is not just another CGM technology, but a platform we built from the ground up with a focus on the end user. Our vision is to utilise our novel manufacturing approach to achieve low-cost and high uniformity, enabling factory calibration (no finger sticks) in a nickel-sized patch. With our low cost-of-goods and ease-of-use, we plan to increase access to CGM and simplify diabetes management.”

 

Non-biotech

CNS Diseases

Karuna Therapeutics has raised an additional US$12 million as an extension of its Series B financing announced in March 2019. This brings the total to $80 million, including the issuance of $5 million in shares upon conversion of debt into equity.

The extension funding is provided by Sofinnova Investments, which will also hold an observer seat on the company’s board of directors.

Additionally, Karuna was recently awarded its first US patent for its lead product candidate, KarXT, currently being evaluated in a Phase 2 clinical trial as a potential treatment for acute psychosis in patients with schizophrenia.

Eric Elenko, Chief Innovation Officer at the affiliated company PureTech Health, said: “Top tier investors have responded strongly to the promise of Karuna’s KarXT and its underlying muscarinic receptor-targeting approach to neuropsychiatric disorders. We welcome their support in driving the expansion of this platform’s potential to address a number of underserved patient populations.”

Ion Channels

Metrion Biosciences has completed a fully subscribed funding round on 14 March. The specialist ion channel contract research and drug discovery company will use the funds to support the broadening of its ion channel screening capabilities, and continued research into novel Kv1.3 inhibitors for the treatment of auto-immune conditions.

The new equity investment round was led by the recently launched o2h Ventures Therapeutics Fund, acting via Reyker Securities, and supported by existing shareholders.

The o2h Ventures fund invests in eearly-stage biotech therapeutic and related AI opportunities in the UK and focuses, in particular, on emerging companies in the growing Cambridge biotech cluster.

Keith McCullagh, Metrion’s chairman, said: “We are pleased to welcome both o2h Ventures Therapeutics Fund as a new shareholder and Sunil Shah, Managing Partner of o2h Ventures Ltd as an observer on the Metrion board.”

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