Funding announcements this week have come from both the UK and overseas.
The UK investment has shown a particular focus on cell and gene therapies (CGTs), in all facets of the new realm of medicine. Not just the therapies themselves, but encapsulation and supply chain solutions. With the UK aiming to become a world leader in CGT, this funding news points heavily at the ongoing success in this arena.
Overseas has shown a mix of the cutting edge new therapy types and the resourcefulness of new approaches to established methods.
All in all this week has shown that there is more than one way to progress medicine.
In the UK
Ateleriz - Cell therapy transport
Atelerix, creator of an innovative cell encapsulation technology, has closed a second round of funding of £700,000 (US$893,000) to accelerate the development of its cell transport products to market.
Atelerix’s products are used for the storage and transport of human cells and tissues at room temperature, removing the need for cryopreservation and the potential for cell degradation or damage. Atelerix sells its products and services to customers in the cell therapy sector, as well as those developing cells, organoids and assays for use in drug discovery and development.
Atelerix was a spin-out from Newcastle University (UK) in 2017 and raised £425,000 in 2018 in a seed investment round led by specialist investor, UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund (UKI2S). This funding allowed the company to validate its technology, develop easy-to-use product formats for use with different cells and tissues and launch products onto the market. The follow-on investment announced today will be used to grow the team, increase revenues and expand the business, capitalising on the exciting opportunities in the cell therapy sector where delivery of viable cells to the patient remains a significant logistical challenge.
Atelerix CEO, Dr Mick McLean, commented “We’re delighted with the success of this fully subscribed funding round. I’m particularly pleased that all our existing investors chose to reinvest in this round and glad to welcome several new investors.”
Prior to spinning the company out of Newcastle University, founder Professor Che Connon’s academic research was supported by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), a UKI2S partner.
Connon said: “Encapsulating cells in the alginate hydrogel is a simple system capable of preserving the viability and functionality of cells at temperatures between 4°C and 21°C for extended periods of time. Used as a method of cell storage and transport, it overcomes the acknowledged problems associated with cryo-shipping. For shipping, cells are encapsulated by the in situ formation of the gel in plates or vials, and can be rapidly released from the gel by the addition of a simple buffer.”
Locate Bio – Novel CGTs
Locate Bio, a cell and gene therapy company using its proprietary next-generation technologies to develop breakthrough and potentially curative therapies, has received an additional £2 ($2.55) million of investment from Mercia Technologies and its third party fund, the Midlands Engine Investment Fund. The investment will allow the company to expand the application of its technologies, including its gene therapy technology IntraStem, into new therapy areas to both broaden its in-house development pipeline and provide additional partnering opportunities.
Mercia is the UK national investment group focused on the identification, creation, funding and scaling of innovative technology businesses with high-growth potential from the UK regions.
The £2.0 million financing announced today comprises £1.8 million of direct investment from Mercia and with the remaining amount coming from the Midlands Engine Investment Fund, which the Group manages on behalf of the British Business Bank. Mercia’s direct equity stake is now 21.6%.
Nick Staples, CEO of Locate, said: “Locate is in an exciting phase of growth and these new funds will allow us to further develop our non-viral gene therapy technology IntraStemTM while continuing to utilise our TAOS® platform for cell delivery and other applications, as we look to expand our in-house pipeline. These next-generation technologies overcome current industry challenges in the fast-growing gene and cell therapy fields, providing a major business opportunity for Locate.”
Peter Dines, Chief Operating Officer and Head of Life Sciences & Biosciences of Mercia, said: “Locate has continued to make important progress in developing its TAOS and IntraStem technologies. These proprietary technologies have the potential to address multi-billion pound markets in the exciting and fast-growing areas of gene and cell therapy. We look forward to continuing to support Nick and the Locate team move this cutting-edge technology forwards.”
Locate’s CEO, Nick Staples and other members of senior management will be attending BioEquity on 20-2 May in Barcelona and BIO 2019 on 3-6 June in Philadelphia and will be available for meetings.
Freeline – CGT supply chain
Freeline, a biotechnology company focused on developing curative gene therapies for chronic systemic diseases, has secured a collaborative grant of £1.3 ($1.8) million from Innovate UK to lead a supply chain model and delivery development project in partnership with Symbiosis Pharmaceutical Services (Symbiosis) and the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult (CGTC).
The project is intended to create a UK based novel viral vector supply chain and to increase the speed of the Freeline production cycle by over 25%.
The Innovate UK grant will allow the consortium to collaboratively optimise quality systems and operating processes aligned for the supply chain platform. Symbiosis, a CMO specialising in sterile fill-finish, alongside CGTC, will develop a UK-based Drug Substance/Drug Product supply chain solution optimised for the Freeline Adeno Associated Virus (AAV) manufacturing platform to accelerate the progression of its therapies into the clinic.
Jan Thirkettle, Chief Development Officer at Freeline said: “At Freeline we have developed a state-of-the-art AAV drug substance manufacturing process. With the launch of this collaboration, and the access to dedicated funding, we and our partners will be able to accelerate delivery of our portfolio and deliver high-quality gene therapy products more rapidly to the clinic.”
Keith Thompson, CEO of CGT Catapult commented: “There has been a significant increase in the use of adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors in gene therapy trials; however, producing these vectors at the required scale and throughput is still a barrier to industry growth.”
Provepharm Life Solutions - Working on the old
Provepharm Life Solutions, a French independent pharmaceutical and life sciences group which revitalises known molecules, has obtained a €42.5 ($47.6) million syndicated loan from several French banks, including Société Générale, BNP Paribas, Banque Populaire Méditerranée and Crédit Agricole Alpes Provence. This financing will allow the group to accelerate its development through acquisitions.
Following strong progress in 2017, the group ended 2018 with record results and the successful integration of a product portfolio resulting from its first company acquisition, completed in October 2018. Provepharm plans to initiate similar and more important acquisitions over the next two years.
The Marseille-based company that provides pharmaceutical-grade methylene blue, has reinforced its financial resources with this transaction. This also shows the confidence of historic banking partners as well as a new bank that joined the pool.
"In line with our strategic plan, the group aims to complete its strategy of revitalising molecules and expanding its drug portfolio. Future acquisitions should significantly diversify our business while accelerating our ambitious research programmes which are already launched and on track," said Michel Féraud, CEO of Provepharm Life Solutions.
Over the next few months, the company plans to strengthen its position as an international and independent pharmaceutical laboratory with particular focus on the development of its US subsidiary.
Vedanta Biosciences - Developing the new
Vedanta Biosciences, a clinical-stage company developing a new category of therapies for immune-mediated diseases based on human microbiome-derived bacteria, has raised an additional $18.5 million as an extension of its Series C financing, bringing the total for the round to $45.5 million. The new investment comes from JSR Corporation, Shumway Capital, SymBiosis LLC, and Partners Investment Co., Ltd., who join previously disclosed investors the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Rock Springs Capital, Invesco Asset Management, Health for Life (Seventure Partners), and founder PureTech Health. Proceeds from the financing will be used to advance Vedanta’s clinical portfolio including a Phase 1/2 study of VE416 in food allergy, a Phase 1b/2 study of VE800 and OPDIVO (nivolumab) in advanced or metastatic cancers, and the ongoing Phase 2 study of VE303 in recurrent Clostridium difficile infection (rCDI). A Phase 1 clinical study of VE202 in healthy volunteers is being advanced with Janssen as part of an ongoing collaboration in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
“Our platform has the potential to address broad medical needs, including the treatment of drug-resistant infection, food allergies, and other immune-mediated conditions where current approaches fall short,” said Bernat Olle, PhD, co-founder and CEOof Vedanta. “This financing will enable us to continue to advance defined bacterial consortia as a new modality, including generating clinical readouts in multiple therapeutic areas, and we are grateful to our new and existing investors for their support.”
Vedanta Biosciences is developing a consortium of bacterial strains designed to effect robust and durable therapeutic changes in a patient's gut microbiota. In contrast to faecal transplants or administration of faecal fractions, Vedanta Biosciences' consortia are defined compositions of bacteria manufactured from pure, clonal cell banks, without the need to rely on direct sourcing of faecal donor material of inconsistent composition.