ManChem funding roundup

Companies seeing large capital investment this week include Univercells, Yukin Therapeutics and Sphere Fluidics

This week many grants were awarded to companies at many stages of the pharmaceutical spectrum.

  • Development
  • Manufacturing
  • Expansions

Many of these grants were awarded to start-ups or relatively young but innovative companies.

Grants have come from the well-known organisations the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Innovate UK. However, companies such as MilliporeSigma have also made significant contributions to the industry.

All currency has been converted into USD using the rate as of 14/06/19

Development

For the development stage of the pharmaceutical cycle, four companies have seen a major injection of capital. Three as part of the MilliporeSigma awards and one from a self-started funding round.

MilliporeSigma awards grants to biotechs to develop their therapies

MilliporeSigma, a large US science and technology company, has announced the winners of its Advance Biotech Grant programme in the US and Canada. The grant is given to small- and mid-size biotechnology companies that need funding and expertise to get their therapies to market.

“With more than 60% of drugs in the pipeline today being developed by biotechs, we are committed to supporting these start-ups in developing groundbreaking therapeutics,” said Udit Batra, CEO, MilliporeSigma.

Batra continued to explain that the programme provides free access to the company’s process development expertise, products and services to help accelerate molecule-to-market efforts.

The three grant recipients are:

  • RAFT Pharmaceuticals (San Diego, CA), for its approach to treating chronic pain using a biologic to selectively inhibit neuroinflammation without affecting normal motor or sensory function.
  • Rubicon Biotechnology (Anaheim, CA), for developing a therapeutic protein designed to protect and salvage cells damaged from an acute event, such as traumatic brain injury.
  • TechnoVax (Elmsford, NY), for developing a virus-like particle platform that facilitates the development and production of a range of vaccines targeting the prevention of respiratory diseases, hemorrhagic fevers, immunodeficiency and cancers.

In support of the growing biotech ecosystem, grant recipients receive between $40,000 and $100,000 in MilliporeSigma products and process development support.

MilliporeSigma selected the winning submissions based on the scientific and societal merit of therapy in development and process challenges and expertise gaps. The programme is part of the company’s global biotech commitment to help bring therapies to market.

MilliporeSigma began the grant programme in 2014, running every six months, in Europe, North America or Asia. To date, MilliporeSigma has awarded more than $1.2m in products and services to 20 biotech companies in these regions.

Biotech companies in Asia with a molecule in development should apply before 15 August 2019 for the next round of grant funding.

Yukin Therapeutics raises $3.7 million to develop new cancer treatments

Yukin Therapeutics, a French company specialising in the development of new molecules for cancer treatment, has completed a $3.7 million financing round. The round aimed to raise funds for the development and optimisation of its proprietary therapeutic molecules.

Advent France Biotechnology, a major player in life sciences investments, led this round with Medicxi, a life sciences-focused investment firm based in London, Jersey and Geneva.

Yukin Therapeutics develops kinase inhibitors and was formed to develop the work of two research laboratories based in Nice, supported by the SATT Sud-Est (Société d’Accélération du Transfert de Technologies Sud-Est). Kinases are a family of proteins involved in many cellular processes including proliferation. A deregulation in kinases activity plays a strong role in the occurrence and aggressive nature of many cancers.

The company specifically targets the NIK protein (NF-κB inducing kinase), a recognized therapeutic target involved in the aggressiveness of cancer cells.

Yukin Therapeutics obtained proof of concept in animals, demonstrating the efficacy of its first-in-class NIK kinase inhibitors. These studies also demonstrate synergy with the administration of antibodies specific to the PD1 molecule, a standard of care in immuno-oncology.

One of the qualities of the molecules developed by Yukin Therapeutics is their ability to deeply modify the microenvironment of the tumour, allowing the immune system to better identify the cancer cell in order to destroy it.

The company now wants to accelerate the development of its therapeutic molecules in order to identify its first drug candidate ahead of launching a clinical trial by 2022.

Arnaud Foussat, CEO of Yukin said: "Our aim is to identify a first drug candidate and thus contribute to the discovery of new treatment strategies in oncology.”

Foussat added: “We are convinced that the unique mode of action of our NIK kinase inhibitors will be key in the development of new therapies with real clinical benefit in a large number of cancers. We are now eager to test the efficacy of our molecules, alone or in combination with baseline immunotherapies.”

Manufacturing

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested in helping scale up manufacturing this month.

Univercells receives grant for affordable vaccines manufacturing platform

Univercells has been awarded a $14.3m grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The funds are to increase the availability of measles and rubella (M&R) vaccines in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Univercells will adapt the process design of its proprietary NevoLine platform to deliver affordable M&R vaccines. This novel manufacturing platform has already proven success with its initial application for Sabin inactivated polio vaccine (sIPV), supported by a prior $12m grant from the foundations.

Univercells will leverage its NevoLine bioproduction platform to sustainably supply measles and rubella vaccines at an affordable cost by minimising equipment and facility-related capital investment together with lower operating costs.

Under the terms of the agreement, Univercells will develop a NevoLine platform for the measles and rubella processes and initiate clinical validation. As part of this project, Univercells’ partner Batavia Biosciences will adapt its highly intensified production process to the M&R vaccines and manufacture GMP material.

Univercells will also explore utilising novel vaccine delivery technologies under evaluation by the foundation. Combining innovations could further reduce costs, facilitate the execution of immunisation campaigns and improve accessibility of critical vaccines.

Expansion

Sphere Fluidics closes $4.8m funding round for cell analysis expansion

Sphere Fluidics, a company commercialising single cell analysis systems underpinned by its patented picodroplet technology, has closed an additional tranche of investment of $2.9 million.

This funding means that the company has secured a total of $4.8 million in investment. The funding will be used as working capital for the Company’s Cyto-Mine Single Cell Analysis System. Specifically, for the expansion of the UK facility and to enable the doubling of personnel through the opening of a new US Sales Office and Demo Lab in California.

The funding round was led by Greenwood Way Capital whose members, which included several international family offices, invested a total of $4.3m, alongside 24Haymarket Limited and other individual investors.

Sphere Fluidics’ Cyto-Mine is an automated platform which integrates single-cell screening, sorting, dispensing, imaging and clone verification. It can process up to 40 million cells per day and assesses and isolates those that produce a specific antibody or biologic to help streamline workflows and improve throughput in biologics discovery and cell line development.

Frank F Craig, CEO of Sphere Fluidics, said that the company is currently recruiting and looking at prospective new facilities in the UK and California to support the growth of our commercial and scientific activities.

Open to all

Innovate UK is supporting the pharma industry in a more unexpected and indirect way. The organisation is funding research into nuclear fusion that could not only power many companies in the field but could, in turn, be used to manufacture radioisotopes.

UKI2S and Innovate UK initiative to accelerate early-stage science and engineering companies

The UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund (UKI2S) and Innovate UK (IUK) have launched a joint initiative. The UKI2S Innovate Accelerator will use $12.5m of IUK funding alongside direct equity investment by UKI2S. The new scheme is designed to boost some of the UK’s most exciting young companies.

The UKI2S Innovate Accelerator combines the technology assessment and grant funding capabilities of Innovate UK with equity funding from UKI2S, a UK seed-stage investor. It has been created to help companies accelerate their innovation, product development and intellectual property value faster than might be possible with equity investment alone.

The Accelerator is intended to run for an initial two years and aims to back around 25 companies across a wide range of technologies and sectors.

Opportunities range from an initial feasibility study through to the development of advanced engineering prototypes or critical pre-clinical studies for therapeutics.

The initial cohort of companies, spanning healthcare, energy and smart city technologies, are now embarking on research and expansion projects funded through the new Accelerator.

One recipient, Tokamak Energy, is racing to deliver energy from nuclear fusion; it recently announced that it had met its initial target of a plasma temperature of 15 million degrees centigrade, hotter than the centre of the sun. The Accelerator funding will enable Tokamak to accelerate the development of improved ultra high field magnets to contain the plasma and to explore non-energy applications such as manufacturing radioisotopes for medical use.

Grant sizes are likely to range from below $125,000 up to $1.25m for exceptional cases, with matching equity funding from syndicates led by UKI2S. Companies selected by UKI2S from its existing portfolio and its pipeline of potential new investments will be invited to apply for grants from the Accelerator.

Featured Companies

Merck KGaA (more information, website)

See also