Biotechnology

Six biotech spinouts you should watch out for this year

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Academic spinouts are companies that are usually formed from research conducted at academic institutions and are sometimes launched and owned by universities. A means of turning research into products of commercial value, the biotech industry has seen quite a number of spinouts develop from research projects over the years.

In the UK alone, the biotech and pharmaceutical spinout industries have raised more than £6.1 billion ($7.8 million) of investment over the past two decades, according to GovGrant’s University Spinout Report 2021. The University of Oxford is considered to have the highest spinout score, and University of Dundee spinout Exscientia, which specializes in artificial intelligence (AI)-based drug discovery, rose to prominence as the UK’s most successful spinout in the last decade. Around the world, academic centers such as the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, among many others, have become home to many biopharma spinouts.

Here are six biotech spinouts around the world that have received funding over the past year for their various programs currently in development that you should know about.

Colorifix

Because petrochemical dyes contain hazardous chemicals in addition to an industry that uses five trillion liters of water each year, Cambridge University spin-out company Colorifix aims to tackle this problem.

With the aim of replacing synthetic dyes, the company engineered microbes to produce natural dyes. The color, which is usually created by an organism, be it a plant, insect or microorganism, is identified, and the gene responsible for the pigmentation is found through DNA sequencing. Then, the organism is engineered to produce specific pigments.

The company also ships genetically modified microbes so that other companies can make pigments through a fermentation process. It is very similar to brewing, where microbes reproduce with the help of a nutrient medium, and in this case, colorful dyes are produced in just a few days. The dye is then placed into a dye machine which colors different types of fabrics without having to use toxic chemicals.

As the UK-based spinout drives sustainable development, Colorifix has collaborated with Swedish multinational fashion brand H&M to further develop its products, which it says have not only reduced water and chemical usage by 77% and 80% respectively, but also contributed to an increase in the reduction substantially in the depletion of the ozone layer.

Founded in 2016, the company has raised a total of $31.8 million in three rounds of funding, with the most recent Series B round led by H&M Group Ventures raising $22.7 million last year.

Complementary Therapy

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a progressive degenerative disease that occurs when the macula – which is at the center of the retina – becomes damaged with age. Overtime, that can lead to vision loss. UK-based Complement Therapeutics aims to treat AMD by targeting the complement system.

The cascade consists of plasma proteins that fight infection by inducing an inflammatory response. However, dysregulation of this pathway can lead to diseases such as AMD and haematological conditions. The startup’s current focus is on its prime candidate CTx001 for late-stage AMD, which is an AAV-based gene therapy in preclinical trials. CTx001 will begin clinical trials in 2024. Complement Therapeutics is also developing CTx002, CTx003 and CTx004 targeting complement-mediated kidney disease, FHR dysregulation, and complement-mediated neuroinflammation, respectively.

Additionally, the company’s Complement Precision Medicine (CPM) platform can measure more than 30 complement proteins from blood samples.

Earlier this year, the company, which exited the University of Manchester with seed funding from BioGeneration Ventures (BGV) in 2021, pocketed €72 million ($78.5 million) in a series A round of funding involving participation from Forbion, BGV, Panakes Partners and Cambridge Innovation Capital (CIC) among others.

Delix Therapy

In neuropsychiatric disease, neurons in certain areas of the brain degenerate and synapses are lost, causing impaired cognition and disturbed mood among other symptoms. Because more than one billion people are living with neuropsychiatric conditions, there is an unmet need for newer treatments. Delix Therapeutics has devised a class of drugs called psychoplastogens to treat illnesses such as depression.

Psychoplastogens are able to regrow these atrophied neurons, in an attempt to restore neural circuits in the brain. While first- and second-generation psychoplastogens such as ketamine and psilocybin are hallucinogens that can cause adverse reactions and cardiovascular problems, companies are developing third-generation psychoplastogens, which are non-hallucinogenic and have an improved safety record.

Most advanced in its path is the drug candidate DLX-001, a therapy for treatment-resistant major depressive disorder, which is currently in phase 1 clinical trials. This candidate could be significant for psychiatric research as 80% of patients claim to experience no symptom relief from current care.

Founded by University of California, Davis professors in 2019, the company is based in the biotechnology center of Boston. The company has raised a total of $118 million in funding over five rounds, with the last occurring in 2022. Recent investors include life science investment firm Comerica.

Epic Bios

Focusing on the epigenetic field, US-based Epic Bio dropped out of Stanford University in 2018. The startup has built Gene Expression Modulation Systems (GEMS), its platform technology, to treat a number of diseases.

When the epigenome – which controls how DNA is read – becomes damaged, where genes are not expressed properly, this can lead to disease. The GEMS platform consists of a non-truncating CRISPR-CAS variant, which is capable of identifying genes, and a gene expression modulator, and aims to correct the way a gene is read. Companies use gene engineering to optimize DNA-binding proteins. Additionally, the company’s CasMINI is the smallest CAS protein ever created, for which the startup aims to address challenges such as delivery and security risks posed by CRISPR-CAS9 gene editing when targeting epigenetic control on gene expression.

There are different types of modulators including histone activating and suppressing ones – which can catalyze the attachment or removal of methyl and acetyl groups to histones to activate gene expression. The company is currently developing five candidates through its GEMS platform. The most advanced in its line is EPI-321, for treating facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD). EPI-321 was designed to turn off DUX4 gene expression because the gene tends to be over-expressed in FSHD cases. After presenting promising results for EPI-321 as it exhibits a favorable pharmacokinetic and safety profile, the company aims to submit an Investigational New Drug (IND) application with the US Food and Drug Administration later this year.

Epic Bio raised $55 million in a Series A financing round last year.

KinSea Lead Discovery USA

A spinoff from the Arctic University of Norway (UiT), University of Bergen (UiB), Norinnova, and Lead Discovery Center GmbH (LDC), KinSea Lead Discovery USA was founded last September. This startup focuses on developing marine bioactives for the treatment of certain types of cancer.

Because marine organisms are rich in bioactives, which are compounds that often have nutritional and health-promoting properties, companies have found ways to extract and utilize these compounds from the Arctic Ocean, to treat acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and hematology. tumor. Although much is yet to be disclosed about its pathway, its first candidate is a targeted therapy based on FLT3 inhibitory action. It is a multi-kinase inhibitor that kills cancer cells by binding to the mutated FLT3 protein and blocking its activity. After successfully completing a proof-of-concept study in animals, the company aims to further examine its candidate in preclinical trials.

Founded in the city of Tromsø, Norway, KinSea Lead Discovery AS secured seed funding from KHAN Technology Transfer Fund I GmbH & Co KG (KHAN-I), a German early-stage life sciences venture capital firm, this year. It has previously obtained funding from the Norwegian Research Council and the MABIT regional biotech program as well.

Morphoceuticals

A spinout from Tufts University in Massachusetts, USA, Morphoceuticals has gained traction in the field of regenerative medicine, specifically limb regeneration.

Researchers were able to regrow legs Xenopus laevis, the African clawed frog, goes through a process of early tissue budding RNA sequencing, which results in activation of pathways that aid tissue development. That Study found that the multidrug course was able to regrow the frog’s hind legs. The foot is covered with a silicone covering, which contains drugs to reduce inflammation and collagen formation to prevent the growth of scar tissue – which inhibits normal tissue development. The company was able to regenerate the tissue to create almost fully functional legs – excluding the toe-webbing – that allow the frogs to swim. This experiment, conducted on many frogs, offers hope to millions of people who have undergone amputations due to factors such as trauma and diabetes, although the company has not yet resumed human trials.

Founded three years ago, Morphoceuticals has received a total of $8 million in an initial funding round that took place in January this year. Investors participating in the financing round include British biotech firm Juvenescence and startup investor Prime Movers Lab.

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