University spin-out Cambridge Graphene acquired by Versarien

A majority stake in Cambridge Graphene Ltd., a spin-out company from the University of Cambridge, has been acquired by Versarien plc.

Cambridge Graphene develops inks based on graphene and related materials using processes developed at the Cambridge Graphene Centre. The spin-out company has commercialised graphene inks for novel technology applications.

Versarien, headquartered in Cheltenham, is an engineering solutions company that delivers novel technologies for industrial applications. Through subsidiary companies, Versarien delivers targeted solutions as well as research and development into new, complementary technologies. The acquisition of Cambridge Graphene positions Versarien at the centre of the commercial development of graphene both in the UK and globally.

Cambridge Graphene was founded as a spin-out of the Cambridge Graphene Centre. The mission of the Cambridge Graphene Centre is to investigate the science and technology of graphene and other carbon allotropes, layered crystals and hybrid nanomaterials. This engineering innovation centre allows partners to meet and establish joint industrial-academic activities to promote innovative and adventurous research with an emphasis on applications.

۲-DTech, a spin-out enterprise from the University of Manchester, is an existing subsidiary of Versarien which also focuses on graphene-related technologies. Both the University of Cambridge and the University of Manchester are centres for excellence in graphene technology.

Following the acquisition of Cambridge Graphene, both universities will be ultimate shareholders in Versarien, with the expertise of both universities enhancing the company’s ability to pursue the market opportunities for graphene both in the UK and internationally.

Mark Shepherd, CEO of Cambridge Graphene said: “This is an exciting development for Cambridge Graphene and will bring significant benefit to both companies, enhancing the prospects of technology developed at Cambridge Graphene, and Versarien as a whole. Cambridge Graphene brings novel graphene technology and expertise to Versarien and will benefit from Versarien’s manufacturing capabilities and broader reach”.

Neill Ricketts, CEO of Versarien, said: “We are delighted with the acquisition of Cambridge Graphene and the opportunities it brings us. This addition to our existing graphene operations and in particular, 2-DTech, which we acquired from Manchester University in April 2014, bridges the gap between the two centres of excellence for graphene and between them really puts us at the centre of the graphene universe”.

Prof Andrea Ferrari, Director of the Cambridge Graphene Centre, said: “The ultimate goal of the Cambridge Graphene Centre is to help transition graphene and related materials from the lab to the factory floor. This investment shows that we are on the right path, and we are thrilled to have Versarien join, via Cambridge Graphene Ltd., our growing list of industrial partners”.

Cambridge Enterprise, the commercialisation arm of the University, has supported Cambridge Graphene and their graphene ink technologies since the company’s founding. Dr Margaret Wilkinson, Technology Manager at Cambridge Enterprise, said: “We are pleased to see further commercial activity from the Cambridge Graphene Centre. We look forward to working with Versarien and we hope the acquisition will lead to exciting future developments and commercial opportunities”.

Photo: AlexanderAIUS (Wikimedia Commons)

Cambridge Enterprise joins in £۱۴m funding round for spin-out ApcinteX Limited

Cambridge Enterprise has joined in a £۱۴ million Series
 A funding round into ApcinteX Limited, a University of Cambridge 
spin-out company developing a new therapy for haemophilia.

The round is co-led by Medicxi and Touchstone Innovations Group plc (AIM: IVO). Cambridge Enterprise helped in ApcinteX’s formation, licensing key intellectual property to the company.

ApcinteX is seeking to disrupt the $10 billion haemophilia market by developing a drug that can be used in all patients, regardless of the type of haemophilia.  This novel treatment is based on the work of Professor Jim Huntington (Cambridge Institute for Medical Research) and Dr Trevor Baglin (Cambridge University Hospitals), world-renowned experts in blood clotting disorders.

Around 400,000 individuals in the world are affected by haemophilia, a genetic disorder that causes uncontrolled bleeding as a result of patients having a deficiency in proteins required for normal blood clotting. Currently, the standard treatment is administration of the missing clotting factor, but this requires regular intravenous injections and is not completely effective. In addition, about one quarter of patients develop inhibitory antibodies to the administered clotting factor which renders further treatment ineffective.

Apcintex has developed a new treatment that seeks to turn down the activity of a key natural anticoagulant pathway to produce normal blood clotting in patients with haemophilia.  This means that the drug could potentially treat patients with all types of haemophilia, including those who develop antibodies to replacement factors. Furthermore, the drug does not cause anti-clotting antibodies to form and could be administered fortnightly by simple injection under the skin.

Dr Baglin commented: “Bearing in mind that the majority of people in the world with haemophilia have no access to effective therapy, a stable, easily administered, long-acting, drug that can be used in all patients, regardless of the type of haemophilia, could bring treatment to a great deal many more people who suffer from haemophilia”.

Dani Bach, Director of Healthcare Ventures at Touchstone Innovations commented: “We are delighted to be supporting this funding round which is in many ways a classic example of our model: backing outstanding research which has the potential to translate into differentiated products for patients in a substantial global market. We believe that ApcinteX has the potential to provide a better alternative.”

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An update from Apollo Therapeutics

Apollo Therapeutics,
 the collaborative venture among three world-leading UK universities and
 three global pharmaceutical companies, has invested in and launched the
 first of its drug discovery programmes in collaboration with academics 
at each of its partner universities.

Apollo Therapeutics was established in January 2016 by AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson Innovation and the technology transfer offices of the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London and University College London. It supports the translation of ground-breaking academic science from within these universities into innovative new drug discovery programmes and potential new medicines for a broad range of diseases.

After evaluating initial opportunities across the three universities, Apollo has approved funding for and launched its first four drug discovery projects:

  • A small molecule discovery programme to treat alpha1 antitrypsin deficiency, a genetic disorder affecting the lungs and liver, with Dr Ravi Mahadeva, University of Cambridge and Addenbrooke’s Hospital
  • A cell therapy for the treatment of retinal degeneration, which is a major cause of vision loss and blindness, with Prof Astrid Limb and Prof Sir Peng Khaw at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology
  • A small and large molecule discovery programme for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension, a condition affecting the cardiovascular system, with Prof Martin Wilkins and Prof Lan Zhao, Imperial College London
  • A project to enhance the efficacy and persistence of autologous and in vivo T-cell therapies, with Prof Randall Johnson, University of Cambridge

These initial projects represent novel and compelling drug discovery programmes, emerging from academic research in areas of high medical need for which Apollo’s Drug Discovery Team saw a clear route to value creation. A total of £۸٫۵m has been committed in milestoned project plans.Two further projects are currently being finalised, with multiple others in the evaluation process across all three academic institutions.

The recruitment of the Drug Discovery Team Project Directors is now complete with Dr Paul Hamblin, Dr Darren Cawkill and Dr Nadine Clemo accepting positions under the leadership of CEO, Dr Richard Butt.

Bringing more than 60 years’ combined experience to running and delivering projects within industry, across a variety of technology platforms and therapy areas, the team is well positioned to work with academic scientists to identify drug targets and design innovative drug discovery programmes through key milestones for potential future licensing.

Apollo’s collaborative model is working well with its technology transfer partners—Cambridge Enterprise, Imperial Innovations and UCL Business—providing valuable support in sourcing opportunities from within their respective academic institutions. Industry partners AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson Innovation are also contributing both expertise and internal resources to enable project evaluation and execution.

Dr Richard Butt, CEO of Apollo Therapeutics, commented: “The diversity of these four initial projects illustrates the breadth and quality of opportunity we are seeing from our partner universities, both in disease area and therapeutic modality.  The participation and support of all six partners is excellent, in the spirit of this collaborative venture and the unique Apollo model.”

Dr Ian Tomlinson, Chairman of Apollo Therapeutics commented: “The level of engagement with both the academic community and industry players is enabling the Drug Discovery Team to deliver Apollo’s vision of funding novel therapeutics, sourced from the best of British academic research, accelerating them towards the clinic.”

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Storm Therapeutics announces appointment of CEO and Chairman

Storm Therapeutics,
 the drug discovery company focused on the discovery of small molecule 
therapies from RNA epigenetics, moved to the next stage of its 
development with the appointment of Keith Blundy as Chief Executive 
Officer and Tim Edwards as Chairman.

Keith, formerly CEO of Cancer Research Technology, brings his extensive knowledge of developing and partnering early stage cancer programmes. In 10 years as CEO at CRT Keith was also involved in founding many start-up companies, eg, Chroma Therapeutics, Piramed, KuDos and Mission as well as establishing the CRT Pioneer Fund and the CRUK-MedImmune alliance.

Serial entrepreneur Tim Edwards, previously Executive Chair of Atopix Therapeutics Limited, acquired by Chiesi Farmaceutici SPA in 2016, and President and Chief Executive Officer of Cellzome Inc, acquired by GlaxoSmithKline plc in 2012, adds his wealth of experience in managing growth to a seasoned board, comprising investor directors from Cambridge Enterprise sister organisation Cambridge Innovation Capital, Touchstone Innovations, Merck Ventures and Pfizer Venture Investments.

Storm’s R&D activities are driven by a drug discovery team with extensive biotech and pharma experience headed by VP of R&D, Oliver Rausch (ex Cellzome, UCB and GSK), Head of Biology, David Simmons (ex Cellzome, Celltech, Wyeth) and now strengthened by the appointment of VP of Chemistry, Wesley Blackaby (ex Charles River and MSD).

Storm’s vision is to pioneer the development of novel therapies from RNA epigenetics based on the insights of its founding scientists, Prof Tony Kouzarides and Prof Eric Miska of the University of Cambridge who are leaders in understanding the role of RNA modifications in cellular biology.

Keith Blundy said: “With the continuing pipeline of world class science from our founding scientists working in collaboration with Storm researchers, strong and experienced management now in place and long term financial support from experienced investors, I am excited about the prospect of building a world leading biotech company. We are now poised to deliver this goal—through strong relationships with academia and industry we aim to explore thoroughly the potential of this emerging field to deliver breakthrough medicines for patients”.

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