Novel treatments that may reverse the effects of multiple sclerosis (MS) will be investigated by a new drug-discovery company spun out from the University of Edinburgh.
Backed by Series A funding of £5 million over its first three years, Pheno Therapeutics will search for new drugs that aim to repair damage to the nervous system and significantly improve patients’ debilitating symptoms.
Building on original research by Professors Siddharthan Chandran and Neil Carragher of the University of Edinburgh, the company aims to develop new therapies for MS by identifying novel molecules that cause the body to repair or replace the damaged myelin sheath surrounding nerve cells.
This so-called remyelination process has the potential to slow or arrest the progressive disability caused by MS.
Pheno Therapeutics is supported by Advent Life Sciences, the London-based venture capital firm; the Scottish Investment Bank, with backing from the Scottish Government through the Scottish Growth Scheme; and independent medical research charity LifeArc. Together they have committed to invest £5 million over three years, subject to the company meeting certain milestone conditions.
Pheno Therapeutics co-founder Professor Siddharthan Chandran said:
“There are no interventions for people with later stage multiple sclerosis, which is a devastating and debilitating condition. The opportunity for this company is to bring new and repurposed therapeutics to clinical trials and, by doing so, meet an urgent and currently unmet need.”
Key to the company’s potential impact in MS treatments is the University’s advanced cell based technology platform, which enables the screening of large compound libraries on novel human cellular platforms, in addition to the founders’ and investors’ combination of clinical and drug discovery expertise.
Pheno Therapeutics intends to optimise the leads emerging from its cutting edge phenotypic screens via medicinal chemistry to deliver new candidate compounds that will progress through pre-clinical tests then proof-of-concept clinical trials.
MS affects more than 100,000 people in the UK and 2.5 million worldwide. Targeting the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord, the disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the protective layer surrounding nerve cells called the myelin sheath, slowing or disrupting the electrical signals travelling along the nerves.
It causes a wide range of symptoms including problems with movement, vision, sensation and balance.
Current treatments mainly focus on the immune system aspects of the disease and reduce the severity and frequency of relapses. There is a significant medical need for novel neuroprotective agents that halt the disease progression and prevent long-term disability.
Pheno Therapeutics is a spinout company from the University of Edinburgh founded by Professors Chandran and Carragher, Advent Life Sciences and Dr Jon Moore, Operating Partner at Advent Life Sciences.
The formation of Pheno Therapeutics has been supported by Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service, which helped bring together the scientific and clinical expertise in partnership with Advent Life Sciences to launch the company.
Dr George Baxter, CEO of Edinburgh Innovations, said:
“I’m delighted to see this company launch with the support of such credible investors.
“Everyone involved is focused on driving the science forward, and we look forward to supporting the team as momentum continues to build, ultimately offering the promise of new treatments.”
Dr David Holbrook, head of LifeArc’s Seed Fund, said:
“At the Seed Fund, we look to use our translational expertise to invest in enterprises with a sound scientific concept and the potential to lead to new interventions that address patient needs.
“In the founders of Pheno Therapeutics and their research to induce myelin repair, we saw an appealing opportunity, particularly given the existing clinical needs in progressive MS. We are delighted to have reached an agreement to support Pheno Therapeutics translate their discoveries.”
Image shows Professor Siddharthan Chandran of the University of Edinburgh, co-founder of Pheno Therapeutics.
The University of Edinburgh
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About Pheno Therapeutics
Pheno Therapeutics is an early stage biotechnology company focussed on the identification of novel neuroprotective therapies for multiple sclerosis. The company builds on the University of Edinburgh’s world-class research in phenotypic screening, stem cell biology and myelin biology. We will apply cutting edge drug discovery approaches to probe the pathways that can impact remyelination, selecting leads that will be developed into drugs and tested in early stage clinical trials.
LifeArc is a self-funded medical research charity. Our mission is to advance translation of early science into health care treatments or diagnostics that can be taken through to full development and made available to patients. We have been doing this for more than 25 years and our work has resulted in a diagnostic for antibiotic resistance and four licensed medicines. Our success allows us to explore new approaches to stimulate and fund translation. We have our own drug discovery and diagnostics development facilities, supported by experts in technology transfer and intellectual property who also provide services to other organisations. Our model is built on collaboration, and we partner with a broad range of groups including medical research charities, research organisations, industry and academic scientists. We are motivated by patient need and scientific opportunity. Two funds help us to invest in external projects for the benefit of patients: our Philanthropic Fund provides grants to support medical research projects focused on the translation of rare diseases research and our Seed Fund is aimed at start-up companies focussed on developing new therapeutics and biological modalities.
Find out more about our work on www.lifearc.org or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.
About Advent Life Sciences
Advent Life Sciences founds and invests in early- and mid-stage life sciences companies that have a first- or best-in-class approach to unmet medical needs. The investing team consists of experienced professionals, each with extensive scientific, medical and operational experience, a long-standing record of entrepreneurial and investment success in the US and Europe and is particularly focused on supporting entrepreneurs and founders to take innovative new medical entities from concept to approval. The firm invests in a range of sectors within life sciences, principally drug discovery, enabling technologies and med tech, always with an emphasis on innovative, paradigm-changing approaches. Advent Life Sciences has a presence in the UK, US and France. For more information, please visit AdventLS.com
About Edinburgh Innovations
Edinburgh Innovations is the University of Edinburgh’s commercialisation service. EI leads the University’s activities in industry engagement and business development, enterprise support for students and staff, and the identification, management and commercialisation of University intellectual property. EI also manages Old College Capital, the University’s venture fund.
About the Scottish Investment Bank
The Scottish Investment Bank (SIB) is the investment arm of Scotland’s national economic development agency, Scottish Enterprise, operating Scotland-wide in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
SIB’s activities support Scotland’s SME funding market to ensure businesses with growth and export potential have adequate access to growth capital and loan funding. It helps ambitious Scottish companies get the right level of funding from the right sources at the right time, through building relationships with both domestic and international investors.
SIB manages a suite of co-investment funds including the Scottish Co-Investment Fund, the Scottish Venture Fund and the Energy Investment Fund on behalf of the Scottish Government. SIB is also an investor in Epidarex Capital’s Life Sciences Fund and administers the Scottish Loan Scheme, with funding secured from the Scottish Government’s Scottish Growth Scheme.
Furthermore, SIB provides funding into LendingCrowd, Scotland’s marketplace lender providing loans to SMEs, and Maven’s Regional Buyout Fund (MBO) that offers financial support for management buyouts (MBOs) and helps existing management teams acquire businesses from their owners so they can continue to flourish.
SIB’s team of financial readiness specialists help companies prepare for new investment and access appropriate finance.