A Liverpool-based company aiming to harness the power of broccoli to fight cancer and strokes has joined the procession of drug developers planning to float in London.
Researchers have long touted broccoli as a “superfood” with a range of health benefits but Evgen Pharma would be the first to translate its therapeutic properties into a pharmaceutical product.
Evgen’s experimental medicines are based on a compound called sulforaphane, which is generated during the digestion of broccoli and other brassica vegetables such as sprouts and cabbage.
Scientific papers have documented the therapeutic potential of sulforaphane against cancer and inflammatory conditions but it has so far proved difficult to tap for medicinal purposes because of its instability.
Evgen believes it has solved this problem by synthesising an artificial version of the compound; the resulting therapy has shown promise in animal tests and early-stage trials against metastatic breast cancer and a type of stroke called subarachnoid haemorrhage.
The company is planning to raise £5m on London’s Alternative Investment Market this month to advance these drugs into mid-stage trials and to start pre-clinical studies in multiple sclerosis.
Stephen Franklin, Evgen founder and chief executive, said the compound could in the long term have potential against a range of cancers, neurological conditions and other diseases.
He insisted that eating broccoli, while beneficial to health, could not match the impact of its Sulforadex product: “You would need to eat 2.6kg to get even close to what is in one pill”.
Biotech stocks have been under pressure during recent stock market volatility, particularly in the US where the sector’s long bull run has been thrown into sharp reverse.
However, Mr Franklin said that he was confident of a successful flotation after scaling back an earlier abortive plan last year to seek £20m. “In retrospect we tried to raise more than we needed.”
If successful, Evgen’s initial public offering would add to a steady flow of UK life science companies raising money in London.
Acacia Pharma and Shield Therapeutics have each announced plans to raise more than £100m in IPOs this month, encouraged by the success of others such as Circassia and Horizon Discovery in the past two years.
While much of the investment has been concentrated in the “golden triangle” around London, Oxford and Cambridge, Mr Franklin said that Evgen was part of a vibrant life science scene in north-west England. Another Liverpool company, Redx Pharma, listed on Aim in March.
The north-west has been hit by the relocation of AstraZeneca’s main UK research and development centre from Alderley Park in Cheshire to a new site in Cambridge. But Mr Franklin said many experienced scientists had stayed behind, leaving a rich talent pool for biotech companies in the region.