Spinout Company secures £850,000 to develop vaccines against infection
July 18, 2013
A COMPANY working to develop vaccines and antibodies to treat bacterial infections has secured a £850,000 investment.
Absynth Biologics Limited, a UK biotechnology spinout company from the University of Sheffield, has secured £400,000 from The North West Fund for Biomedical, managed by SPARK Impact as well as £450,000 from Fusion IP plc, the university commercialisation company.
The North West Fund for Biomedical is part of the wider £155m North West Fund, financed jointly by the European Regional Development Fund and the European Investment Bank.
With bacterial infections a major cause of death worldwide, Absynth’s lead programme focuses on infections caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus including its more difficult-to-treat drug-resistant form, methicillin-resistant S.aureus (MRSA).
Absynth’s novel antigens offer broad potential against a range of bacterial infections and form the basis of the company’s pipeline that includes vaccines to prevent Clostridium difficile (C.diff) and Streptococcus pyogenes infections.
Absynth will use the investment to advance the Staphylococcus aureus programme to key pre-clinical milestones. The investment will also complement funding secured from the Biomedical Catalyst – a funding stream administered by the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), to further develop Absynth’s product pipeline. This brings the total awarded to Absynth since 2012 to £175,000 in two grants from the TSB.
Fiona Marston, chief executive of Absynth Biologics which is based in Sheffield, said: “I am delighted to have the support of our new investor The North West Fund for Biomedical and the ongoing support of our existing shareholder Fusion IP. This investment will fund exciting stages of development for Absynth’s S. aureus vaccine and pipeline R&D programmes.”
Peter Grant, operations director for Fusion IP and Absynth’s chairman said: “We very much look forward to developing Absynth with our new investor, the North West Fund for Biomedical, to create a very exciting range of products in infectious diseases. The Absynth team are highly motivated and complemented by industry specific non-executive directors, all of whom work together against the very concerning threat of drug resistant bacteria.”
Dr Penny Attridge, senior investment director at SPARK Impact and manager of The North West Fund for Biomedical, said: ”We hope that this funding will help Absynth Biologics to continue to excel and further develop its products to make a real difference in targeting infectious diseases. We’re delighted to make this investment into such a forward thinking company which is clearly passionate about combatting infectious diseases.”
DWF Solicitors advised SPARK Impact on the deal whilst Andrea Cropley from Irwin Mitchell acted on behalf of Fusion IP and Robert Matthews of Keystone Law acted on behalf of Absynth Biologics.
Absynth Biologics is The North West Fund for Biomedical’s 61st investment to date and the 41st company to be supported by the Fund.
The North West Fund for Biomedical and SPARK Impact
The £25m North West Fund for Biomedical, managed by SPARK Impact, is a sub-fund of The North West Fund, which is provided by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), to supply equity funding to small and medium sized enterprises in the North West of England.
The North West Fund for Biomedical, which was launched in February 2011, is accessible to a broad range of companies including those developing pharmaceuticals, new diagnostics and medical devices, and those working in the fields of clinical research, contract manufacturing and analytical services. It is open to companies based in, or prepared to relocate to, the North West of England, with 40% of the fund to be invested on Merseyside. It is expected that the fund will invest in over 50 businesses. It has already received over 200 applications and made over 30 investments to date. For more information about the fund and how to apply please visit www.thenorthwestfund.co.uk
The North West Fund
The North West Fund is a substantial evergreen investment fund established to provide debt and equity funding (from £50,000 to £2 million) to small and medium sized enterprises based in, or relocating to, the North West of England. The North West Fund addresses an identified gap in the lending, venture capital and private equity markets. It is one of the largest public sector funds of its kind in Europe and the largest in the UK.
The North West Fund is financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) under the European Commission’s Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises Initiative – otherwise known as the JEREMIE programme.
The North West Fund is the umbrella name for the six funds that are available to businesses in the form of debt, equity and quasi-equity. These funds are managed by five fund managers under contract with North West Business Finance Limited (NWBF), which has been established to oversee the delivery of The North West Fund. Initially, £150m has been allocated to the fund managers, as outlined below, with a further £5m to be allocated in due course:
Name of fund
Enterprise Ventures Ltd
FW Capital Ltd
Enterprise Ventures Ltd
Spark Impact Ltd
CT Investment Partners LLP
Energy & Environmental
AXM Venture Capital Ltd
Digital & Creative
Funding to be allocated in due course
Each fund manager has a mandate to invest their allocation into the specific product or sector they manage, until 31st December 2015. NWBF is a private, not for profit company, established to oversee the delivery of The North West Fund.
Between December 2010 and March 2013 The North West Fund has invested over £54m in 180 businesses. Further funding has also been earmarked to support these businesses as they grow and many more new investments are planned over 2013 and the years ahead to 2015.
The JEREMIE initiative offers EU Member States, through their national or regional Managing Authorities, the opportunity to use part of their European Union (EU) Structural Funds to finance small and medium-sized enterprises by means of equity, loans or guarantees, through a revolving umbrella fund. The initiative was developed by the European Commission and the European Investment Fund, which is part of the European Investment Bank Group.
JEREMIE provides for a range of debt and equity financial tools to obtain the most appropriate allocation of funds according to national, regional or local requirements.
ERDF in the Northwest
ERDF is making a real difference to people and businesses in the North West. With €755 million to invest between 2007 and 2013, ERDF is enhancing the competitiveness of the region’s economy by supporting growth in enterprise and employment.
The EIB is the European Union’s long-term financing institution and, provides long-term finance for capital projects promoting European economic objectives. The EIB made its first loan in the UK in 1973 and since then has lent around €75bn for investment in the UK economy. In the years from 2004 to 2009, the EIB financed investment in the UK totalling some € 23.5bn – GBP 17.5 billion.
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Notes to editors:
Absynth Biologics is a company with an innovative antibacterial platform that has identified novel protein antigens, conserved and essential for the life of bacteria that harness the immune system by a dual-action mechanism to eliminate bacteria: direct antibody-mediated antibacterial activity and engagement of classic immune effector functions. In its lead p[rogramme, the company has shown that its selected protein antigen formulations can protect against infections caused by S. aureus in a well-recognised model of disease.
S. aureus is a bacterium that colonises the nasal lining and skin of >30% of people. Accidents, surgery or device implantation that breach natural barriers, allow invasion, which may result in life-threatening infections such as pneumonia and blood-borne infections particularly by the antibiotic resistant form (MRSA). MRSA infects patients in the hospital and in the community and is responsible for up to 25% of all healthcare-associated infections. Improvements in health practices and judicious use of antibiotics have reduced the number of S.aureus infections in the last 10 years, nonetheless the level of S. aureus infections remains high with attributable deaths estimated in the EU and USA at 25,000 and 19,000 respectively. S. aureus infections in hospitals are a significant problem resulting in 3-times the length of stay and 5-times the risk of death compared with uninfected patients.
Despite several attempts no S. aureus vaccine is yet available and all vaccine clinical trials have failed despite promising pre-clinical animal model data. Absynth is addressing this problem with its novel vaccine targets and technologies to more effectively stimulate the human immune system; this coupled with a greater understanding of the development of infection is being used innovatively to select the best candidate vaccine for clinical development.
About Fusion IP
Fusion IP plc (Fusion) was established in 2002 to commercialise university-generated intellectual property. It has long-term exclusive agreements with two of the UK’s leading research-intensive universities, the University of Sheffield and Cardiff University, giving it exclusive access to all the IP generated by their research departments. These exclusive agreements enable Fusion to identify world class IP and turn it into a commercial opportunity, either through the creation of a start-up company or a licence.
Fusion IP currently owns shareholdings in over 20 portfolio companies, including significant shareholdings in Seren, Magnomatics, Phase Focus, MedaPhor, Asalus and Diurnal.
In 2012 Fusion IP announced its first major exit, when it sold its portfolio company Simcyp, a research-based business providing a modelling and simulation platform for predicting the fate of drugs in virtual populations, to US based Certara LP for $32 million, a 200 fold return on its original investment.
In April 2013 Fusion raised £20m through a placing to existing and new institutional shareholders and also announced that it had signed agreements with two additional universities – the University of Nottingham and Swansea University.