View Full Version : Innovative Drug Production Project Secures Funding From Technology Strategy Board, UK

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12-25-2007, 11:14 PM
PolyTherics, a biopharmaceutical spin-out company from Imperial College London and the London School of Pharmacy, announced that it has secured £350,000 in funding from the Technology Strategy Board. The award, one of the first since the Technology Strategy Board assumed responsibility for the government's collaborative research and development programme, will enable PolyTherics to work with Avecia Ltd, a leading contract development organization and manufacturer of biopharmaceuticals. The companies will collaborate on a two year project worth over £800,000 to develop new systems for the production of therapeutic antibody fragments that could ultimately lead to widespread availability of effective, low cost drugs for diseases such as, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and macular degeneration.

Existing antibody drug products are highly successful in treating life threatening and serious diseases but they are difficult to produce and expensive - therefore, availability to patients is limited. To date, the systems that have been developed in order to produce smaller, less costly, components of antibodies (antibody fragments) all suffer from the disadvantage of reducing the half-life of these drugs in patients - meaning that the drugs do not remain active in a patient's body for long enough to be effective and patients have to be given frequent doses.

Over the next two years, PolyTherics and Avecia will work to develop and demonstrate a systematic process for the cost-effective production of antibody drug products that are more stable than existing products and have a longer life, eliminating the need for frequent treatment of patients and reducing side effects.

PolyTherics has already developed patent-protected proprietary technologies and substantial expertise in the modification of drugs to improve their performance. The Company's innovative PEGylation technology, known as TheraPEG™, can extend the half-life of novel and existing protein drugs. The TheraPEG™ approach produces an improvement in biological activity and a higher yield than the existing PEGylation technologies. This means that drugs, such as Interferon, stay active in the body for longer, enabling longer periods between doses.

The market for traditional PEGylation has expanded considerably and PolyTherics' TheraPEG™ technology is positioned both to address existing markets and open new markets, particularly in the antibody field. PolyTherics has revenue-generating development contracts in place with several companies and is in discussion with a number of other parties.

Dr Keith Powell, CEO of PolyTherics, said: "We are delighted to have secured Technology Strategy Board funding and to be working with Avecia. This programme will enable PolyTherics to develop products using our TheraPEG™ technology, a pioneering approach to improving the in vivo properties of proteins, which is already in pre-clinical development for more traditional protein therapeutics."

Dr John Liddell, Head of Process Science at Avecia, said: "We are very pleased to be collaborating with PolyTherics on this project, which will allow us to combine our award-winning pAVEway™ protein expression technology with new approaches to therapeutic antibody fragment optimization and purification for the benefits of our major pharmaceutical customers and, ultimately, patients."

David Way, Operations Director at the Technology Strategy Board, said: "The Technology Strategy Board supports the research and development of technology and innovation that both increases economic growth and has the potential to improve quality of life. We are delighted to support this important project, which brings together the skills of two innovative pharmaceutical companies who are leaders in their fields. Their work should speed up the drug development process and could lead to more widespread availability of new, effective drug products that will be of major benefit to many thousands of patients."

About PolyTherics Ltd

Founded in 2002, PolyTherics is a spin-out company from Imperial College London that is dedicated to using biomedical polymers to optimise pharmaceuticals for the treatment and cure of the world's most important diseases.

PolyTherics has developed an innovative patented PEGylation technology to prolong the half-life of molecule fragments for use in drug development. PEGylation is the process by which Polyethylene Glycol chains are attached to protein and peptide drugs. PEGylating molecules or molecule fragments increases the time that a substance remains in the bloodstream before being metabolized or excreted by the body ie it improves the half-life of the drug and therefore potentially reduces the frequency of treatments required, decreasing the impact of side effects and improving patient compliance. For example, PEGylated interferon treatments for Hepatitis C can be injected once rather than three times per week.

PolyTherics has recently signed an agreement with BioVectra under which BioVectra will manufacture high quality cGMP MPEG reagents to support clients' clinical development of PolyTherics' novel PEGylation technology, and also market the PEGylation technology to its client base in North America.

PolyTherics management team is led by Dr Keith Powell, CEO, who has extensive experience of managing large and small biotech companies. He led SPEAR into an $8.5M series B financing round and was also formerly Senior Vice President of Maxygen, a protein modification company, where he was responsible for the generation of research partnerships worth over $30m. Other management team members include Dr Debbie Allen, Business Development Director, who has substantial experience in the field of therapeutic antibodies and was responsible for business development at Cambridge Antibody Technology.

PolyTherics received initial funding of £850,000 from the Wellcome Trust (now Catalyst Biomedia) and the Bloomsbury BioSeed Fund. The Company secured a further investment of £2.3 million from Imperial Innovations Group plc, Longbow Capital LLP and The Capital Fund in June 2007. For further information: http://www.polytherics.co.uk (http://www.polytherics.co.uk/)

About Avecia

Avecia is a privately owned biotechnology group of companies with recognised leading positions in the process development and manufacture of biopharmaceutical and oligonucleotide medicines. It is also a leading developer of bio-defence vaccines. The Group's Tees Valley, UK site has been developing processes and making protein-based biologics to cGMP since 1998. Products currently being worked on include medicines targeted at forms of cancer, heart conditions, stroke, growth and blood disorders. Customers range from some of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies to small innovative biotech start-up businesses. For further information: http://www.avecia.com (http://www.avecia.com/)

About the Technology Strategy Board

The Technology Strategy Board is a business-led executive non-departmental public body, established by the government. Its mission is to promote and support research into, and development and exploitation of, technology and innovation for the benefit of UK business, in order to increase economic growth and improve the quality of life. It is sponsored by the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS).

About the Collaborative Research and Development Programme

The Collaborative Research and Development Programme is investing directly in new and emerging technologies and has been designed to help businesses work with each other or with academic partners to develop technologies that will underpin products and services of the future. Since 2004, the programme has supported over 700 projects across 40 technology areas with a combined business and government investment worth over £1 billion.

For further information please visit http://www.technologyprogramme.org.uk (http://www.technologyprogramme.org.uk/) and http://www.dius.gov.uk (http://www.dius.gov.uk/)