A new Cambridge BioMedTech baby, which has bounced into life with a thumping £6 million birthright, is hiring staff and talking to potential collaborative partners for quickfire scale-up.Cancer drug specialist MISSION Therapeutics Ltd is led by Professor Stephen Jackson together with Cancer Research Technology – Cancer Research UK’s commercial arm – and the University of Cambridge.
It launched on the back of Series A funding from a top VC syndicate and will be based at Babraham Research Campus. The company chose investors with deep pockets who could follow through in the inevitable future rounds for the world-class startup.
The new spin-out company will translate cutting-edge cell biology research on DNA repair from Professor Jackson’s laboratory at the university’s Gurdon Institute into drugs that will markedly improve the management of life-threatening diseases, particularly cancer.
MISSION is developing a broad platform of technologies for the discovery and development of first-in-class drugs targeting enzymes involved in cancer and other diseases. The company will predominantly exploit new and exciting research on ubiquitin pathways that control cellular responses to DNA damage.
The company has raised £6 million in Series A funding from a strong venture capital syndicate led by Sofinnova Partners, and comprising Imperial Innovations, SR One and Roche Venture Fund.
The founding scientists, including Prof Jackson, Dr Niall Martin, Dr Xavier Jacq and Dr Keith Menear, form a highly successful team with extensive experience and a proven track-record in translating new scientific concepts all the way to clinical trials.
Each of the founders was until recently a key scientist at KuDOS Pharmaceuticals, a Cambridge-based biotech company also founded by Professor Jackson, which was acquired by AstraZeneca for $210m in December 2005.
Dr Jacq told Business Weekly: “While we have launched with nine employees we are already advertising for a head of medicinal chemistry and are in the market for several biologists. The intention is to scale up pretty quickly.
“We had a lot of interest from many investment sources and the presence of two corporate investors in the round was particularly encouraging. The level of excitement caused by our launch has also been thrilling.
“We have been hosted at the Gurdon Institute for a year and that allowed us time to initiate a lot of our work. Having worked together at KuDOS we have established a track record that meant we didn’t have a hard time convincing investors to back our technology.
“We found investors with deep pockets who could follow us in future funding rounds. That secure financial backdrop allows us to concentrate our focus on the core science.
“And the core science is very exciting. Given our backgrounds and the strong chemistry-biology base we enjoy, it was natural for us to focus on oncology in the first instance where we could evidence proof of concept. But the technology has a lot of wider potential applications, for example in viral and bacterial infections, neurodegenerative disease areas and also cardiac disease.”
Professor Jackson, added: “It’s very exciting to be part of this venture to develop new drugs to improve the lives of people with cancer. Importantly, while having the potential to be effective by themselves, these drugs could also improve the effectiveness of existing cancer treatments, such as radiotherapy and certain chemotherapies.”
The commercialisation of more science from Cancer Research UK was hailed by Dr Keith Blundy, CEO of Cancer Research Technology. He said: “It’s fantastic that the cutting-edge science funded by Cancer Research UK can attract additional cancer drug discovery funding from commercial sources to develop exciting new treatments for cancer patients in the future.”