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21 November, 2018 - 12:05 By Tony Quested

Global hopes for new Cambridge cell therapy business backed by £100m Dons’ fund

Cambridge startup Cell Mogrify – a transformative cell therapy company at the nexus of computer science and molecular biology – has won unspecified but significant funding from Ahren, a £100 million investment vehicle backed by the UK cluster’s leading science and technology academics.

The business has developed an algorithm to identify the transcription factors required to turn one cell type (for example a fibroblast from the skin) into another cell type (for example a cardiomyocyte, a heart muscle cell), without needing to transition through a stem cell.

Ahren believes the potential significance of this is tremendous, as well as potentially highly valuable: for example, according to medical industry sources, the foetal cardiomyocyte market is forecast by to be roughly $130 billion in 2022.
Cell Mogrify co-founders, Professor Julian Gough, Jose Polo and Owen Rackham, developed the algorithmic system to model the cell conversions and have successfully completed a number in practice. The Ahren funding will enable the team to carry out several further conversions.

As well as cardiomyocytes, the conversions include further high value potential end products such as chondrocytes to treat osteoarthritis: in osteoarthritis, healthy chondroctyes (cartilage) de-differentiate with age, losing their physical properties. Regeneration of healthy differentiated chondrocytes can restore cartilage. There is long term potential for developing an ‘in vivo’ therapy and Cell Mogrify has already filed a patent on a conversion with small molecules (potential therapy market size more than $7BN by 2024.

The Ahren team and Operational Engine will work with the Cell Mogrify founders and team to define the most effective commercial pathway for Cell Mogrify.

Alice Newcombe-Ellis, founder & CEO, Ahren Innovation Capital, LLP, said: “The significance of the technology Cell Mogrify has developed is tremendous. We are delighted to be supporting Julian and his co-founders and team to take the Company to the next level with a highly successful commercial outcome.”

Julian Gough, co-founder of Cell Mogrify, added: “At Cell Mogrify, we are bringing to bear a unique combination of skillsets from computational biology to molecular and cell biology to revolutionalize cell therapy. We are excited to be partnering with Ahren, who we consider to have a differentiated ability to support us to achieve our goals.”

Cell Mogrify is a private biotech company anchored in the UK with a subsidiary in Australia. Its founders are experts in epigenetics, bioinformatics and computational genomics and founded the company with the mission of revolutionising the way that cell reprogramming is utilised in regenerative medicine.

The company’s unique combination of skills has allowed it to dramatically improve the process of finding the precise combinations of factors that allow one differentiated cell to be transformed into another.

The business has patents submitted both on its approach and on the novel cell conversions that it has developed. It is working on a broad range of additional conversions in conjunction with a number of partners in the biotechnology sector and in academia.

It is also taking forward some of its own cell therapies to develop clinically and recently launched a daughter company – Chondrogenix – that is developing a first-in-class cartilage regenerative medicine. CEO Julian Gough is a biotech entrepreneur and world expert in bioinformatics. He graduated his PhD in molecular biology from Cambridge University and was a research fellow at Stanford University.

He is now a programme leader at the MRC laboratory of molecular biology in Cambridge and Professor of Bioinformatics at the University of Bristol. He has successfully started a number of biotech companies and leads the strategic development.

Looking longer term, Professor Gough told Business Weekly: “Cell therapies are set to grow very rapidly over the next five to 10 years and we have the potential to be one of the leading companies globally in many application areas.
“We would like to close a series A in Q3 2019 aiming to raise in the direction of £10m and will be ramping up the process in the New Year. Cambridge is important to us as we scale. There is a great talent pool in Cambridge that we hope to take full advantage of and we are already recruiting at all levels. We have enjoyed the support of the Cambridge network and ecosystem, especially from Ahren Innovation Capital of course, but also others. There is a strong sense from many quarters here that people are keen to see us fulfil our enormous potential. We are grateful to everybody in Cambridge who helps us and we look forward to living up to expectations.”
 

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