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20 July, 2021 - 21:39 By Tony Quested

New Cambridge VC fund invests in $35m round for US pioneer

The technology investment tide across the Atlantic has turned. Now Cambridge VC is driving financial support of US life sciences IP.

RxCelerate, a leading international outsourced drug discovery and development platform in Cambridge UK, has established a venture capital fund – RxCapital – to invest in companies developing new therapeutics for significant unmet medical needs.

RxCapital has already made two investments – the first in a $35 million Series for US metabolic disease company Rivus Pharmaceuticals, anchored in Virginia. The second investment is a done deal but is being kept under wraps.

Rivus is in Ph2 clinical trials with a potential blockbuster, HU6, that is ‘exercise in a pill.’ It puts your mitochondria, the cell’s power-packs, on a treadmill and burns off excess calorie intake as heat with dramatic benefits on metabolic health of a Westerner who typically consumes more calories than is good for them.

Rivus is advancing a new class of oral, once daily, small molecule therapeutics called Controlled Metabolic Accelerators (CMAs), designed to improve cellular metabolism and treat the underlying cause of highly-prevalent metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. The round was co-led by Longitude Capital and Cambridge’s Medicxi, and RxCapital also participated. 

Allen Cunningham, President and CEO, Rivus Pharmaceuticals said: “More than 40 million people in the US alone are living with cardio-metabolic disorders – conditions that adversely impact a person’s health and quality of life, as well as placing significant cost burdens on healthcare systems. 

“While many existing therapeutic options address the downstream effects of metabolic disease, they do little to address the underlying cause – greater consumption of energy than is required by the body, which over time results in inefficient cellular metabolism and the excess accumulation of fat. 

“Our CMAs are designed to effectively target the root cause of these diseases by improving cellular metabolism with the potential to halt the progress of, or even reverse, these diseases.”

Medicxi’s Dr David Grainger added: “Rivus has recently completed its Phase 1 program for HU6 and the results exceeded our expectations, demonstrating an early positive impact on key metabolic parameters, while being well-tolerated. 

“Phase 2 studies will provide important insights into HU6’s efficacy in specific metabolic and cardiovascular diseases with this very promising new therapy, and we are excited to advance these programs in partnership with Rivus.” 

Dr Grainger says RxCapital will invest in early-stage biotechnology companies working on novel therapeutics with unprecedented mechanism of action, offering the ability to revolutionise treatment of major diseases.

Unlike many CROs, investment from RxCapital comes with no requirement for the company to use RxCelerate services.  

“RxCapital acts as a typical financial investor, providing the capital required for the next generation of biotech entrepreneurs to change the world,” said Dr Grainger.

He says RxCapital will invest in new companies in any geography. RxCapital expects to deploy up to £1 million on each investment and to make several investments each year.

The fountainhead of this overall initiative is RxCelerate and chief executive Dr Jill Reckless stresses the company’s agnostic approach to investments by its parent and associates.

She says: “RxCelerate has a world-class team discovering and developing exciting new medicines for our clients but to avoid conflict of interest we do not have any internal programs and do not therefore benefit from owning successful assets.

“By establishing RxCapital we are able to enjoy the economic upside of asset ownership without compromising our ability to work single-mindedly for the benefit of our clients.”

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