ImmuONE raises £2m for 3D human lung model to replace animal testing
Two scientists who have developed a 3D human lung model that can assess the safety of new drugs without the use of animal testing have raised £2 million to scale their operations.
Law firm Mills & Reeve advised ImmuONE founders Dr Abigail Martin and Professor Victoria Hutter who secured backing from the MEIF Proof of Concept & Early Stage Fund, which is managed by Mercia Ventures and part of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF), Mercia’s EIS funds and Pioneer Group.
The funding will enable ImmuONE, to move into new headquarters in Milton Keynes and laboratories in Stevenage to meet the growing demand.
ImmuONE enables companies developing new products such as drugs, chemicals or cosmetics, to meet legal requirements by showing they are safe to be inhaled.
Current safety assessments typically require animal models, which are not accurate at predicting the impact on humans, or use human cells taken by lung-scraping, an invasive process that only provides tissue from the upper lung. There are limited human in vitro tools and assessments currently available to accurately study inflammation in the airways.
ImmuONE’s approach, which involves growing human lower lung tissue and immune cells in a laboratory to create a 3D model, not only enables companies to avoid the use of animals but also allows them to test the impact of their products on the small airways and inflammation in the lung, providing results that they say are more reliable and reproducible.
ImmuONE aims to transform the field of inhalation toxicology by applying newer assessment techniques such as cell painting to understand immune responses in the lungs, enabling customers to make better informed decisions earlier in the product development process.
The model was developed by Dr Martin during her PhD research at the University of Hertfordshire. She joined forces with her supervisor Professor Hutter to set up the business in 2019.
They now have around 20 customers globally including blue-chip chemical and consumer products companies. Since its launch two years ago, the biotech company has generated over £1m in revenue.
ImmuONE, which has been operating from university premises, is now in talks with a string of other leading brands. The funding will enable it to expand capacity, continue its research and development, grow its team and create six new jobs.
Dr Martin said: “Having worked on drug development projects that involve animal testing, I’ve seen the difference that new drugs can make to patients’ lives.
“However, I felt there had to be a better way and set out to look for an alternative. Our model not only enables companies to move away from animal testing but also improves safety for patients too.
“We look forward to working with many more clients and scaling the business with a view to global expansion in the future.”
Edward Sloan, head of venture capital investments London at Mills & Reeve, said: “ImmuONE has an exciting and innovative life sciences offering and we are pleased to advise the company on securing investment which will help fuel their ambitious expansion plans.”
• The Midlands Engine Investment Fund is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.