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3 February, 2020 - 16:06 By Tony Quested

Mogrify a right Royal success in the realm of cell therapy innovation

OBE: Original. Brilliant. Exceptional. You can conjure your own acronyms but the letters OBE are highly relevant to the current kudos of Cambridge life sciences gamechanger Mogrify and the senior management steering its roadmap to global growth.

CEO Dr Darrin Disley received his OBE from Prince William a short while ago while Mogrify chair Dr Jane Osbourn was made OBE in January for her contribution to UK science.

Incredibly Jane’s sister, who works at plant science innovation hub, the John Innes Centre in Norwich, also received an OBE on the same day and the sisters in science are thought to be planning a novel joint venture.

We can chart a number of likely developments for Mogrify following an exclusive interview at the start of 2020 with Dr Disley.

The path to the Palace for both the CEO and chair person in recent times adds a crowning glory to Mogrify which has developed a proprietary direct cellular conversion technology, which makes it possible to transform (transmogrify) any mature human cell type into any other without going through a pluripotent stem cell- or progenitor cell-state.

Leveraging data from next-generation sequencing and regulatory networks (DNA-protein & protein-protein), the platform takes a systematic big-data approach to identify the transcription factors (in vitro) or small molecules (in vivo), needed to convert, maintain and culture a target cell phenotype.

Mogrify can perform cell conversions from any starting cell type giving it the best opportunity to address challenges associated with efficacy, safety and scalability that currently mean cell therapy is underperforming its undoubted potential.

Mogrify is applying its patented technology through therapeutic development as well as licensing of proprietary cell conversions that will power the development and manufacture of new cell therapies across every therapeutic area.

The combination of Darrin Disley and Jane Osbourn is incredibly powerful. Jane has this week stepped down as chair of the UK BioIndustry Association although she will stay on the board for a further year and has done wonders in building relationships with key China organisations.

She is also now CSO of a new antibody company called Alchemab, which has been under the radar for a while but is now emerging. Alchemab has a presence in London and will have labs in Oxford and Cambridge. 

Formerly with the now defunct MedImmune arm of AstraZeneca in Cambridge, Dr Osbourn is now free to weave her own brand of magic into the Mogrify tech tapestry.

Business Weekly has a 30-year reputation for backing winners and the minute Dr Disley walked through their door convinced us that Mogrify was the only play that he would risk his rock-solid reputation on promoting.

Members of the Mogrify leadership team in Cambridge. Photograph by Phil Mynott.

Mogrify is gearing towards a stellar 2020 and will be able to dictate the pace and compass of future growth, we confidently predict.

It has already ticked one crucial box by positioning itself as a leading innovator and partner of choice to organisations developing life saving cell therapies across a range of diseases and medical conditions. 

Global demand for collaborations is already notable with potential partners and clients from around the world jostling to form an orderly queue.

As it continues to build world-class scientific, operational and commercial credentials, Mogrify will double headcount in short order to around 65 or so at its 12,000 sq ft state-of-the-art office and laboratory headquarters at TusPark UK’s Bio-Innovation Centre at Cambridge Science Park.

Mogrify’s mission is to progress internal cell therapy programs in autoimmune, cancer immunotherapy, cardiovascular, muskskoskeletal and ocular disease indications. It has already rolled out initial key programmes in selected areas.

You can expect to see Mogrify close multiple new partnerships with biotechnology and Big Pharma and the nature of its technology suggests that the company could excel in securing significant additional grant funding for its lead programs.

The next natural move would be for the business to expand the IP footprint of the direct cell conversion platform and, in that regard, global engagement already secured will facilitate that strategy.

Jane Osbourn OBE

Business Weekly understands that Mogrify is considering further strategic funding options which will excite investors around the world; from what we have seen from the best life sciences businesses in this world-leading cluster, it would be logical for Mogrify to push through a second close to its $16 million Series A funding round announced in October.

We reported then that the funding was led by existing investor Ahren Innovation Capital. 

Mogrify launched in February 2019 with $3.7m seed funding from Ahren, 24Haymarket and Dr Disley and went on to secure grants from Innovate UK and SBRI Healthcare.

Parkwalk, the largest EIS growth fund manager, backing businesses with IP-protected innovations creating solutions to real-world challenges, 24Haymarket, an early investor in Mogrify and a prolific early-stage investment syndicate in deep technology and the life sciences, and the University of Bristol Enterprise Fund III, also contributed to the Series A raise.

It is informative when mapping the future potential of Mogrify to re-echo the words of Alice Newcombe-Ellis, founder and managing partner of Ahren Innovation Capital, at October’s Series A announcement.

She said: “Mogrify’s technology is well positioned to disrupt the global cell therapy market. The company has grown rapidly since February, appointing a world-class management team and delivering strongly against its business plans. We look forward to supporting Mogrify as it continues to go from strength to strength.”

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