University of Dundee spin-out In4Derm aiming to be biotech giant

The team behind a University of Dundee spin-out are hoping to turn it into a biotech firm worth hundreds of millions of pounds by helping to treat people with serious inflammatory conditions.

From left: Andrew Woodland, Rangeetha Jayaprakash, and Mark Bell. Picture: John Post.
From left: Andrew Woodland, Rangeetha Jayaprakash, and Mark Bell. Picture: John Post.

In4Derm describes itself as a drug discovery company developing the next generation of topical and oral therapies for widespread inflammatory conditions, including eczema and rheumatoid arthritis. It has attracted more than £2 million in pre-company grants and investment, and took top prize at the 2019 Converge Awards.

The firm was founded by Andrew Woodland and Mark Bell, medicinal chemists at the university’s School of Life Sciences, and will be led by veteran biotech entrepreneur Tim Sparey as chief executive. It will have four staff initially, with plans to expand significantly as it moves towards its goal of making safe and effective anti-inflammatory drugs available for patients.

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The firm said steroid creams are frequently prescribed for skin diseases, but can cause serious side-effects as well as proving inadequate to bring diseases such as psoriasis and eczema under control. In4Derm said there is a major unmet need for new treatments, and the firm has identified a new approach it hopes to bring into clinical trials in the next few years.

Woodland, who received the top prize of £78,000 in the Converge Challenge category at the Converge 2019 Awards final, said: “We have discovered two promising prototype drugs that we will now refine before progressing through into clinical trials. One is a pill and the other is a non-steroid cream.

"The work we have carried out to this point suggests our cream could be superior both in terms of safety and efficacy than current creams, whilst the pill seems to be safer than existing systemic treatment.

Innovation

“Across the world there are lots of drugs in development for eczema but we are the first to target this particular mechanism, which we believe will be safer and more effective, offering the benefits of steroids without the risk.”

In4Derm will initially be funded through sources such as Scottish Enterprise’s High Growth Spin-out Programme (HGSP). Abigail Lyons, HGSP programme manager at SE, said: “It’s great to see the fantastic progress In4Derm has made over the three years that our [HGSP] has supported its commercial and technical development, including our recent investment of a £200,000 convertible loan. We look forward to seeing the company’s continued growth.”

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