Aberdeen university spin-out gets £2m cash injection to develop cancer treatment

A Scottish life sciences company has secured a £2 million investment from a specialist venture capital firm to accelerate its work in finding more effective treatments for diseases such as cancer and arthritis.

The follow-on funding will help Elasmogen develop shark-inspired treatments for cancer and arthritis. Picture: Contributed
The follow-on funding will help Elasmogen develop shark-inspired treatments for cancer and arthritis. Picture: Contributed

The investment by Deepbridge Capital in University of Aberdeen spin-out Elasmogen – which is focused on the development of drugs based on a protein found in a shark’s immune system – takes its total funding in the firm up to £3.15m.

The latest investment will be used to accelerate work by the biopharmaceutical company which is currently progressing its own internal pipeline of drugs as well as developing a number of commercial partnerships.

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Chief executive Caroline Barelle said the funding comes at a key time for the Aberdeen-based company.

The life sciences sector as at the forefront of rising levels of venture capital investment in Scotland. Picture: John Devlin

“We now have results that show our drugs, at least in the laboratory, are ten times more potent than existing therapies,” said biochemistry graduate Barelle.

She added that partnerships the firm was involved in are also accelerating the potential of its science to destroy hard-to-treat cancers.

Savvas Neophytou, head of life sciences at Chester-based Deepbridge Capital, said: “Having supported Elasmogen from seed-stage, we are delighted to continue working in partnership with the exceptional team at Elasmogen.”

Rising investment in Scottish businesses

Deepbridge, which also has an office in Edinburgh, invests in sectors including life sciences and renewable energy. It runs a life sciences-focused fund to help private investors take advantage of tax benefits under the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS).

“Elasmogen typifies the type of growth-focused early-stage innovation that the EIS was designed to support,” said Neophytou.

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Other investors in Elasmogen include the Scottish Investment Bank – the investment arm of Scottish Enterprise – and Innovate UK.

Before joining Elasmogen, Barelle had been part of the leadership team as Scottish biotech firm Haptogen which was sold to American pharmaceutical giant Wyeth in 2007.

Latest figures have shown rising levels of venture capital investment in Scottish businesses, with the life sciences sector a key beneficiary.

More than £32m of funding was ploughed into Scottish start-ups in the third quarter of 2019, according to KPMG’s latest Venture Pulse survey based on figures compiled by Pitchbook.

The most sizeable deal in the last quarter involved pharmaceutical and biotech firm MedAnnex. The Edinburgh-based business raised more than £11m in venture capital backing to assist it with its pioneering work developing new treatments for conditions including autoimmune diseases.

UK-wide, figures showed that investments rose 19 per cent on the previous quarter to more than £2.4 billion.