New treatments for lung fibrosis, being developed by researchers at the University of Nottingham, are being advanced further with investment in a new spin-out company.
o2h Ventures has announced SEIS and EIS investment, alongside co-investment from the University of Nottingham’s Invention Fund, into spin-out company Alevin Therapeutics to develop a platform of novel small molecule RGD integrin inhibitors with superior drug-like qualities.
The discovery-stage compounds have broad therapeutic applications in areas that currently have limited or ineffective treatments – including lung fibrosis, kidney disease and cancer – with the most advanced being an inhaled drug for the treatment of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF). The investment provides the company with funding of close to £1m to progress and de-risk its pipeline assets.
Alevin Therapeutics has arisen from research driven by the Business Partnership Unit and School of Chemistry at the University of Nottingham. Originally the subject of a long-standing collaboration between academia and big pharma, scientists developed the platform of novel compounds with the aim of treating life-threatening conditions by limiting the activity of a key signalling pathway that is targeted by the integrin inhibitors.
The founders of Alevin Therapeutics (Prof. Chris Moody, Thomas McInally and Dr. Alison John) are leading scientists in the RGD integrin field, with substantial industry experience and a proven track record of clinical candidate delivery.
o2h Ventures led the investment with earlier rounds being exclusive to o2h Ventures and the University of Nottingham. o2h Ventures worked with Nottingham Technology Ventures (NTV) Ltd to place management and develop the business plan. This is o2h Ventures’ fourth investment from the o2h human health SEIS fund which aims to invest in companies covering novel drug discovery along with enabling services, tools and AI technologies that can impact human health.
Sunil Shah, CEO of o2h Ventures, said: “We are very excited to be leading the investment on our second spin-out from the University of Nottingham. The team at Nottingham from both the academic and tech transfer group are both smart and very easy to work with. There has been a huge amount of prior work done on these integrin targets prior to our investment and we seek to advance these assets quickly into the clinic.”
Professor Trevor Farren, director of the Business Partnership Unit at the University of Nottingham, said: “Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis is currently very difficult to treat and has a high mortality rate. The two approved medicines only treat the symptoms without affecting the underlying cause i.e. build-up of fibrotic tissue in the lung. To address this significant unmet medical need, we created an innovative knowledge exchange programme that saw teams of undergraduate students working closely with researchers from the pharmaceutical industry to develop novel small molecule integrin inhibitors that showed great promise as new treatment for lung fibrosis.
“Building on these findings, further research carried out in the School of Chemistry has allowed us to improve the drug like properties of these molecules and develop a portfolio of compounds that could revolutionise the treatment of the condition. To ensure that our research can be rapidly translated into new treatments for lung fibrosis, we have formed a new spin out company, Alevin Therapeutics, and we are delighted that the extra investment we have secured will support the process of turning this important research into a commercial product accessible to patients.”
Alice MacGowan, Life Sciences executive at NTV Ltd, said: “We are delighted to add Alevin Therapeutics to the University portfolio, and to have received further investment from o2h into one of our spin-outs. This is a fantastic and experienced team, seeking to address an area of significant clinical need. In addition to the University’s current investment, the underpinning research was supported through its translational phase by the University’s internal impact funding, demonstrating the potential benefit that can be brought about by Nottingham’s commitment to investing in highly impactful opportunities.”
Thomas McInally, founder of Alevin Therapeutics, added: “The formation of Alevin Therapeutics is a testament to the vision of the School of Chemistry to work with industry to enable undergraduates to carry out a drug discovery project in a professional manner. Given significant investment from the UoN and external sources, the company will develop these new medicines to have a positive impact on the quality of life of patients with life-limiting fibrotic diseases.”