Advanced therapies company showcase special – what we learned
This month we held the last of two virtual company showcases this year from the MedCity Investment Hub, and what a fascinating session it was.
The event had something for both investors and SMEs in the advanced therapies space, with a mix of voices – from investors already established in advanced therapies, as well as one currently ‘on the fence’ considering their options, a large well-established company, and pitches from newer startups seeking investment.
A case study for success
We kicked off with a presentation from Catherine Isted, Head of Corporate Development & Investor Relations at Oxford Biomedica. She gave us an in-depth overview of the business, which is both a contract development and manufacturing organisation (CDMO), as well as developer of their own proprietary gene therapeutics products.
Catherine told us the story of how Oxford Biomedica went from Oxford University spin off (listed on the LSE Market in 1996) to what it is today – one of the major players in advanced therapies, with c. £700m market capitalisation, and employing over 650 people.
She touched on some of their collaborations and partnerships, including their most high-profile – their partnership with AstraZeneca for large-scale manufacture of their COVID-19 vaccination.
Catherine was very generous in imparting some of her vast knowledge and experience in the field, proving valuable listening for earlier stage start-ups attending. She gave insider insights, including from her background in investment banking, into what investors are looking for and why they choose to invest in different parts of the business. Just a few of the questions covered included top tips for fundraising, managing collaborations and approaches to IP ownership.
A unique opportunity to pitch young businesses
Next on the agenda, were pitches from four companies keen on attracting investment in their advanced therapies businesses.
ATMPS Ltd, a spin out from FarmaTrust, has created Hataali, a unique vein to vein traceability platform for personalised medicine, which allows multi-treatment, multi-patient and multi-stakeholder engagement.
Hataali is a platform which ensures regulatory compliance for innovative treatments that can treat cancer, rare diseases, including stem cell therapies, and cell and gene treatments.
Renovos is a regenerative medicine company, spun out from Southampton University. They are pioneering a nanoclay gel technology platform, Renovite®, for medical applications to address the unmet need for long term tissue regeneration. Their platform offers safer, more economic clinical solutions for health systems, and better outcomes for patients.
iSTEM Tx is a cell therapy company, spun out from CITC Ltd, and with foundations in University of Cambridge, developing advanced therapies for regenerative neuroimmunology. They are on a mission to improve the quality of life of patients with incurable neurological disease, by promoting brain regeneration, slowing disease progression and reducing socioeconomic burdens with breakthrough stem cell innovations.
Reflection Therapeutics are working to halt neurodegeneration, with a focus on Motor Neurone Disease. Using their own proprietary targeting system, they are working to treat neuroinflammation with Treg cell therapy that will target only the diseased motor neurones in a patient.
All female fireside chat
Our fireside chat was an insightful way to round off the event, with an all-female panel of investors – both established in advanced therapies and new to the area.
Alice and Namrata are both established and experienced investors in cell and gene therapies. Syncona has several successful cell and gene therapies companies under their belt, such as Autolus (whose COVID-19 work we featured this month, and which IPO’ed on NASDAQ in June 2018), and Nightstar Therapeutics (acquired by Biogen for $877 million in June 2019). Apple Tree Partners have a long history of founding biotech companies and recently opened a London office (after working with MedCity to find an appropriate area). The team have unveiled two new Series A-funded ATP portfolio companies so far this year – Nine Square Therapeutics and Nereid Therapeutics.
Alice and Namrata both stressed that their companies like to engage early with scientific founders, support the translation of the science and take a collaborative approach with researchers to build long-term partnerships that result in successful companies.
Ruchi was able to give us the viewpoint of the new potential investor, including the reservations they may have. Those included not yet having co-investors with the expertise in their network to support investments in the space, market size (especially in rare diseases), competitive space in cancer therapies, scalability issues when using a platform technology for other applications where larger volume of production are needed, and unpredictability of R&D spend and timescales.
We discussed many of the aspects of what investors are looking for, including their views on platform technologies, what an attractive collaboration looks like and investor strategies for establishing a portfolio of investments.
Here are some of the highlights of the questions tackled:
What does an attractive investment look like?
Investing in manufacturing capabilities like analytics, process development and optimization, and characterization of the finished product were seen as crucial assets when bringing a product to market, even more so than the wide range of applications a technology might have in other diseases.
The panel also made the point that there were advantages to investing in, or developing in-house technologies that leverage the assets of existing companies in the portfolio, making investment propositions more appealing by allowing a faster, better or cheaper commercialization of the product.
Would GMP-compliant facilities be an investment option?
A member of the audience commented on Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) compliant manufacturing facilities, based in universities and hospitals, that, with investment, could run a more commercially based centre.
The panel agreed that Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) compliant manufacturing facilities could be an investment for venture capital firms with several cell and gene companies in their portfolio.
As the discussion developed, it seemed obvious that having the manufacturing capabilities to scale-up cell and gene therapy products will be a determinant, as the sector grows and tackles more prevalent and higher incidence diseases. At the moment UK manufacturing capabilities seem to be limited to the treatment of finite numbers, such as in rare diseases, rather than having the ability to treat several thousands of patients with higher incidence diseases.
Later, the panel discussed that addressing chronic diseases with larger patient populations is dependent on a mindset shift from a large-scale manufacturing business model, to a more fee-for-service business model for autologous therapies, use of allogeneic models to standardise some of the production, or perhaps creation of manufacturing consortia with big pharma at relevant geographic locations to channel therapy development.
How do you value an investment?
The panel described how they value the companies they invest in, especially in the field of advanced therapies. The transformational power of the technology, strength of the IP to build a company around, the team’s expertise to deliver the product to market, the addressable market size and if it can command the right pricing point for the product and the revenue to succeed were all considerations.
Take home message
Finally, the take home messages from our panellists to companies fundraising in the space are to:
- focus on the technology and how it will address the clinical unmet need
- find the right partners in this space for money, expertise and the commitment to the same values and your mission
- have a big addressable market and reimbursement plan.
Watch the full video of the event here for even more insights into investments in advanced therapies: