Wetherby-based biotherapeutics company Avacta Group plc said on Monday that AffyXell Therapeutics, its joint venture with Daewoong Pharmaceutical, has closed a Series A venture capital investment of $7.3 million to further develop its pipeline of next generation cell and gene therapies.
AffyXell was established in January 2020 by Avacta and Daewoong as a joint venture to develop novel mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapies.
Avacta Group shares have soared more than 450% in the past 12 months amid its work on Covid-19 tests to give it a current stock market value of roughly £320 million.
“AffyXell is combining Avacta’s Affimer platform with Daewoong’s MSC platform such that the stem cells are genetically modified to produce and secrete therapeutic Affimer proteins in situ in the patient,” said Avacta.
“The Affimer proteins are designed to enhance the therapeutic effects of the MSC creating a novel, next generation cell therapy platform.”
The Series A funding has been raised from a group of venture funds including Samsung Venture Investment Corporation, Shinhan Venture Investment, Smilegate Investment, Shinhan Investment Corporation, Kolon Investment, Stonebridge Ventures and Gyeongnam Venture Investment.
Avacta added: “The capital raised will be used by AffyXell to further the development of MSCs engineered to produce Affimer molecules generated by Avacta that suppress immune response and restore immune balance.
“While initially focusing on inflammatory and autoimmune diseases and prevention of organ transplant rejection, longer term goals could also include applications in regenerative medicine, infectious diseases and oncology.
“Under the terms of the collaboration and licence agreement, Avacta’s research and development costs associated with the generation of the Affimer proteins are funded by AffyXell whilst Avacta retains the rights to commercialise the Affimer proteins outside the field of cell therapies.”
Avacta Group CEO Alastair Smith said: “The potential for AffyXell’s new class of MSC therapies to deliver improved treatments for a wide range of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases is significant, in a market estimated to be worth $16bn by 2025.
“We expect these novel engineered MSCs to show a more powerful therapeutic effect than existing antibodies and stem cells and they therefore have the potential to lead the rapidly growing field of cell and gene therapy.
“AffyXell is uniquely positioned to develop novel and powerful cell therapies through the combination of two world-class technologies: Avacta’s Affimer platform and Daewoong’s proprietary technology for generating ‘off-the-shelf’ allogeneic MSC therapies.
“Completion of the Series A funding is a strong validation of this concept and moves us closer to providing these new therapies to the patients who need them.
“I look forward to updating the market on AffyXell’s further progress in due course.”
Sengho Jeon, CEO of Daewoong Pharmaceutical and AffyXell Therapeutics, said: “AffyXell’s successful Series A financing confirms the market’s high expectations and interest in new MSC therapies.
“It is also very encouraging that the concept of this joint venture, which was established based on the excellent platform technologies of Daewoong Pharmaceutical and Avacta, gains recognition for its vision among venture funds.
“We look forward to launching new class of MSC therapies that overcome the limitations of existing antibodies and cells and provide meaningful treatment options to patients suffering from refractory diseases.”