BGF, Scottish National Investment Bank and Scottish Enterprise join forces to invest £8m in Aberdeen biologics company Elasmogen – a biopharmaceutical company discovering and developing new therapeutics using its unique soloMERTM platform – has secured £8 million investment.
The funding round was led by BGF and Scottish National Investment Bank (The Bank), with additional support from existing investor Scottish Enterprise. The multi-million-pound investment will enable Aberdeen-based Elasmogen to continue developing its pipeline of next-generation drugs through pre-clinical trials.
The company’s soloMERTM technology is based on molecules naturally found in sharks’ immune systems, which are the equivalent of human antibodies but smaller and more stable. Elasmogen’s pipeline is focused on applying this soloMER technology to treatments of solid-tumour cancers, systemic inflammatory diseases and inflammatory conditions of the gut.
Elasmogen’s lead programme, partnered with Almac Discovery, is a soloMER-Drug-Conjugate targeting ROR1 in solid tumour cancers This plays into the high growth class of antibody drug conjugates (ADCs), a market valued at $2.4bn in 2019 which has been gaining interest as a means of developing more targeted cancer therapies.
The soloMER technology has roots in the University of Aberdeen where it was first established as Haptogen Ltd in 2006, before being acquired by US pharma company Wyeth in 2007 and later by Pfizer. Its co-founder and CEO Dr Caroline Barelle, who was recognised as a ‘rising star’ at the Scottish Life Sciences Awards, led the spin-out of Elasmogen and has guided the business since its inception.
Elasmogen previously secured grant funding from Scottish Enterprise and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council in 2014 and has since raised upwards of £9 million from investors, such as Deepbridge Capital, and grant funding bodies such as Innovate UK, to support the development of its soloMER technology and to facilitate growth into key markets. The company has also established commercial partnerships, including those with Almac Discovery and Intract Pharma.
Following the investment, Dr Jane Dancer will be joining Elasmogen’s board as Non-executive Director. Dr Dancer brings with her a wealth of experience in guiding commercial strategy for platform biotechnology companies. Her previous roles include Chief Business Officer at F-star Biotechnology Ltd, Vice President of Business Development at Cellzome Ltd, and Director of Business Development at Cambridge Antibody Technology, later acquired by AstraZeneca.
Dr Caroline Barelle, co-founder and CEO of Elasmogen, said: “Securing this investment is truly transformational for Elasmogen and will enable us to progress our first soloMER drugs into the clinic as well as bolster and advance our exciting product pipeline. This success story is testament not just to the potential of our technology platform but absolutely by the quality, commitment and drive of the Elasmogen team as a whole. With the opening of the new BioHub here in Aberdeen later this year, an initiative led by Opportunity North East, combined with this investment and the quality of our new and existing investors, the company is well positioned to make a significant impact in the therapeutic biologics arena
Keith Barclay, investor at BGF, commented: “We are proud to further expand BGF’s thriving life sciences portfolio by backing Elasmogen and their standout management team.
“Elasmogen’s unique soloMER platform and exciting drug pipeline made it an extremely attractive opportunity. The soloMER technology has the potential to immeasurably better the lives of patients through new, more targeted therapies, and its platform nature offers opportunities for commercial partnerships as well as a growing in-house pipeline of therapeutic programmes.”
BGF has invested over £100 million in a range of ground-breaking medtech companies to date. Recent investments in the drug development space include the likes of Phoremost, Arecor and Definigen.
Simon Comer, Investment Director, Scottish National Investment Bank, added: “The Bank's investment in Elasmogen’s advanced technology supports the Bank’s mission to harness innovation and will promote Aberdeen as a centre for drug innovation and development. Elasmogen’s next-generation biologics for inflammatory, autoimmune diseases and oncology have the potential to significantly improve the health of people in Scotland as well as globally.”
Kerry Sharp, Director of Entrepreneurship and Investment at Scottish Enterprise, said: “We’re pleased to provide Elasmogen with further backing having supported the earliest stages of its development through our High Growth Spinout Programme and helped it continue to innovate throughout the pandemic via the Early Stage Growth Challenge Fund. This round will allow the company to expand its clinical trials and unlock more opportunities for growth and investment.”