Mercia EIS Funds

Mercia makes £229,000 investment in Inocardia

Drug screening services spinout secures investment package

Henley-in-Arden, 21 July 2014. Technology investor Mercia Fund Management has announced a £229,000 investment in InoCardia, a Coventry University spinout providing drug screening services.

Mercia Fund Management’s investment will fund the development and commercialisation of a pre-clinical drug testing service for pharmaceutical organisations.

Dr Helen Maddock – an expert in cardiovascular physiology and pharmacology from the University’s Centre for Applied Biological and Exercise Sciences and the CEO of InoCardia and has spent ten years developing a pioneering new method – using real human heart tissue – to test the effect of drugs on the heart to assay for side effects (adverse events) without using human or animal trials.

The adverse effects of drugs on the cardiovascular system are a major cause of many medical treatments failing, but heart-related side-effects can often only be detected once a drug is being used on patients in clinical trials – by which time it is often too late.

Dr Maddock’s in vitro technique uses a specimen of heart tissue attached to a rig allowing the muscle to be lengthened and shortened (contracted) whilst being stimulated by an electrical impulse, mimicking the biomechanical performance of cardiac muscle. Targeted at the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors, InoCardia’s ‘work-loop’ model (assay) assesses cardiac contractility in normal, diseased and ageing cardiac muscle in order to determine the cardiovascular safety of pharmaceutical compounds.

Dr Maddock commented: “Both the pharmaceutical industry and regulators recognise that contractility assessment is currently fraught with problems, so we are delighted that our research is now at a stage where we can confidently say that the work-loop assay (procedure) is the only relevant in-vitro human model of cardio-toxicity available worldwide. We are already working with a multinational biopharmaceutical company and results are promising.”

As part of InoCardia’s process, trial drugs are added to the tissue to determine whether or not they have an adverse effect on the force of contraction of the muscle (and therefore of the heart), a test that could only previously be performed in vivo – i.e. on living animals – often with inconclusive results.

This ‘simulated’ cardiovascular system provides the most realistic model of heart muscle dynamics in the world to date, and opens up unprecedented possibilities for identifying negative effects of drugs early and inexpensively – potentially saving lives and speeding up the development of successful drugs.

Mark Payton, Managing Director of Mercia Fund Management, added: “InoCardia benefits from a proprietary approach following many years of investigation by Helen and her team and offers the potential for early screening of compounds in development without the initial need for extensive animal trials. Through a markedly accelerated drug development process, this will decrease timelines to drug development, and as a consequence greatly reduce the cost of new drug development. The end beneficiary will of course be patients receiving novel treatments sooner.”