Mercia Technologies PLC portfolio company, PsiOxus Therapeutics, has announced that the Clinical Trial Application for NG-348, an “armed” oncolytic virus for the treatment of solid tumors, has been approved and, per the licensing agreement between the parties, Bristol-Myers Squibb will make a US $15 million milestone payment to PsiOxus.

John Beadle, M.D., Chief Executive Officer of PsiOxus, said: “This is an exciting development since NG-348 is the first candidate from PsiOxus’ systemically delivered, intravenous platform of tumor gene therapy to achieve regulatory approval for use in human clinical trials.

“PsiOxus is pleased to have successfully completed preclinical and manufacturing activities in support of this CTA and now looks forward to clinical investigation of this first armed oncolytic virus by Bristol- Myers Squibb.”

Under the terms of the December 2016 agreement, Bristol-Myers Squibb granted PsiOxus an upfront payment of $50 million. In aggregate, PsiOxus is eligible to receive development, regulatory and sales-based milestones of $936 million, as well as royalties on net sales.

Following the completion of pre-clinical development by PsiOxus, Bristol-Myers Squibb is solely responsible for global clinical development and commercialization activities related to NG-348. In June 2016, Bristol-Myers Squibb and PsiOxus entered into an exclusive clinical collaboration to study enadenotucirev, PsiOxus’ systemically administered “unarmed” oncolytic adenovirus therapeutic, in a multi-cohort clinical trial.

PsiOxus’ oncolytic virus therapy uses modified adenovirus that selectively replicate within tumor cells and not within normal tissue. Such viruses stimulate an inflammatory response in the tumor microenvironment, which results in the accumulation of tumor infiltrating lymphocytes. NG-348 uses PsiOxus’ proprietary Tumor-Specific Immuno-Gene Therapy (T-SIGn) platform to “arm” the virus with two additional immuno-therapeutic transgenes.

NG-348 is designed to drive T-cell immune responses locally within the tumor microenvironment. It is a transgene-modified variant of PsiOxus’ enadenotucirev virus that encodes two immunomodulatory membrane-integrated Tcell- engaging proteins that expressed together on the surface of infected tumor cells, activate tumor-infiltrating T-cells in an antigen independent manner.

Mercia Technologies PLC, the national investment group focused on the funding and scaling of innovative technology businesses with high growth potential from the UK regions, is pleased to announce that it has invested £2.5million as part of a £3.8million funding round in Medherant Limited, a University of Warwick spinout company developing an innovative transdermal drug delivery patch technology.

Mercia’s investment in this significant funding round is alongside both private investors and other current shareholders. The Group’s direct equity shareholding has now risen from 11.3% to 32.4%. This new funding will support Medherant as it moves into clinical development and the commercialisation of its ibuprofen TEPI Patch®, as well as initiating development of its second product, a lidocaine TEPI Patch®.

Medherant’s TEPI Patch® is a novel proprietary platform capable of delivering higher doses of drugs through the skin to act locally or systemically. Transdermal delivery has many advantages, including fewer side effects, improved patient compliance and the potential to deliver drugs that are unsuitable for oral administration.

Since Mercia’s first investment in June 2015 through its managed funds, Medherant has secured an exclusive licence agreement with Bostik SA, a leading adhesive specialist, to use its novel pressure sensitive adhesive material in the development of the company’s TEPI Patch®.

Nigel Davis, CEO of Medherant, said: “We are grateful to have the continued financial support of Mercia and pleased to be working closely with the team as we move into the next exciting phase of Medherant’s development. Our TEPI Patch® technology is generating global interest and we are now working with several leading pharmaceutical companies as we develop our own product pipeline.”

Mark Payton, Chief Executive Officer at Mercia, said: “Medherant’s highly versatile platform is compatible with a wide range of drugs, enabling a transdermal route to market for drugs not currently suitable for formulation with existing delivery technologies. The company’s first product, Ibuprofen TEPI Patch®, will be manufactured at AdhexPharma in France for clinical trials in early 2018. Led by Dr Nicola Broughton, Investment Director and Head of Universities at Mercia, we have been working with the founders since inception, initially through our managed funds and are now scaling the business with a further direct investment. This has increased our equity holding in what potentially may become a very valuable business.”

You can view the full RNS announcement here.

Medherant, a Mercia Technologies PLC portfolio company, won the Excellence in Science & Technology Award at the Coventry Telegraph Business Awards last night. The Awards are a celebration of companies in Coventry and Warwickshire which have achieved success for themselves, their staff and their customers.

The award recognises Medherant’s rapid progress and innovation in the development of next-generation transdermal drug delivery patches. Medherant, founded by Professor David Haddleton and the University of Warwick in 2015, has created a drug delivery platform, TEPI Patch®, designed to address many of the disadvantages of previous transdermal drug delivery patches. It enables a wider range of drugs to be delivered through the skin, has increased drug loading capacity, and provides a better patient user experience than patches currently on the market.

Medherant has also developed a high-throughput system for assessing the rate of drug delivery from its patches, which enables the company to rapidly test a range of potential formulations for each drug and optimise the final product. The company is already working with pharmaceutical companies to test their drugs in its TEPI Patch® platform.

Nigel Davis, CEO of Medherant, commented: “This award is validation of the potential of our TEPI Patch® technology to revolutionise the transdermal drug delivery sector. We have continued to grow an excellent team and to partner with top companies from around the world as we look forward to progressing our technology further.”

The Coventry Telegraph Business Awards aim to celebrate success, recognise achievement and highlight the innovative people and companies in Coventry and Warwickshire who are putting the region on the map by boosting the economy while making a positive contribution to the local community. The finalists were selected and judged on the quality of their products and services, their dedication to sales performance, their commitment to innovation and the sustainability of their business.

Mercia Technologies PLC, the national investment group focused on the funding and scaling of innovative technology businesses with high growth potential from the UK regions, is pleased to announce a new direct investment into Aston EyeTech Limited, a spinout from Aston University, Birmingham, which has developed a range of proprietary hardware and software products in ocular care.

Mercia’s investment of £1.8million gives the Group a direct equity stake of 19.4% and is part of a £5million Series A funding round, alongside an Asian-based investment syndicate. The funding will be used to accelerate product development and launch Aston EyeTech’s latest state-of-the-art product range.

The Birmingham-based company is a spinout from the UK’s top ranked School of Optometry at Aston University, one of Mercia’s 19 university partners. Aston EyeTech is already revenue generating and aims to disrupt the optometry industry by combining high quality portable and digital eye tests with artificial intelligence driven software platforms. As with Mercia’s other direct investments, Aston EyeTech has been supported within Mercia’s managed funds portfolio through seed and its early stages of development before now becoming a new direct investment Emerging Star.

Carl Francis, CEO of Aston EyeTech, said: “With our cutting-edge technology, skilled team and supportive shareholders, Aston EyeTech has all the ingredients needed to disrupt the $200billion global eye health care industry. It is personally gratifying to see high quality investors, such as Mercia and our new Asian partners, attracted to this significant opportunity.”

Peter Dines, Head of Life Sciences & Biosciences at Mercia Technologies PLC, said: “Having worked closely with the Aston EyeTech over the past three years, initially investing at seed stage from our managed funds and providing commercial and strategic guidance as a Board member, we have seen the business grow rapidly with an impressive team of talented individuals. We are pleased to continue to support the business as it joins our direct investment portfolio. This is another example of the high quality businesses that Mercia’s team has sourced both regionally and via our university partners. We firmly believe that Aston EyeTech has significant potential to disrupt a large and growing global market.”

Mercia Technologies PLC has announced that it has completed a £2.0million follow-on direct investment into Oxford Genetics, a synthetic biology company with significant expertise in helping to design, develop and produce virus and protein based biologics to support leading therapeutic companies.

This investment is part of a £7.5million funding round which also sees a new investor, Invesco Asset Management Limited, as agent for and on behalf of its discretionary managed clients (Invesco), joining the syndication as a partner. Invesco is one of the largest investment managers in the UK and its involvement in this funding round demonstrates the significant potential seen in Oxford Genetics by both the teams at Mercia and Invesco. Mercia has worked with Oxford Genetics since 2012, initially investing via its third-party managed funds before becoming an Emerging Star direct investment in December 2015. This latest funding round increases Mercia’s total direct investment to £4.7million. Mercia’s direct equity stake following this funding round is 40.5%.

Proceeds from the investment round will be used to further expand Oxford Genetics’ operations in the US with the opening of a new office in Boston, as well as extending its UK research and development facility.

In the last 12 months Oxford Genetics has signed a number of out-licensing deals, including two separate collaborative co-development partnerships. In the same period it has also filed five patent applications, all in the fields of improving the discovery, development or delivery of biological therapeutics. It has also been awarded £1.9million in non-dilutive government grants to support its R&D.

Ryan Cawood, CEO of Oxford Genetics, said: “The next few years for Oxford Genetics will be exciting. The industry for complex biologics has taken such huge steps forward to delivering real patient benefit and we are pleased to be providing our technology to many of the companies tackling some of medicine’s most important unmet needs.”

Mark Payton, Chief Executive Officer at Mercia and board director of Oxford Genetics, said: “This sector is growing rapidly, driven by pharma and biotech companies’ relentless drive for new therapeutics. The commercial validity of the business has been recently supported by a string of technology licence agreements. This syndicated investment alongside Invesco reflects our confidence in Oxford Genetics’ strong position and its ability to deliver shareholder value in the medium term.”

To read the full RNS announcement, click here.

A new rehabilitation centre which helps people to recover from serious illness and injuries has secured a £250,000 loan from NPIF – Enterprise Ventures Debt Finance, which is managed by Enterprise Ventures and part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.

STEPS Rehabilitation, which opened earlier this year in Sheffield, aims to be a national centre of excellence for adults recovering from brain or spinal injuries and complex trauma. It has already recruited 35 staff and plans to create at least 30 more positions in the year ahead.

STEPS Rehabilitation has been launched by sisters Toria Chan and Jules Leahy to address the lack of facilities for younger patients in need of intensive rehabilitation. Around 26 per cent of strokes are in the under 65s but often the only care available is in residential homes designed for the elderly which don’t provide the intensive rehabilitation that is needed.

The sisters and their fellow directors have invested over £1.6 million of their own money to build a new state-of-the-art centre with 23 bedrooms, a large physio gym, hydrotherapy pool, games and music rooms on the site of the former Jacobs engineering works off Abbeydale Road. STEPS offers both residential and day rehabilitation care, with fees paid by the NHS, insurers and clients’ compensation payments, as well as self funding clients.

Toria Chan, Clinical Director at STEPS Rehabilitation, said: “A six-year dream has come to fruition and the ability to work with patients and our hand-picked team in a purpose-built facility, with my footprint on much of the clinical design, makes all the hard work in getting here seem worthwhile. I have enormous confidence we will be able to make a huge difference to those patients who share our drive and determination to work hard and maximize their recovery. We can now offer patients the tools with which to push their own recovery to its pinnacle.”

Peter Sorsby, Investment Manager at Enterprise Ventures, part of Mercia Technologies PLC, said: “STEPS Rehabilitation is a new first-class facility for the North of England and the only place in the region which offers this range and level of complex rehabilition. Toria, Jules and the management team have put in many years of hard work and invested a significant amount of their own money to open STEPS and the initial response has been very positive. We are delighted to be able to provide this funding to support them through the early stages.”

Grant Peggie, Director at British Business Bank, said: “NPIF continues to provide much needed support to local businesses across the Northern Powerhouse region. We are seeing NPIF make a real impact on growing companies already and this latest investment is no different. This funding will allow STEPS Rehabilitation to support local people in recovery and rehabilitation from major trauma while creating a number of new jobs, and we are delighted that this investment will support the company to help achieve its objectives.”

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

As part of a collaborative R&D program, the UK’s Innovation agency have co-funded SleepCogni’s exciting research and development into helping resolve the global epidemic of insomnia. SleepCogni is being developed to help clinicians and healthcare professionals treat the many people suffering from sleeping problems more effectively and successfully. This takes funding and investment into SleepCogni to over seven figures in the last months, following a recent £485,000 investment led by Mercia Fund Management.

The new funding by Innovate UK allows the company to advance their research and development, using a clinical trial, (150 subjects over 1,490 research nights). SleepCogni offers a real intervention for long term suffering insomniacs. Furthermore, it allows the company to increase its world class team building on Dr Van de Werken’s appointment as Chief Scientific Officer in 2016 and locate to the Kroto Innovation and research Centre within the University of Sheffield.

Problems falling to, or maintaining sleep (insomnia) is a widespread problem. One in three people have had problems sleeping and The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) consider these sleep related problems a “global health epidemic.” Sleep is a cornerstone of performance and health and has been associated with major diseases. Rand Europe estimates the economic costs of poor sleep at a staggering $680 billion across five OECD countries.

Current treatments either work partially, are only a short term solution or can even be damaging (e.g. sleeping medication). SleepCogni is a credible solution to sleep issues, integrating several scientifically founded treatments into a bedside personal medical device. It integrates the gold standard in alleviating insomnia, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for insomnia (CBTi), and a range of other features to help the user initiate and maintain sleep. SleepCogni offers a real intervention for users to manage their own insomnia.

SleepCogni takes environmental, physiological and behavioural measures to a research grade level, to then offer an effective intervention through our patented personal and dynamic biofeedback and active input. Through historical accurate data we will then be able to advise and prescribe personalised treatment plans to increase the natural drive for sleep that may be currently be suppressed by environmental, mental or physiological factors. Data generated across individuals can be used to optimise treatment further and generate new knowledge on insomnia to help all users sleep better.

After a previous user study with Sheffield Hallam University and pre marketing activity, it was clear that insomniacs actually want a medical grade device that is clinically proven. Not just another consumer device making claims without substance. Trials commence later in the 2017 with Sheffield Hallam University, final clinical trials will be completed 2018 and products available in Q1 2019 after further fund raising.

Dr Maan Van de Werken, Chief Scientific Officer and chronobiologist, said: “We are very excited about our current progress in research and development. Validation and further development is ongoing, and we are planning our clinical trials, in collaboration with scientists from both Universities in Sheffield and internationally, in the Netherlands. We are committed to use our technology to help people that suffer from issues related to sleep.”

Dr Ash Patel, board member and Investment Manager at Mercia Fund Management, said: “We are excited to be supporting what could potentially be a game changing patented technology, this is a global issue that is crying out for a clinical solution.”

Innovate UK grant feedback: “If the project is successful, and SleepCogni is demonstrated to have a major impact on sleep, this could have a significant impact on a large proportion of the population – both economic and social. The potential benefits of SleepCogni could be relevant across a wide section of society and the verification of performance would support its use in the clinic. This substantiates the use of public funding for the project.”

Rich Mills, CEO, said: “I suffered from insomnia for over a decade. Just monitoring when you are or not asleep or my bedroom environment never helped my sleep initiation. Sleep is pretty complex and unique to the sufferer but there is some clear science that you need to understand to build the bigger picture. Our company may be creating the perfect clinical personalised algorithm to help the user wind down and sleep better. More importantly SleepCogni allows the user to manage their own insomnia.”

MIP Diagnostics Ltd, a Midlands-based life sciences start-up that develops “plastic antibodies” for a variety of applications has received £300,000 of follow-on funding from Mercia Fund Management for working capital growth.

Mercia first invested in MIP Diagnostics, a spin-out from the University of Leicester, in March 2015 and since then it has continued to grow and has secured significant blue-chip partnership deals.

MIP Diagnostic’s technology provides Molecular Imprinted Polymers (MIPs) to the diagnostic, pharmaceutical, biotechnology and chemical research industries. MIPs mimic biological antibodies, but as they are not biologically derived, they are non-biodegradable and are more stable. They are also more cost effective, quicker to manufacture and more robust, offering a much longer shelf-life.

Because MIPs can take days to make as opposed to months, they are increasingly being seen as an alternative to antibodies, offering the potential to compete in similar markets on an international scale.

The research reagent market is now estimated to be worth $2.7billion with the research antibody market estimated to be worth $900million, according to Pivotal Scientific, which proves there is a significant opportunity for this company to scale.

To further support its plans for expansion, MIP Diagnostics has appointed Jim Reid as chair to provide valuable commercial expertise. Jim has extensive experience in the diagnostics marketplace and is world-renowned in the life sciences sector. He was the winner of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Science and Technology for both Scotland and the UK in 2005, and he has previously worked for blue-chip organisations including Organon, Roche and Trinity Biotech.

CEO of MIP Diagnostics, Dr Adrian Kinkaid, said:

“We are delighted to welcome Jim to the MIP Diagnostics team. He has already made significant contributions to our development and his experience in the Diagnostics field is invaluable. The ongoing support from Mercia is especially appreciated as we bring our novel MIPs platform to a wide range of markets.”

Commenting on his new role, Jim Reid, said:

“MIPs offer many advantages and has the potential to satisfy a recognised gap in the market which antibodies have been unable to address. Through the continued support of Mercia, MIP Diagnostics is now perfectly placed to expand its operations to service these exciting market opportunities.”

Dr Nicola Broughton, Head of Universities at Mercia, said:

“We are pleased to support MIP Diagnostics with its next stage of development, and we are absolutely delighted to see Jim on board to help drive the company forward with his impressive background and expertise.

“The global market for antibodies is vast, with many potential opportunities for growth available, so this is a really exciting time for MIP Diagnostics as it continues to build and scale its business.”

Dr Sharon Spencer, Director of Commercialisation at the University of Leicester, said:

“The University is delighted by the progress of MIP Diagnostics as it continues to build on the research of Professor Sergey Piletsky and colleagues here in Leicester. We are grateful for Mercia’s support of the company and are confident that Jim’s involvement will accelerate MIP Diagnostics’ growth in its chosen markets.”

Medherant, a developer of novel transdermal drug delivery patch technology, has appointed Sally Waterman as Chief Operating Officer (COO), Angus Hone as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Sheryl Caswell as Head of Clinical Development. These appointments mark a significant expansion of the Company’s management team to support the business as it moves into clinical development and commercialisation of its ibuprofen TEPI Patch®.

Sally brings over 30 years’ experience in executive management in large pharma, small biotech/biopharma and contract service companies. Sally has held a wide variety of strategic and operational roles, including leading R&D, and involvement in two IPOs, numerous financing rounds and M&A. Prior to joining Medherant she was Senior VP Corporate Development at Abzena plc. She is currently the Chairman of OBN Ltd.

Angus has over 20 years’ experience in financial management in the pharmaceutical and life sciences sector with extensive CFO/COO experience in VC/PE-backed healthcare, medical diagnostics, life science and software technology companies. He comes to Medherant from Cascade BI, where he acted as Mentor to the CEO. Prior to this he spent 3 years at Enigma Diagnostics, initially as acting CFO and then as CEO.

Nigel Davis, CEO, commented, “I’m pleased to welcome Sally and Angus to the team as we start manufacturing our ibuprofen TEPI® Patches and move into clinical trials. Both are highly regarded industry professionals and will add expertise and capability to our management team.

He added: “We’re delighted that Sheryl will also be joining us at such an important time in the Company’s development. Sheryl has over 20 years’ experience leading clinical development programmes on a wide range of products including other ibuprofen products.”

Medherant’s next generation drug delivery platform, TEPI Patch®, is designed to address many of the disadvantages of previous transdermal drug delivery patches. It will enable a wider range of drugs to be delivered through the skin, including those that are unsuitable for oral administration, and improve the user experience. Medherant is initially using the technology to develop products for pain relief, the first of which will be an ibuprofen patch. The technology will enable controlled release of drugs for up to at least 24 hours.

Sheryl commented: “I am delighted to join Medherant to lead clinical development at this exciting time and look forward to initiation of the Company’s first clinical study. I believe the TEPI Patch® technology developed by Medherant will provide patients with a much-needed convenient dosing form for a wide range of drugs.”

Dr Nicola Broughton, Head of Universities at Mercia Technologies PLC, which invested in Medherant last year said: “It’s fantastic to see the senior team at Medherant expanding with new talent. This is a key time for the company as it moves into clinical trials and with the added expertise and valuable experience of Sheryl, Sally and Angus, the business is in an ideal position for its next phase of growth.”

Medherant, which joined Mercia Technologies’ portfolio of direct investments in September 2016, has been selected for its versatile and easy to use, solvent-free transdermal drug delivery platform, the TEPI Patch®, which is based upon a novel poly(ether-urethane)/silicone pressure sensitive adhesive that allows a wider range of drugs to be delivered across the skin. The Company has also created a novel high-throughput analytical system to facilitate the rapid development of its own and third party TEPI Patches.

Nigel Davis, CEO of Medherant, commented, “We are delighted to have been shortlisted for this prestigious competition. Recognition of our technology from the RSC is further evidence of the innovative nature of our TEPI Patch® technology and the progress we’ve made towards developing a product that will be easier for patients to use.”

Shortlisted entrants will pitch their ideas to a panel of experts in front of a live audience at the RSC’s annual flagship event for industry, Chemistry Means Business. This event will be held in Manchester, UK on the 13th and 14th June 2017, where a winner will be selected. Dr Gabit Nurumbetov, a senior scientist at Medherant, will also be presenting the TEPI Patch technology at this event.

Dr Nicola Broughton, Head of Universities at Mercia Technologies PLC, which invested in Medherant last year said: “It’s fantastic to see Medherant’s innovative TEPI Patch® technology recognised in the RSC competition. It offers huge potential benefits for patients in need of an alternative way of receiving their medication. Mercia is pleased to support the Medherant team as it continues to grow and scale its business.”