MEIF - Proof of Concept

Why we invested: IsomAb

Earlier this year, we participated in a £7.5m seed round into IsomAb, a UK-based biotechnology company developing a novel treatment for a common cardiovascular condition.

The links between heart health and lifestyle are well known but deaths from cardiovascular diseases continue to rise. In fact, one such disease, atherosclerosis, has now surpassed communicable diseases to become the world’s most prevalent killer. Atherosclerosis involves the build-up of fatty deposits inside our blood vessels. Caused by factors such as a high fat diet, sedentary lifestyle and smoking, over time this build-up can cause blood flow to be restricted or even stopped entirely, starving tissues of oxygen and nutrients. Depending on where in the body the blockage occurs, it can lead to very serious and life threatening conditions. A blockage in the heart can lead to a heart attack, in the brain it can lead to a stroke and in the legs it can lead to peripheral artery disease.

The human body is remarkable though. When faced with atherosclerosis, the body can produce entirely new vessels that enable blood to bypass these blockages. Based on over 20 years of research, IsomAb’s founders have shown that new blood vessel formation is dependent on the balance of two isoforms of vascular endothelial growth factor, namely VEGF-165a and VEGF-165b. If the balance of these critical isoforms is altered to high levels of VEGF-165b, the production of new vessels is reduced or does not happen at all. In disease states such as peripheral artery disease, especially in those with Type II diabetes, this balance is altered and the body is unable to produce new blood vessels to bypass blockages.

With this discovery, IsomAb is developing a novel therapeutic to target and neutralise VEGF-165b. In doing so, they hope to restore new blood vessel formation, providing an unparalleled approach to treating patients with blood flow diseases. The team are developing their first antibody therapeutic with a number of variants being characterised prior to designation of the lead candidate. Once finalised, the team will complete their pre-clinical activities and move forwards to clinical trials.

With an initial focus on peripheral artery disease, the market opportunity for IsomAb is significant. There are over 113 million sufferers worldwide, and both prevalence and mortality have increased substantially over the last 30 years. In its most severe form, patients suffer from severe pain, non-healing ulcers, gangrene and ultimately amputation. While a number of treatments exist on the market today, none of these address the underlying problem of an imbalance between VEGF-165a and VEGF-165b. A new treatment to regulate this balance and promote new blood vessel formation could improve clinical care for millions of patients around the world.

Led by a highly impressive team with deep biotechnology expertise, IsomAb has an exciting future ahead. Jackie Turnbull, IsomAb’s CEO, has over 35 years of experience in the global biotech and pharmaceutical industry. From a dual listing in London and Singapore to the sale of Ziylo to Novo Nordisk, Jackie has negotiated deals totalling over $4b. Alongside the CEO sits a hugely experienced board of directors, chaired by Paul Edwards MBE, and a multitalented management team with deep scientific, clinical and drug development capabilities.

Our funding will enable the team to advance pre-clinical development of the lead antibody and progress towards clinical trials. With the potential to transform the lives of millions of patients around the world, we are excited to be backing IsomAb alongside fellow investors, Broadview Ventures and Science Creates Ventures.