OxStem’s strategy for stem cells therapy inside the body could have a big impact in regenerative medicine – and it has raised €21.4M, a record for a UK spin-out.
A spin-out of Oxford University, OxStem is developing cell programming therapies that could treat a range of usually age-related conditions – dementia, heart failure, macular degeneration, diabetes and cancer.
The company is based on research in the fields of chemistry and stem cells, led by Oxford Professors Kay Davies, Angela Russell and Steve Davies – who already features in the ranks of ‘spin-off sultans’.
OxStem has now raised over €21.4M (£16.9M) – a record for UK academic spin-outs. Besides Oxford Sciences Innovation (the huge technology transfer company of Oxford University), investors include Human Longevity – backed by Craig Venter and already involved in other European projects.
OxStem’s strategy uses a new class of small molecules that can modulate or stimulate endogenous cells – awakening dormant cellular processes. These include repair and stem cell functions.
Most therapies in the area of stem cell treatments manipulate cells in vitro, and are then transplanted back in the patient. For example, this is the case with the allogeneic therapies of TiGenix (Belgium) and gene therapies like those of Orchard Therapeutics (which recently raised €26M).
However, having an in vitro procedure means that the therapy can only be administered in hospitals with specialized laboratories to harvest and culture stem cells. The advantage of a small molecule therapy is that it can be administered to the patient and work inside the body.
These small molecules have applications in many conditions, and the company is planning to spawn out a series of daughter companies for each area: OxStem Cardio, OxStem Neuro, OxStem Ocular and OxStem Oncology.
In this Russian doll scheme, the oncology spin-spin-out is the most advanced. It is targeting therapy-resistant cancers and starting its research into acute myeloid leukemia (ALL) and myelodysplastic syndromes.
OxStem’s development strategy is quite ambitious – but it seems to have an initial funding and founders’ track record to match.