- Uniseed makes £200,000 investment in Exonate as part of £1.5 million round from existing and new investors
- Exonate awarded £4.9 million from the Wellcome Trust ‐ Seeding Drug Discovery Initiative
- Program to develop eye drop treatment for wet age‐related macular degeneration (wet AMD)
Brisbane, Australia, 7 February 2017: Uniseed, a venture fund operating at the Universities of Melbourne, New South Wales, Sydney and Queensland, and the CSIRO, is pleased to announce an initial investment of £200,000 in to drug development company Exonate Ltd.
Uniseed’s investment in Exonate was made alongside the University of Bristol Enterprise Fund, managed by Parkwalk; Martlet of Cambridge; Wren Capital as well as further Angel investors, with the total capital raised being just under £1.5 million. These funds will supplement a Wellcome Trust Seeding Drug Discovery Initiative Grant of £4.9 million (approx. AU$7.9 million). The investment and Wellcome Trust funds will be used to support the next stage of preclinical research and development of Exonate’s first therapeutic area of interest ‐ an eye drop for the treatment of wet Age‐related Macular Degeneration as a much needed alternative to the current treatment by eye injections.
Uniseed Chief Executive Officer, Peter Devine, said: “Uniseed is pleased to be investing in Exonate which was formed on the basis of a medicinal chemistry programme at the University of New South Wales and cutting edge translational research from the Universities of Bristol and Nottingham. Exonate’s novel small molecule approach to treating age related macular degeneration has the potential to have a significant clinical impact on patients who suffer from this disease, and increasing incidence with an aging population.” He further added: “This investment has also provided a unique opportunity for Uniseed to get in at the “ground floor” of a drug development program that has been de‐risked by being supported by the world’s largest pre‐eminent medical research charity funding research into human health”.
Exonate Ltd was formed in 2013 through a collaboration between the Universities of NSW, Bristol and Nottingham. Exonate has licenced intellectual property originating from research discoveries at the University of NSW as well as the two UK universities. Associate Professor Jonathan Morris from the Department of Chemistry at UNSW has been collaborating with the Prof David Bates from the University of Bristol (and then Nottingham) since 2012 on the discovery and development of novel drugs targeting the treatment of age related macular degeneration, the leading cause of severe vision impairment in people aged over 40 years.
Exonate is a privately held, early stage, biotech, company spun out of the University of Nottingham that is focused on Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF). The Company has grown significantly in the last year as it welcomes investment and input from an increasing global market. Exonate undertakes medicinal chemistry in laboratories in the University of New South Wales which is led by Jonathan Morris and in January 2017, the Company welcomed Dr John Kurek from new investor Uniseed to its Board of Directors. Exonate continues to be funded from the University of Nottingham and also has links with the University of Bristol. Exonate continues to have strong links with Cambridge Angels and have offices based in Cambridge, laboratories in Nottingham and collaborations with laboratories in India.
It aspires to successfully deliver medicines in areas of unmet need, such as ophthalmology, pain, nephropathy and cancer, by targeting diseases through regulation of VEGF isoforms/variants that are both protective and disease promoting. Exonate’s lead program is focused on wet Age‐Related Macular Degeneration, known as wet AMD, which is the leading cause of vision loss in people aged 60 and older. The Company is founded on scientific excellence with strong links to Prof. David Bates and his lab at Nottingham University specialising in the biology and biochemical pathways of VEGF splice variants.
Exonate is led by an experienced, international management team that has worked together previously, successfully raising capital for start‐ups and early stage companies over many years. Management has cross‐disciplinary experience in medicine, finance, drug development and the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. CEO Catherine Beech, OBE, has over 25 years biotech/pharma experience including 12 years in big pharma leading development programs in cardiovascular, Parkinson’s disease and HIV. Exonate is her 4th role as CEO of an emerging biotech company and she also has extensive experience as a non‐executive board director.
Uniseed is a venture fund operating at the Universities of Melbourne, Queensland, New South Wales and Sydney, as well as the CSIRO. Uniseed’s mandate is to facilitate the commercialisation of research partner generated intellectual property by targeted investment in highly promising technologies. Uniseed’s investments cover a range of technology sectors. To date, the fund has exited four investments through trade sales; a drug to treat nerve pain (Spinifex Pharmaceuticals acquisition by Novartis for US$200M up‐front plus milestone payments); a drug in development to treat fibrosis (Fibrotech Therapeutics sale to Shire plc for US$75M up‐front plus milestone payments), an IT security technology (Vintela sale to Quest Software Inc. for US$75M) and a semi‐ conductor technology (Fultec sale to Bourns Semiconductor Inc) and one investment (Hatchtech) through an asset sale to Dr Reddy’s Laboratories in a deal worth $200M. A number of companies in Uniseed’s investment portfolio have products on the market, including Hydrexia, BT Imaging and Smart Sparrow), while other companies are collaborating with leading global companies in their respective fields (Nexgen Plants, Q‐Sera, TenasiTech). For more information, go to www.uniseed.com.
About wet Age‐Related Macular Degeneration (wet AMD)
Today, wet AMD is a leading cause of vision loss in people aged 60 years or older and affects more than 30 million patients worldwide. If untreated patients are likely to lose sight in the affected eye within 24 months of disease onset.
The main currently available treatment options for wet AMD are:
- anti‐VEGF antibody drugs – to prevent the growth of new blood vessels in the eye. Unlike small molecule drugs or eye drops these treatments must be injected into the eye once every 1 or 2 months. Resistance can develop to these drugs causing the disease to progress anew.
- laser surgery – to destroy abnormal blood vessels in the eye. This type of surgery is only suitable if blood vessel damage is not too extensive and if the abnormal blood vessels aren’t close to the fovea, as performing surgery close to this part of the eye can cause permanent vision loss.
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