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Spinout scoops £2m to test drugs with 3D lung

ImmuONE team
Image credit: ImmuONE

A University of Hertfordshire spinout that has created a 3D model of a human lung to test drugs has secured £2m in capital from Mercia Ventures’ MEIF Proof of Concept & Early Stage Fund.

The human lung replica was developed by Dr Abigail Martin at the university during her PhD studies and with her supervisor Professor Victoria Hutter. The pair formed ImmuONE based on their research, with the spinout creating the artificial lungs lab by growing them from lower lung tissue and immune cells.

Founded in 2019, the spinout has achieved revenue of more than £1m and currently has approximately 20 customers using its lung replica, which can replace animal testing.

According to the startup, current drug safety assessments are based on animal testing or through the “invasive process” of lung-scraping.

“Having worked on drug development projects that involve animal testing, I’ve seen the difference that new drugs can make to patients’ lives,” said Martin. “However, I felt there had to be a better way and set out to look for an alternative.

“Our model not only enables companies to move away from animal testing but also improves safety for patients too.”

Aside from drug research, its artificial lungs can be used for testing in the cosmetic and chemical industries.

Having secured the investment, ImmuONE is not looking to move out of its base at the University of Hertfordshire to a dedicated headquarters in Milton Keynes, along with labs in Stevenage. In addition, the spinout aims to add six more people to its team.

Hannah Tapsell from Mercia Ventures said: “Around 90% of drugs shown to be safe and effective in animals do not work as planned in humans, which is one reason for the high failure rate in drug discovery. With growing demand for more effective testing models and pressure from consumers to replace animal testing, ImmuONE fills a clear gap in the market.”

Read more: A UKTN guide to university spinouts