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Bristol biotech bags £3.5M to develop next-gen cell therapy cancer treatment

CytoSeek

Healthcare has progressed rapidly in recent years, thanks to the latest technological innovations. New cancer therapies are being developed at a rapid pace, and Bristol-based CytoSeek is one such startup. It’s a discovery stage biotech developing the next generation of cell therapies to treat cancer due to solid tumours.

The biotech startup has now bagged £3.5 million seed funding to accelerate the commercialisation of its Artificial Membrane Binding Protein (AMPB) technology, which will be used to discover the potential of immune cell therapies for treating solid tumours. The funding round was led by the newly established deep tech fund Science Creates Ventures (SCV). This firm includes a syndicate composed of Parkwalk, Melltwind, Luminous Ventures, UKI2S and angels. 

Founded in 2017 by Professor Adam Perriman, CytoSeek is a University of Bristol spin-out  that is currently led by experienced biotech CEO Dr Carolyn Porter. In a conversation with UKTN, Porter tells us more about the startup, the innovations it’s working upon and more. 

Unlocking the potential of cell therapies 

Solid tumours are said to account for the majority of deaths from cancer and are notoriously difficult to treat, even with existing immune cell therapies. This is because the tumour suppresses immune cells’ ability to kill cancer cells. CytoSeek’s technology aims to help target the immune cells to the solid tumour and improve their cancer cell killing ability.

“We are seeking to unlock the potential of cell therapies by applying our innovative technology to overcome their current limitations in treating patients suffering from cancer due to solid tumours. These therapies are currently limited in their effectiveness by the hostile environment in the tumour. Our technology is seeking to enhance the effects of cell therapies when they are at the tumour site and decrease the suppressive effect of the tumour environment both combining to drive the development of new therapies for cancer patients,” Porter says.

If the startups’ technology enables cell therapies to treat patients suffering from cancer due to solid tumors, it could potentially help save lives. 

Entrepreneurs behind the scenes

Carolyn brings 20 years of leadership experience from a career spanning startup, biotech and pharma companies. In the startup space, she led the formation of 16 companies raising £52 million cumulatively in seed financing while in a previous role at Oxford University. She also held Board positions in several biotech companies and before joining CytoSeek in January 2020, Carolyn was Chief Business Officer of OxStem Ltd, a developing biotech therapies targeting stem cells. 

On the latest investment, Carolyn Porter says, “We are excited to be SCV’s first investment. This raise is critical for us to accelerate development of our pipeline of AMBP enhanced cell therapy products to first in-human clinical studies for patients suffering from solid tumours such as breast or renal cancer. It will also enable us to expand the application of our technology to multiple immune cell types, double our workforce and take on new facilities.”

Adam Perriman is a Professor of Bioengineering, and is an internationally distinguished multidisciplinary researcher. With particular expertise in the construction of novel synthetic biomolecular systems, Adam raised £8 million in research grants, and currently heads a research group of 21. Adam earned the 2016 British Biophysical Society Young Investigator’s Award and Medal, 2016, and was named a Wellcome Trust’s Frontiers Innovator in 2015. 

Perriman has published 31 papers in the past 5 years. His research into the development of novel biomaterials was featured nationally and also led to a nationally-broadcast interview on BBC4.

Working with Science Creates and the future

CytoSeek benefitted from SCV’s Unit DX incubator. Porter views Science Creates as the glue that enables individual companies to succeed by providing not only an incubator but also, investment and support and a mechanism to share its experiences for the benefit of the ecosystem stakeholders.

With Science Creates Ventures, CytoSeek avails multiple elements on offer via Science Creates including incubator facilities at Unit DX, its associated business support and investment capability.  Porter notes that the combination makes the Science Creates offering more compelling than organisations who focus on providing one element of the package.

Talking about the future, Porter says, “We want to get our technology available for cancer patients who are currently underserved by existing treatments and also work with partnering organisations to make their therapies better.”  Besides, the startup intends to create value for its shareholders that can be recycled into the ecosystem both in terms of finance and in fostering talent that can drive future generations of new companies.