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Newcastle biotech nets funding to replace animal drug testing

Newcells Biotech CEO Mike Nicholds
Mike Nicholds. Image credit: Newcells Biotech

A Newcastle spinout that has created 3D models of human body parts to replace drug testing on animals has secured a £2.35m follow-on investment.

Newcells Biotech has developed models that mimic processes in the human body. Pharmaceutical companies can run tests on these models – which include the retina, kidney and lung – instead of animals.

It then provides data to pharmaceutical customers, who have run tests in areas including gene therapy and toxicity screening.

It comes as the US introduced a new law last month that eliminates the requirement for drugs to undergo testing in animals before moving to human trials.

Dr Mike Nicholds, CEO of Newcells Biotech, said the company is now working with over 100 customers “including large pharma and biotech companies”.

The company was founded as a spinout from Newcastle University by Nicholds and Professor Lyle Armstrong in 2015.

The funding came in the form of follow-on investment from previous backers, including the North East Venture Fund, Mercia, and Northstar Ventures.

Newcells Biotech said the latest injection of capital will fund imaging technology that provides more granular data over a shorter timespan.

It also plans to add an extra 10 people to its 49-strong team throughout the year. The latest funding brings the total raised by Newcells to £12m, including a £5m funding round in 2021.

“By improving the models available to scientists, Newcells is not only helping pharma companies to avoid the use of animals but also to improve the efficiency of drug development and deliver new therapies to patients,” said Alex Simpson of Mercia Ventures.

It marks the latest investment for North East biotech spinouts. MarraBio secured £500,000 in September, while Northumbria University spinout PulmoBioMed raised £1.4m earlier this month.

Last year, spinouts from Newcastle University secured a record £40m in investment.

Read more: UKTN’s North East regional tech report