Innovative drug production project secures funding from Technology Strategy Board

PolyTherics, a biopharmaceutical spin-out company from Imperial College London and the London School of Pharmacy, has announced that it has secured £350,000 in funding from the Technology Strategy Board.

  The award, one of the first since the Technology Strategy Board assumed responsibility for the government's collaborative research and development programme, will enable PolyTherics to work with Avecia Ltd, a leading contract development organization and manufacturer of biopharmaceuticals.  The companies will collaborate on a two year project worth over £800,000 to develop new systems for the production of therapeutic antibody fragments that could ultimately lead to widespread availability of effective, low cost drugs for diseases such as, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and macular degeneration.

Existing antibody drug products are highly successful in treating life threatening and serious diseases but they are difficult to produce and expensive – therefore, availability to patients is limited.  To date, the systems that have been developed in order to produce smaller, less costly, components of antibodies (antibody fragments) all suffer from the disadvantage of reducing the half-life of these drugs in patients - meaning that the drugs do not remain active in a patient's body for long enough to be effective and patients have to be given frequent doses. 

Over the next two years, PolyTherics and Avecia will work to develop and demonstrate a systematic process for the cost-effective production of antibody drug products that are more stable than existing products and have a longer life, eliminating the need for frequent treatment of patients and reducing side effects. 

PolyTherics has already developed patent-protected proprietary technologies and substantial expertise in the modification of drugs to improve their performance.  The Company's innovative PEGylation technology, known as TheraPEG™, can extend the half-life of novel and existing protein drugs.  The TheraPEG™ approach produces an improvement in biological activity and a higher yield than the existing PEGylation technologies.  This means that drugs, such as Interferon, stay active in the body for longer, enabling longer periods between doses.  

The market for traditional PEGylation has expanded considerably and PolyTherics' TheraPEG™ technology is positioned both to address existing markets and open new markets, particularly in the antibody field.  PolyTherics has revenue-generating development contracts in place with several companies and is in discussion with a number of other parties.

Dr Keith Powell , CEO of PolyTherics, said: “We are delighted to have secured Technology Strategy Board funding and to be working with Avecia.  This programme will enable PolyTherics to develop products using our TheraPEG™ technology, a pioneering approach to improving the in vivo properties of proteins, which is already in pre-clinical development for more traditional protein therapeutics.” 

Dr John Liddell, Head of Process Science at Avecia, said: “We are very pleased to be collaborating with PolyTherics on this project, which will allow us to combine our award-winning pAVEway™ protein expression technology with new approaches to therapeutic antibody fragment optimization and purification for the benefits of our major pharmaceutical customers and, ultimately, patients.”

David Way , Operations Director at the Technology Strategy Board, said: “The Technology Strategy Board supports the research and development of technology and innovation that both increases economic growth and has the potential to improve quality of life.  We are delighted to support this important project, which brings together the skills of two innovative pharmaceutical companies who are leaders in their fields.  Their work should speed up the drug development process and could lead to more widespread availability of new, effective drug products that will be of major benefit to many thousands of patients.”

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