Knowledge intensive investments focus primarily on innovation. The UK is perfectly placed to build on its high quality academic and scientific foundations to generate start-up companies with fantastic scientific ideas that will be developed into high value assets.
o2h ventures have been privileged to be able to invest in a number of these fledgling businesses.
Innovations come in many guises. Our focus has been in therapeutics, machine learning/artificial intelligence (ML/AI) and to a lesser extent digital technologies/therapeutics.
Here we take a brief look at some of the investments our flagship human health EIS fund has invested in over the last 18 months:
Oxford Drug Design (ODD) is a company whose foundation was built on the pioneering work of Professor Graham Richards at Oxford University. In the coming years antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is going to be a potential threat to society, ODD has reacted and used its proprietary computational capabilities to filter large databases of virtual chemicals to select new start points for a key antibacterial project. They have rapidly improved the original chemical start points they found and subsequently been awarded up to $11M in grant funding of which a significant proportion comes from CARB-X, highlighting the value others have seen in their approach.
Exonate are spun out from the universities of Bristol and Nottingham, exploiting world leading biological research into alternative splicing. Through the support of o2h’s discovery group, the Exonate team were rapidly able to develop a clinical candidate for wet Age Related Macular Degeneration, a disease that impacts the vision of a large proportion of the elderly population. Although treatments exist, these require frequent injections directly into the eye. Exonate’s approach will be a less invasive eye drop and the fundamental biological hypothesis should provide a stronger pharmacological response. This resulted with them doing a deal with J&J at the start of this year and their candidate has recently started clinical trials.
SomaServe was founded based on innovation from UCL in the area of formulations. We originally invested into the company with a strategy to develop the technology as a service to support research. However, the company has pivoted their strategy as Abcam were able to use their own sales and marketing infrastructure to support this purpose, allowing the team to start collaborations looking into the therapeutic application of the technology, demonstrating innovation at a business as well as scientific level.
The COVID pandemic has impacted everyone and our portfolio companies have responded accordingly. Working closely with the o2h group our portfolio companies have been working on COVID-19 applications of their technology.
AIVIVO, a ML/AI start up quickly evaluated all available drugs in its database and used their proprietary platform to share the drugs it felt could potentially be used to help anyone struck down by the virus.
Increasingly this year we have seen an increase in the number of high quality Biotech opportunities. Cortirio is developing portable brain imaging which can be used at the scene of an injury to reduce time-to-treatment and save lives. Traumatic brain injury treatment, which kills 1m and leaves 7.5m disabled per annum. Fast treatment vital for head injuries, but 40% not recognised within 12 hours.
As we approach 2021 we have some exciting opportunities to complete lead investments into and are looking forward to supporting British innovation.