Monday, April 27, 2020 - 20:15
Avectas, an Irish based cell engineering technology business founded at Maynooth University, has completed a significant new Series C equity funding of approximately $20 million, bringing the total equity invested in the business to date to $40 million. The funding was led by existing shareholders, including Seamus Mulligan, an experienced biopharmaceutical executive.
The funds raised in this latest equity round will be used to accelerate the clinical translation and commercial scale-up of Avectas’ proprietary cell engineering technology platform (Solupore®). To support this next phase of its activities, Avectas will also expand its commercial, regulatory and technical organisation with new hires in Ireland and the U.S., as Covid-19 related conditions permit.
“We are delighted to have completed our largest ever funding and are appreciative of our investors’ continued support at a time when scientific advances are more critical than ever,” said Michael Maguire, Ph.D., Avectas’ Chief Executive Officer. He continued “Building on our recent collaborations, this Series C funding allows us to make further investments in our technology and organisation to address a significant market need in the rapidly growing gene and cell therapy market.”
MaynoothWorks is Maynooth University's Business Innovation and Commercialisation Centre for advanced technology start-ups. Speaking today Michael Maguire, Ph.D. said: “MaynoothWorks and Maynooth University have played a key role in the development of Avectas to date. The company has been based in MaynoothWorks since the start. We’ve benefitted significantly from the support of MaynoothWorks and from the very positive and supportive environment which they’ve created for new enterprises like ourselves.”
Cell and gene therapies offer the potential to transform the treatment of diseases, including cancer, for millions of patients worldwide. However, new cell engineering technologies are urgently needed to enable these cutting-edge therapies to achieve their potential. Avectas’ patented Solupore® technology addresses it’s academic and commercial partners’ need for an efficient, non-viral cell engineering solution. The technology achieves excellent engineering efficiencies for delivery of a broad range of payloads (including mRNA, DNA, proteins and gene editing tools) to primary T cells and NK cells for immuno-oncology and gene editing applications.
Ray O’Neill, Vice President for Research and Innovation at Maynooth, said: “Avectas is a wonderful example of successful innovation that wouldn’t have happened without superb initial scientific research. Dr Shirley O’Dea carried out basic cell biology research, funded by SFI through their Investigator programme, that sought to understand important questions related to the cell biology of lungs. Shirley subsequently won funding for interdisciplinary work under the EU FP7 Industry-Academic Partnership and Pathways programme, and Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation programme, to develop the technology that became the basis for Avectas. The University and MaynoothWorks are proud to have worked with and supported Avectas in their journey so far.”
Mary Martin, Ph.D., Avectas’ Executive Chair, commented: “Ireland has a deep history in the pharmaceutical and biotech sector and I am excited to see it build on that legacy with companies like Avectas, which are at the cutting edge of the new cell and gene therapy sector.”
This funding raise follows an excellent first quarter for Avectas. In March 2020, the company announced both the issuance of a U.S. Patent core to its cell engineering technology and a collaboration with Vycellix to advance next-generation solutions for the optimized manufacture of cell & gene therapies. The company also announced, in February, that it had entered an agreement with the centre for commercialization of regenerative medicine (CCRM) based in Toronto, Canada to accelerate the translation of Avectas’ non-viral cell engineering
platform (Solupore®) into the clinic. In January 2020, the new competence center for next-generation NK cell-based cancer immunotherapy (“NextGen-NK”) established at Karolinska Institutet (“KI”), Stockholm, Sweden welcomed Avectas as a collaborative partner.
Founded in 2012 by Dr Michael Maguire and Dr Shirley O’Dea, Avectas is a cell engineering technology business developing a novel delivery platform to enable the ex-vivo manufacture of its partners’ gene modified cell therapy products, which will retain high in-vivo functionality. Avectas employs 29 people including 19 with doctorate degrees in Ireland. The vision of Avectas is to be a leading non-viral cell engineering technology provider, integrated into manufacturing processes for multiple autologous and allogeneic therapies, commercialised through development and license agreements. For more information, please visit the Company's website at: www.avectas.com
Senior figures in Avectus have strong educational links with Maynooth University: Dr Maguire, the company’s CEO, has more than 20 years of experience in the life sciences industry, serving as a founder, investor, director and business leader. Dr Maguire graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, as a biomedical engineer, and completed his PhD at the interface between engineering and the life sciences at Maynooth University, on local drug delivery to the lungs.
Dr O’Dea, the company’s CSO, is charged with overseeing scientific programs. Dr O’Dea’s basic research provides a strong pipeline of applications for Avectas technology. She has previously served as a principal investigator with Johnson & Johnson and has led a large academic group specialising in lung biology at Maynooth University.
Dr Gillian Hendy, who leads the Avectas business development team, obtained a PhD in Chemistry from Maynooth University and is a former postdoctoral fellow of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).