Cell encapsulation start-up enables the shipment of human cells at room temperature, overcoming problems of cryo-shipping
30 April 2018 — Cambridge and Newcastle, UK –– Atelerix, a spin-out from the University of Newcastle and creators of an innovative cell encapsulation technology, today announces it has closed a round of funding to take its cell storage products to market. The company is commercialising the transformative hydrogel technology for the storage and transport of viable cells including stem cells and cell-based assays at ambient temperatures. This overcomes the barriers presented by the current need for cryo-shipping as it is simple, cell-friendly and offers immediate access to cell therapy.
Atelerix’s technology is used to assist companies that sell cells and tissues, use cells and tissues to discover and test new drugs and develop cell therapies, and companies that store stem cells. As an example of the market application, Atelerix has recently announced its work with the LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI), the largest eye care network in India which has treated 24 million people over the last 30 years, and which is developing a stem cell treatment for reversal of corneal scarring. At present, the shelf life of isolated cells is 6-8 hours so LVPEI can only treat patients close to the eye bank in Hyderabad. Atelerix is able to extend the shelf life of cell therapy products for corneal blindness from 8 hours to 5 days, meaning that LVPEI may now be able to transport cells to treat patients throughout Asia.
The investment round was led by UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund (UKI2S), formerly known as Rainbow Seed Fund, and new investors including Newable Private Investing and Oxford Technology Management. Dr. Andrew Muir of UKI2S, who has joined the board of Atelerix, says “As a founding investor, UKI2S is delighted to see Atelerix well-positioned to complete the development of its proprietary platform and launch its products into two large markets. Based on great science, the company’s products have relevance to large growing markets of pre-clinical research and cell-based therapy.”
Atelerix was spun-out of Newcastle University with the support of specialist science investor UKI2S. Founder Che Connon’s academic research was supported by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), a UKI2S partner.
Atelerix is managed and led by CEO Mick McLean who has more than 25 years’ experience in the life sciences industry; Founder and CSO Che Connon who has 20 years of experience in extracellular matrix biology and 15 years in stem cell therapy; and Stephen Swioklo who has worked in the field of stem cell research for more than 10 years.
Professor Che Connon, Atelerix‘s scientific founder, commented: “Encapsulating cells in the alginate hydrogel is a simple system capable of preserving the viability and functionality of cells at temperatures between 4 and 21°C for extended periods of time. Used as a method of cell storage and transport, it overcomes the acknowledged problems associated with cryo-shipping. Cells are encapsulated by in situ formation of the gel for shipping in plates or vials, and can be rapidly released from the gel by the addition of a simple buffer.”
- Predictability and reliability in drug discovery models and for cells used as therapies
- Extended shelf life for currently short-lived cell therapy products
- Customers can use cells and assays immediately on arrival
- No need for cryopreservation, nor need for cytotoxic or animal-derived supplements
- Cells retain their natural state and are not damaged or altered
UK-based Atelerix has developed a method of encapsulating human cells and tissues in an alginate hydrogel that makes them practical to use, adaptable and easy to store and transport – even at room temperature. Used as a method of cell storage and transport, it overcomes the acknowledged problems associated with cryo-shipping. Cells are encapsulated by in situ formation of the gel for shipping in plates, vials or beads, and can be rapidly released from the gel by the addition of a simple buffer.
About UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund (UKI2S)
Since the Fund’s inception in 2002, UKI2S has been investing in the earliest and riskiest stages to build world-leading companies from world-leading UK science.
As a leading ‘patient capital’ investor with more than £330 million private investment leveraged to date, UKI2S invests in promising technology companies that stem out of the UK’s engineering and high-quality science research. UKI2S works closely with its partners — led STFC, BBSRC and NERC, which are all now part of UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) and Dstl — and is aligned with the Catapults and Innovate UK to create the best environment for innovation to flourish and in turn, boost the UK’s competitiveness and productivity by commercialising key technological advances in industrial biotech, ag tech, healthcare, medicine, clean energy, materials, artificial intelligence, software and space.
UKI2S’s portfolio showcases a number of ‘world’s firsts’ ambitions and includes two companies named by the World Economic Forum as ‘Technology Pioneers.’ For more information, please visit www.ukinnovationscienceseedfund.co.uk.