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Morphogen-IX: £18.4m investment will boost PAH medicine

By Mike Scialom

Morphogen-IX, whose disease-modifying MGX292 drug candidate has significant potential in the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), has completed a £18.4million round of financing.

The Series B was led by Medicxi, alongside investments from Cambridge Innovation Capital and Cambridge Enterprise.

Morphogen-IX, which is based at Babraham Research Campus, is a University of Cambridge spin-out biotechnology company focused on the development of bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) for the treatment of PAH.

The investment will support formal preclinical development of its lead candidate, MGX292, and initiation of clinical trials by 2021.

MGX292 is a protein-engineered variant of BMP9 that has proven highly effective and safe in extensive preclinical studies. It is the first agent with the potential to be truly disease-modifying and to transform the lives of patients with PAH.

The company was founded in 2015 by Professor Nick Morrell, Dr Wei Li and Dr Paul Upton.

Prof Morrell said: “This major investment, following closely on the nomination of MGX292 as our drug candidate, will support the critical next steps of preclinical development and take us all the way through to completion of phase II studies over the next three to four years. MGX292 has major disease-modifying capability that is badly needed for patients suffering from pulmonary arterial hypertension.”

David Grainger, chairman of the Morphogen-IX board and chief scientific advisor at Medicxi, added: “The power of human genetics identifying the centrality of BMP9 in PAH, together with structure-driven engineering to create a protein that can be administered safely, places Morphogen-IX in a world-leading position to develop the first agent capable of halting, or even reversing, the progress of this terrible disease. We are working with many of world’s leading experts in PAH to get MGX292, already the subject of patent applications, into the clinic as quickly as possible.”

Kevin Johnson, partner at Medicxi, said: “MGX292 has the potential to transform the outlook for patients.”

Robert Tansley, operating partner at Cambridge Innovation Capital, said: “CIC is delighted to continue to support Morphogen-IX, a company built on the world-leading science of Professor Morrell and his team, to translate this potentially transformative medicine into the clinic.”

Cambridge Innovation Capital participated in the Series A funding round, which raised £1.5million in October 2015.

Anne Dobrée, head of seed funds at Cambridge Enterprise, said: “It is exciting to see outstanding and impactful research spun-out from the University of Cambridge taking a step closer to bringing a therapeutic benefit to patients.”

Prof Morrell told the Cambridge Independent: “We are ‘virtual’ but we are firmly based at Babraham.

“We outsource a lot of R&D activity and project management to RxCelerate, a fantastic and growing research organisation also based at Babraham. Being a virtual company means that we have have little in the way of overheads or staff of our own, which means we can make best use of the capital investment to concentrate on the process of drug development and getting to the key milestones unencumbered with the usual distractions that exist in a larger company.”

PAH, a rare but devastating disease in which blood vessels in the lung narrow and close, ultimately leads to heart failure. In many patients the disease has a genetic cause that reduces the protective function of the native BMP9 protein in the blood.

The method by which MGX292 is administered is yet to be configured.


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