PhoreMost secures £11m investment to help it drug 'undruggable' diseases
CEO Chris Torrance says it's time for a shake-up in pharma model as Morningside joins investors
PhoreMost, the Babraham Research Campus-based life sciences firm targeting “undruggable” disease targets, has concluded an £11million Series A investment round.
The original investors in the firm, which was founded as a university spin-out from the laboratory of Ashok Venkitaraman in 2015, were all on board – Amadeus Capital Partners, Cambridge Enterprise, cornerstoned by Parkwalk Advisors, plus PhoreMost chairman Jonathan Milner. The addition of new investor Morningside Ventures sees chairman and CEO Dr Gerald Chan – once described as “Boston’s secret billionaire” – join PhoreMost’s board.
Dr Chris Torrance, CEO of PhoreMost, said: “We are thrilled to have the support of our existing investors and Morningside in enabling PhoreMost to move into its next exciting phase of growth. Their funding and shared vision is a key part of PhoreMost becoming a fully-fledged ‘ethical’ drug discovery company; bringing a greater diversity of therapies to patients, more quickly and at prices they can afford.”
“Dr Chan is well known to Hermann Hauser (Amadeus’ co-founder and director) and is highly recommended by Hermann,” added Dr Torrance, “and he really likes what we’re trying to do.”
Morningside announced on the same day that it was investing $26million (£19.2million) in Chesterford Research Park-based CellCentric.
PhoreMost’s model is disruptive in that it challenges conventional wisdom about the price of many drugs and the time taken to bring them to market. The firm’s SITESEEKER® platform both identifies the best new therapeutic targets for any chosen disease setting and rapidly identifies how to develop novel drugs to them. This proprietary platform and PhoreMost’s growing network of academic disease area experts and drug discovery collaborators has potential to significantly increase the diversity and affordability of novel treatments for cancer and other unmet diseases.
Dr Torrance, who co-founded Horizon Discovery in 2007 with Professor Alberto Bardelli, suggests there is a lot of duplication in the pharma sector.
“I started Horizon Discovery 12 years ago and this is my second start-up continuing the scientific drive for better approaches to discovering novel disease treatments,” Dr Torrance told the Cambridge Independent. “I do think the pharma model is creaking and it’s time for a shake-up. Nowadays you need a network to rationally and efficiently develop drugs in a much more complex biological world. Combining our core SITESEEKER® technology with a diverse network of like-minded academic and SME collaborative partners – perhaps even including the NHS in time – will allow us to both rapidly access the diversity and critical mass of expertise required to bring a greater array of new medicines efficiently to market in the future and importantly, create a more ethically aligned system to routinely pass those savings onto patients.
“Good ideas are mainly already coming out of academia and small companies, so they (big pharma firms) are not doing anything no one else can do. Many portfolios are pretty similar so there’s a lot of wasted effort. It feels like the right time for a change and we will only ever do first-in-class drug discovery programmes to unmet diseases at PhoreMost ”
Looking ahead, PhoreMost is not only targeting cancer.
“You have to look at the next big issues for society. With significant in-roads now being in cancer treatment with new ‘immunotherapies’ and hopefully aided by PhoreMost’s first spin-out company in this area called NeoPhore, other diseases of ageing, such as neuro-degeneration, will become even more pressing areas to better address. . So that’s the next spin-out, but we’re certainly considering several other unmet disease areas as well.”
Dr Jonathan Milner, chairman of PhoreMost, said: “PhoreMost is now working with pharma and biotech partners in drug discovery, applying its SITESEEKER® platform to identify cryptic druggable sites, which would otherwise be impossible to find, and has the potential to significantly increase the diversity and affordability of novel therapeutics for cancer and other unmet diseases.
“This (£11m) investment will fund the next phase of PhoreMost’s development, and I would like to welcome new investors Morningside, joining at this exciting time.”
Dr Hermann Hauser, co-founder, Amadeus Capital Partners, commented: “PhoreMost is an important disrupter in the pharmaceutical industry with the potential to improve the lives of millions suffering with untreated conditions. Since our original investment in 2016, PhoreMost has validated the concept behind its unique platform and developed a pipeline of candidate drug discovery assets. We’re delighted that Gerald Chan is joining the team of investors helping PhoreMost to realise its potential”.