Antibody research graduates from a top Oxford lab into the biotech world — with $34M to fund R&D work
For the past 15 years the University of Oxford’s Simon Davis has been mapping the surface of T cells, exploring and examining the structures of surface proteins while determining what it takes to manage specific immune cell signaling. And now a group of UK investors says its ready to advance that research toward the clinic, inside a new biotech vehicle they’re setting up to take the tech into the commercial sphere.
Enter MiroBio, stage left. The newly crafted company has raised $34 million to launch their antibodies into the clinic. Oxford Sciences Innovation and Samsara Biocapital co-led the round, joined by Advent Life Sciences and SR One.
The plan is to use Davis’ insights — and preclinical antibodies — to hijack the natural mechanisms used to control immune cells for the purpose of targeting relevant diseases. And while the research has had obvious applicability in oncology — where cell therapy evangelists are looking to develop the next wave of more sophisticated therapies — MiroBio is starting out in autoimmune diseases, where errant attacks on healthy tissue trigger some major market ailments.
“If you look at things from an investors perspective” against a backdrop of intense research activity in oncology, says Executive Chairman Eliot Charles, “the real opportunity near term was autoimmune disease.”
Not that they aren’t interested in oncology.
For now, though, the emphasis is using the expertise at the venture groups to guide the company while they build out their team in the UK and follow up on the in vivo models that Davis worked with. And the first goal is resetting the immune system when it goes awry, as happens in autoimmune diseases.
Charles — an Amgen vet who’s now a venture partner at SR One, jumped on the phone with me early Monday to discuss the work with VP Operations Tim Funnell. Samsara’s Bob Stein has stepped in as interim CSO as they follow up on 4 programs in-licensed from Davis’ lab, building out the initial team of 6 staffers to 15 or so.
The investor group has worked together on various projects through the years, says Charles, which is how the transatlantic syndicate came together to back Davis’ work in a startup.
On his website, Davis notes:
Our present goals are (1) to show that the kinetic segregation model does indeed explain T-cell receptor triggering, and (2) to use the idea to develop new types of therapeutic antibodies. The signaling concept is being tested using structural approaches and super-resolution imaging techniques, such as dSTORM. For this, the behavior of T-cell surface proteins is being studied at contacts with glass surfaces and supported lipid bilayers, in collaboration with Professor Klenerman. New, potentially therapeutic superagonistic antibodies are being developed and licensed to industry in collaboration with Professor Richard Cornall.
It’s early days, of course, but that process has inspired a spinout with big plans. And they have enough cash to get to human studies on the lead, while building up a pipeline behind it.