LONDON (Reuters) - The drug research field of cell therapy received a boost on Friday when British biotech company ReNeuron raised 68.4 million pounds ($106 million) to help fund its work into stroke, blindness and cancer.
ReNeuron, which has been toiling away at developing stem cell treatments since being founded in 1997, said it was the largest funding round in the cell therapy sector globally this year.
The company uses stem cells from a tissue bank that were originally derived from an aborted foetus, rather than embryos, to produce “off-the-shelf” treatments for patients.
Its over-subscribed share placing, priced at 5 pence a share, or a 2.5 percent premium to the July 9 closing level, underscores investor interest in a technology that could upend care for several serious diseases.
Fund manager Neil Woodford is among those backing the company and his Woodford Investment Management group is raising its stake in ReNeuron through the placing to an estimated 35.5 percent.
ReNeuron’s chief executive, Olav Hellebo, said the cell therapy field had been lagging somewhat behind gene therapy in the past two years but was catching up.
“What has really been lacking in the cell therapy field is controlled clinical data and that’s really what we are doing now,” he told Reuters. “It’s not done yet but it definitely has the potential to offer new therapies.”
The placing will provide funds for ReNeuron’s core cell-based programs and its new exosome nanomedicine program in cancer until the first half of 2019.
The company’s most advanced cell therapy products are designed to treat patients left disabled by stroke and people with a blindness-causing disease of the retina called retinitis pigmentosa.
Detailed clinical data from both programs are expected in 2018, implying potential marketing approvals in 2019 — if all goes well. Analysts view the projects as high-risk but potentially high-return.
Shares in ReNeuron jumped 18 percent on news of the successful placing.
Editing by Keith Weir