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Aberdeen shark blood life sciences firm Elasmogen gets £8m boost

Elasmogen chief executive Caroline Barelle
Elasmogen chief executive Caroline Barelle

Elasmogen, the Aberdeen life sciences company developing drugs derived from shark blood, has received an £8 million boost to help take its pioneering research to the next level.

The cash injection is from BGF, the Scottish National Investment Bank (Snib) and Scottish Enterprise (SE).

Elasmogen’s next-generation biologics for inflammatory, autoimmune diseases and oncology have the potential to significantly improve the health of people in Scotland as well as globally.”

Simon Comer, investment director, Scottish Investment Bank.

Elasmogen’s innovative products are based on its patented soloMER “binders”.

These bind proteins to DNA and are derived from antibody-like molecules found in the immune systems of sharks.

They are extremely small and robust, which makes them ideal for being put into individual cells.

The “biologics” developed by Elasmogen are believed to have the potential to be 10 times more effective than existing therapies for conditions including some cancers, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

Elasmogen researcher Obinna Ubah.

Caroline Barelle led the spin-out of the company from Aberdeen University in 2016 and has guided it since then as chief executive.

Ms Barelle, who in 2018 was recognised as a “rising star” at the Scottish Life Sciences Awards, said securing the new investment was truly “transformational” for the firm.

She added it would allow Elasmogen to progress its first soloMER drugs into the clinic, as well as “bolster and advance our exciting product pipeline”.

Elasmogen’s CEO continued: “This success story is testament not just to the potential of our technology platform but absolutely by the quality, commitment and drive of the Elasmogen team as a whole.

“With the opening of the new BioHub here in Aberdeen later this year, an initiative led by Opportunity North East, combined with this investment and the quality of our new and existing investors, the company is well-positioned to make a significant impact in the therapeutic biologics arena.”

BGF’s growing life sciences portfolio

Backed by some of the UK’s leading banks, BGF has invested more than £100 million in a range of ground-breaking medical technology companies.

BGF investor Keith Barclay said the former Business Growth Fund was “proud” to further expand its “thriving” life sciences portfolio by supporting Elasmogen and its “standout” management team.

Elasmogen’s research and “exciting” drug pipeline made the firm an extremely attractive investment opportunity, Mr Barclay said.

BGF investor Keith Barclay.

He added: “The soloMER technology has the potential to immeasurably better the lives of patients through new, more targeted therapies, and its platform offers opportunities for commercial partnerships as well as a growing in-house pipeline of therapeutic programmes.”

Snib investment director Simon Comer said the bank’s investment was in line with its mission to harness innovation and would help to promote Aberdeen as a centre for drug innovation and development.

Mr Comer added: “Elasmogen’s next-generation biologics for inflammatory, autoimmune diseases and oncology have the potential to significantly improve the health of people in Scotland as well as globally.”

SE entrepreneurship and investment director Kerry Sharp said: “We’re pleased to provide Elasmogen with further backing, having supported the earliest stages of its development through our High Growth Spinout Programme and helped it continue to innovate throughout the pandemic via the Early Stage Growth Challenge Fund.

“This round will allow the company to expand its clinical trials and unlock more opportunities for growth and investment.”

Elasmogen secured grant funding from SE and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council in 2014.

The firm has since raised upwards of £9m from investors, such as Deepbridge Capital, and grant funding bodies including Innovate UK, to support the development of its soloMER technology and to facilitate growth into key markets.

The company has also established commercial partnerships, including those with Northern Irish drug firm Almac Discovery and London-headquartered Intract Pharma.

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