11 April 2017
The UCL Technology Fund (UCLTF), which provides funding and support for UCL’s most transformative innovations, has approved an investment of up to £1m to support Professor Adrian Thrasher, Professor Bobby Gaspar, and Dr Giorgia Santilli’s development of gene therapy for p47phox-deficient chronic granulomatous disease (p47-CGD) through to a clinical trial in which it could potentially cure patients completely of this devastating disease.
p47-CGD is a rare genetic disorder in which the ability of immune cells to clear infections is compromised. As a result, patients with p47-CGD suffer from recurrent, severe and life-threatening bacterial and fungal infections, as well as widespread tissue inflammation. The severe infections can include skin or bone infections and abscesses in internal organs such as the lungs, liver or brain, and in some cases the immune over-activity causes inflammatory bowel disease.
Although improvements in infection control have seen significant increases in lifespan for patients with the genetic mutations underlying p47-CGD, lifetime antibacterials and antifungals are required, and even then patients repeatedly face hospitalisation for periods of 4-5 weeks at a time due to failure of prophylaxis. The only current curative therapy – bone marrow transplantation – is a risky option for many patients because of the scarcity of fully matched donors, and even then the procedure itself has a significant rate of complications.
Prof Thrasher and his colleagues at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health have developed a potentially curative, ex vivo gene therapy for p47-CGD, based on technology designed by Dr Santilli in-house. This is already in clinical trials in the US and Europe for the X-linked form of CGD and is showing very encouraging early results. In a number of preclinical experiments, Prof Thrasher and team have shown that their new gene therapy has the potential to restore normal immune function in p47-CGD. The funding provided by the UCLTF is intended to support completion of final preclinical steps and to take the therapy to a first-in-man, proof-of-concept clinical trial.
Support for this project is enabled by UCLTF’s innovative investment model. In addition to providing funding and commercial support for traditional university spinout companies, UCLTF also provides investment finance for translational projects which have significant commercial potential, by which funding is provided directly to academic labs such as Prof Thrasher’s team. This approach enables university research groups to de-risk technological development of their projects, carrying them through to a much later stage and increasing the probability of achieving more substantive licensing outcomes.
About the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health
The UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (ICH), together with its clinical partner Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH), forms the largest concentration of children’s health research in Europe. The inspirational mission of the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health is to: “improve the health and well-being of children, and the adults they will become, through world-class research, education and public engagement”.
For further information, please visit www.ucl.ac.uk/ich
About the UCL Technology Fund
The UCL Technology Fund is dedicated to investing in intellectual property commercialisation opportunities arising from UCL’s world-class research base, focusing in particular on the physical and life sciences. The Fund supports UCL in achieving the full potential of innovations that have prospects for outstanding societal and market impact, right through the development journey from initial proof of concept to practical commercial application. The Fund is managed by Albion Ventures, one of the largest independent venture capital investors in the UK, in collaboration with UCL Business.
For further information please visit: www.ucltf.co.uk
About UCL Business PLC
UCL Business PLC (UCLB) is a leading technology commercialisation company that supports and commercialises research and innovations arising from UCL, one of the UK’s top research-led universities. UCLB has a successful track record and a strong reputation for identifying and protecting promising new technologies and innovations from UCL academics. UCLB has a strong track record in commercialising medical technologies and provides technology transfer services to UCL’s associated hospitals; University College London Hospitals, Moorfields Eye Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and the Royal Free London Hospital. It invests directly in development projects to maximise the potential of the research and manages the commercialisation process of technologies from laboratory to market.
About Albion Ventures LLP
The wider Albion group has just under £1 billion funds under investment management or administration and is a long term investor in UK businesses, from start-ups through to FTSE 100 companies. In addition to six Albion VCTs, it manages the UCL Technology Fund and provides management services to Albion Community Power PLC and Albion Care Communities.
Funds managed by Albion Ventures LLP invest between £250,000 and £12 million into high growth businesses.
For further information please visit www.albion-ventures.co.uk