The UCL Technology Fund (UCLTF), UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund (UKI2S), alongside support from Innovate UK, have invested in UCL spinout company Glialign Ltd, which is developing a novel cell therapy for peripheral nerve repair.
Hundreds of thousands of people every year are affected by severe peripheral nerve damage, resulting in paralysis and loss of sensation, often accompanied by chronic pain. Current therapies are successful in fewer than half of cases and often require grafting of a nerve from another part of the body.
Dr James Phillips, UCL School of Pharmacy, and his team at the UCL Centre for Nerve Engineering, have developed an allogeneic (‘off-the-shelf’) cell therapy for the repair of peripheral nerve injury called Engineered Neural Tissue (‘EngNT’). EngNT will provide a living nerve-growth guide that mimics nerve structure, and has the potential to enable both neural regeneration and functional recovery.
Dr Phillips explains that: “By controlling the natural ability of cells to organise themselves within soft materials we are able to generate living artificial tissues that can be used to support and guide nerve regeneration. Glialign uses EngNT made with cells developed in collaboration with ReNeuron that are suitable as an off-the-shelf therapy for the immediate treatment of patients with nerve injuries. This overcomes the limitations of nerve grafting where healthy nerves need to be destroyed, and also reduces the delay and variability that would be associated with using a patient’s own stem cells.”
Glialign CEO, John Sinden commented: “A key translational milestone was achieved following the completion of a collaborative grant with ReNeuron and TAP Biosystems (now Sartorious Stedim Biotech), bringing together EngNT technology with clinically validated neural stem cells from ReNeuron and manufacturing technologies from TAP. Early validation of this technology combination has recently been published. The award of an Innovate UK Investment Accelerator grant will demonstrate the clinical potential of EngNT and its commercial viability.”
UCLTF’s unique Proof of Concept funding model has supported key product development steps, with the additional funding from UKI2S and from Innovate UK, as part of its ‘Investment Accelerator Pilot’, enabling crucial in vivo experiments to demonstrate the efficacy of the improved construct. Success on these studies will be a key step towards bringing this innovative cell therapy to the clinic.
UKI2S Investment Director Oliver Sexton commented: “Glialign’s technology addresses a major unmet patient need and may help patients with peripheral nerve damage recover. UKI2S’ investment and Innovate UK’s support allows GliAlign to de-risk the technology, gathering data to support product approval and hastening its availability.”