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BioWorld-Today

Publication: BIOWORLD Today by Nuala Moran, Staff Writer | Date: March 8th, 2016

Antibody firm Capella raises $15.5M for novel targets, good biology

LONDON – The U.K.’s latest antibody company, Capella Biosciences Ltd., announced the closing of an £11 million (US$15.5 million) series A round, providing the funding to take the lead program through to phase IIa development by the end of 2018, and to complete preclinical development of four other products.

That follows an initial investment of £1.5 million seed funding in 2014, with which, rather than shaping up an existing body of academic research, Capella Chief Operating Of cer (COO) Steve Holmes was charged to go out and prospect for five therapeutic antibody projects around which to form a company. The seed money came from the founding investors, Advent Life Sciences and Medicxi Ventures (then Index Ventures). As Holmes explained, the idea was to draw on his experience, and that of the VC backers, to select the best monoclonal antibody projects.

“The key was the targets; they had to be novel, and to have good biology to go with them,” Holmes said.

Antibody generation has now advanced to the point where a number of platforms are available and in that sense products are commoditised.

“We are agnostic about platforms. Making antibodies is relatively straightforward; it is the targets that make the difference,” Holmes told BioWorld Today. “[Products] could be fully human or mouse, it depends what we want to get out of the antibody,” he said.

From initial prospecting in 2014, London-based Capella has advanced to the point of having lead panels of antibodies for its top three programs and has in-licensed target biology for a further two programs.

The first program, in in amatory bowel disease, rests on research from Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in La Jolla, Calif. Although not revealing any details, Holmes said that is a known target in which Capella is aiming at a particular aspect of the biology that has not been exploited previously.
“It happens to be a difficult concept for developing an antibody, but we’ve got initial [constructs],” Holmes said. The second program, in fibrosis, is based on intellectual property from Leeds University.

If target biology is now the key to antibody drug development, the central requirement in its selection is expertise in therapeutic targets.
Holmes has some form here, being former COO of murine antibody company Kymab Ltd. and of Domantis Ltd., and heading the monoclonal antibody group at Smithkline Beecham plc and then Glaxosmithkline plc, during the pioneering decade from 1990 to 2001. Capella’s clinical and scientific advisory group include antibody doyen Don Drakeman, founder of two leading U.S. and European companies, Medarex Inc. (acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. for $2.4 billion in 2009) and Genmab A/S. Meanwhile, Kevin Johnson, partner at Medicxi and board member at Capella, was head of research at Cambridge Antibody Technology plc, a corporate foundation stone of the monoclonal antibody therapeutics sector.

In addition to reflecting the maturity and quality of monoclonal antibody platforms, Capella exemplifies the asset-based investment strategies of the founding VCs. Rather than making an initial investment in forming a company, the two invest in taking on half-formed assets and shaping them up to be suitable for pharma pipelines. The focus then is on conducting a program of research that will validate – or not – a particular asset, with the aim of establishing proof of concept in around three years for an investment of around $20 million.

“The intention with our five therapeutic monoclonal antibodies, is quick in, quick out. This is a really good model for a start-up; we have been completely funded by Advent and Medicxi from nothing,” Holmes said.

“In fact, we started one program and dropped it after five months and found a substitute – so we are very lethal. But with the last five targets everything has worked,” said Holmes.

The intention will be to and commercialization partners at an early stage, and Holmes said he expects to be ready to start the hunt for partnerships before the end of the year. The profile and connections of the investors and the board means Capella “can go straight to the top” when trying to attract big pharma, he added.
Joining the founding investors Advent and Medicxi in the series A is Philadelphia-based Osage University Partners, a VC specializing in the commercialization of academic research.

The series A investment in Capella is Medicxi’s rst since splitting from Index Ventures and launching a new $250 million fund dedicated to early stage European research in February. (See BioWorld Today, Feb 3, 2016.).

M2

Publication: M2 Pharma | Date: March 8th, 2016

Capella Bioscience revealed on Monday that it has completed a GBP11m Series A financing round agreement.

The company added that the round was financed by Advent Life Sciences, Medicxi Ventures and Osage University Partners.

Under the financing, the new capital will support continued advancement of Capella Bioscience’s novel therapeutic antibody discovery programmes towards clinical evaluation.

In conjunction with the financing agreement, Bill Harrington of Osage University Partners will join the Capella Bioscience board in an observer role.

According to Capella, it has received seed funding from Advent Life Sciences and Medicxi Ventures to employ proprietary technologies to discover, develop and commercialise monoclonal antibody medicines to difficult and novel drug targets.

Finsmes

Publication: FinSMEs | Date: March 8, 2016

Capella Bioscience Closes £11M Series A Financing

Capella Bioscience Ltd., a London, UK-based developer of monoclonal antibody medicines, closed a £11m (approx. $15.5m) Series A financing round.

The round was led by Advent Life Sciences, Medicxi Ventures, and Osage University Partners. In connection with the financing, Bill Harrington of Osage University Partners will join Capella’s Board in an observer role.

The company intends to use the funds for continued advancement of its novel therapeutic antibody discovery programs towards clinical evaluation.

Led by Steve Holmes, COO, Capella leverages novel technologies to develop monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) to innovative and therapeutic targets in oncology and autoimmune disease. Founded in 2014, the company had raised £1.5M in seed funding from Advent Life Sciences and Index Ventures.

SeeNews

Publication: SeeNews France | Date: March 8th, 2016

UK’s Capella Bioscience raises GBP 11m in fresh capital

March 8 (SeeNews) – UK monoclonal antibodies developer Capella Bioscience Ltd announced on Tuesday the completion of a Series A funding round that has generated GBP 11 million (USD 15.7m/EUR 14.2m).

The new capital comes from Advent Life Sciences LLC, Medicxi Ventures and Osage University Partners. As part of the investment, Bill Harrington of Osage University Partners will become a member of the Capella Bioscience board, serving in an observer capacity, the statement said.

Capella Bioscience, which was established in 2014, will use the new funds to advance further its therapeutic antibody discovery programmes. The company focuses on therapeutic targets in the oncology and autoimmune disease areas.

BioCenturyExtra

Publication: BioCentury Extra | Date: March 9th, 2016

Capella raises L11 million series A

Capella Bioscience Ltd. (London, U.K.) raised L11 million ($15.6 million) in a tranched series A round with Advent Life Sciences, Medicxi Ventures and Osage University Partners. Capella’s lead program is a first-in-class antibody that inhibits an undisclosed target involved in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Osage’s Bill Harrington joined Capella’s board as an observer. Advent and Index Ventures seeded the biotech in 2014. Index’s life sciences team launched Medicxi this year (see BioCentury, Feb. 8)

Manufacturing-Chemist

Publication: Manufacturing Chemist | Date: March 8th, 2016

Capella Bioscience completes Series A financing of £11m

London, UK-based monoclonal antibody developer Capella Bioscience has closed a £11m (US$15.5m), Series A financing round.

Advent Life Sciences, Medicxi Ventures, and Osage University Partners have provided the finances.

The company said the new capital will progress its novel therapeutic antibody discovery programmes towards clinical evaluation.

‘We are delighted to receive this support from a strong and knowledgeable syndicate of investors to progress our development programmes,’ said Steve Holmes, COO of Capella.

‘In addition to providing significant financial resources, these experienced investors bring Capella a wealth of operational, medical, and industry expertise along with key relationships that will serve the company well during this important stage of growth and development.

Scrip

Publication: Scrip by Sukaina Virji  | Date: March 9th, 2016

Capella Series A Marks Medixci’s First Move

Capella Bioscience Ltd. has raised £11m in a series A round financed by Advent Life Sciences, Medicxi Ventures and Osage University Partners. The company was seed financed in 2015 with £500,000 from Advent and Index Ventures.

Index spun off its life sciences team, portfolio companies and funds into new venture capital firm Medicxi in February this year, so this financing marks Medicxi’s first excursion.

However, as a follow-on financing, the cash for Medicxi’s contribution comes from Index Life 6 (IL6), the predecessor to Medicxi’s €210m inaugural fund MV1, which has yet to make its first investment.

The new capital will finance Capella’s novel therapeutic antibody discovery programs into preclinical development, Medicxi’s Kevin Johnson told Scrip.
“We looked where the holes were, where the opportunities were, around target biology – targets that we knew were interesting and there was a lot of biology around them, but the molecules that had been derived so far all fell short in some way.” Capella investigated five programs, and Johnson revealed that one in autoimmune disease looks particularly interesting, and another in fibrosis. The other programs are not being pursued.

Index (now Medicxi’s) “asset-centric” investment model will be fully incorporated into Capella’s future. “We will only be pursuing one program into Phase I.” Johnson has found that this focus on one asset yields better results than when a company pursues “multiple shots on goal.”

On adding Osage to the investor syndicate, Johnson and colleagues had “never heard of” the US VC firm prior to the series A. “They tracked us down because of their interest in this autoimmune target.”

Osage usually partners with top research universities to invest in innovative start-ups, and was made aware of Capella’s work through an academic connection.

FierceBiotech

Publication: FierceBiotech John Carroll | Date: March 7, 2016

Capella Bio harnesses a virtual global team to a targeted antibody R&D strategy

Don’t look for Capella Bioscience to try and compete with anyone in terms of staff size and facilities.

The year-old, London-based biotech fledgling is operated by one full timer–chief operating officer Steve Holmes–aligned with a trio of investors/advisors who have all known each other for years, three CROs and two academic group collaborators split between the U.S. and the U.K. The venture investors have now put up a $15.7 million A round to fund a lineup of preclinical programs aimed at cherry picking one very promising antibody that can be taken into clinical development in a couple of years.

Over the past year, Holmes and his partners have been sussing out the potential of new antibodies that are being aimed at some hard targets. Antibodies, of course, are not new in biotech. And Capella isn’t claiming  the creation of any radical new antibody platform tech.

“Antibody development can be routine,” says Holmes, a veteran of Domantis, GSK and Kymab. The big opportunity is finding the right target, complete with the kind of biomarkers and genetic profiles that can clearly illuminate commercial potential at an early stage of development.

“The target is the key,” says the COO of the virtual biotech, “not the technology for getting there.”

Holmes is working with three key venture figures: Raj Parekh with Advent Life Sciences, Don Drakeman, who co-founded Medarex and Genmab before joining Advent, and Kevin Johnson, a partner at Medicxi Ventures, made up of the life sciences team at Index, which recently split from the tech group to focus on biotech. Johnson’s background includes his own work in antibodies, including a stint at Cambridge Antibody Technology, or CAT, which was acquired by AstraZeneca.

Advent, Medicxi and Osage University Partners put up the funds.

In many ways Capella is a great, perhaps extreme, example of the kind of R&D work that Medicxi–which just completed a $230 million fund–likes to invest in. The team is skeptical of the showy, $100 million-plus megarounds that have become popular in biotech on both sides of the Atlantic, preferring to stick with lean-and-mean biotechs/projects run by experienced execs sharing relationships that can extend back decades. Familiarity with the science is given a premium, all ambitious development efforts are considered hard and risky and if something doesn’t work, they’re quick to get out and go hunt up something new. Overhead tends to stay tight and low, if not semi-claustrophobic. It helps that the academic collaborators in San Diego and the U.K. are doing much of the work, along with the CROs, and the investors are providing some hands-on assistance as Holmes offers up the targets.

Right now, there are two lead preclinical programs being worked on at Capella, focusing on Crohn’s disease/ulcerative colitis and fibrosis, with two backups in the works. And if a pharma company likes what it sees over the next couple of years, Capella and its backers will be ready to talk terms as it tinkers with the early-stage pipeline.

To be sure, antibody development may be somewhat routine now, but KaloBios set out with a plan to build an antibody company based on existing tech, and after repeated failures finds itself trying to regroup in bankruptcy. That cautionary tale underscores the notion that antibody development is harder than it may look at first blush.

“It’ll come down to the commercial attractiveness, or otherwise, of what we develop,” noted Medicxi’s Kevin Johnson in a message to me. “We have a few heavy duty mab/Pharma people such as Don Drakeman associated with the company. But the main thing is we’re not wedded to any particular technology or target. We started with several targets and specified up front what characteristics a mab would need be truly outstanding, and shot for that. If we didn’t get it, fine, we killed the program and moved on. What we have now is a couple of programs that have survived (we didn’t expect any of them to work actually) and will cherry pick one of those to develop further.

“What we have left looks pretty exciting in my opinion!”

PEI

Publication: Private Equity Investor | Date: March 15, 2016

Capella Bioscience in £11m Series A financing for antibody pipeline

Capella Bioscience has closed an £11 million ($15.61; €14.07 million) Series A financing which will be used to fund its novel therapeutic antibody drugs programme.

The round was financed by Advent Life Sciences, Medicxi Ventures, and Philadelphia based Osage University Partners. Capella was set up by Advent Life Sciences and Medicxi Ventures with the aim of finding, developing and commercialising monoclonal antibody medicines to counter a range of rare diseases.

The immuneoncology drugs space has been attracting investor interest in recent months following the approval and recent trial successes of drugs by pharmaceutical firms BMS and Merck. Last week, Abingworth coled a $43 million Series B funding round for Tizona Therapeutics, which also has a monoclonal antibody drug programme aimed at boosting the immune system’s ability to fight back against cancerous tumours.

Advent Life Sciences general partner Raj Parekh said: “Our investment to support the development of antibodies against a variety of high value targets at Capella is based on strong scientific research, combined with an experienced and capable drug development team.” Following the raising, Bill Harrington of Osage University Partners will join the board of Capella in an observer role.

Osage University Partners (OUP) is a venture capital firm that invests in startups and aims to commercialise products produced by leading research universities. It invests in technology and life science companies at both the early and late stages of their development, and has so far partnered with over 70 universities and invested in over 40 of their spinouts. The firm is part of Osage Partners, which manages total assets of around $400 million. Last month, Medicxi Ventures span out of Index Ventures Life Sciences with the close of the €210 million Medicixi Ventures