- New investment of £1.2M brings total Seed funding to £5.1M including Innovate UK grants of £1.9M
- Investment led by Cancer Research Horizons, the innovation engine at the core of Cancer Research UK
- Recent Innovate UK New Cancer Therapeutics grant award of £1.6M enables progression into development in collaboration with Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult
London, UK, 25 July 2023: NK:IO, a leader in natural killer (NK) cell biology applied to the development of exceptionally potent, off-the-shelf cell therapies targeting solid tumours, has raised £1.2M. This brings total equity financing to £3.2M and will enable the company to reach key milestones in progressing its differentiated NK cell therapy candidates into development. The £3.2M equity funding is in addition to £1.9M grants awarded comprising the recent Innovate UK New Cancer Therapeutics award of £1.6M and a previous Innovate UK Accelerator grant of £300,000. The current investment round was led by Cancer Research Horizons (through its Seed Fund*) and included the Imperial College Enterprise Fund, Start Codon, UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund and Meltwind.
NK:IO is based on pioneering discoveries in NK cell biology from Hugh J M Brady, Professor of Immunology and Matt Fuchter, Professor of Chemistry, at Imperial College. NK:IO is exploiting these in its unique platform which activates blood stem cell progenitors to yield industry-leading NK cell tumour-killing potency and very high yield cell production, which it believes will be transformative in cancer cell therapy. In addition, this platform enables efficient engineering of progenitor cells to enable the production of next-generation NK cells for further increases in potency or tumour targeting, which NK:IO is progressing for certain hard to treat tumour subtypes.
The company was founded in December 2020 by Hugh J M Brady, Matt Fuchter, and Mike Romanos, an experienced industry executive and entrepreneur. The Board is chaired by Keith Thompson CBE, former CEO of the UK’s Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult. The company’s first indication targeted will be ovarian cancer, in collaboration with Prof. Iain McNeish, Professor of Oncology at Imperial College, Director of the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre and a leading expert in the field.
The investment will be used to drive NK:IO’s cell therapy candidates through full pre-clinical testing. This includes development of a manufacturing process in collaboration with the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, whose mission is to support the UK’s cell and gene therapy industry.
Mike Romanos, Co-Founder and Interim CEO, said: “We are very excited by the potential of NK:IO’s platform to address unmet needs in cancer cell therapy, including solid tumours, and to revolutionise the field. We are delighted by the support of our investors, including Cancer Research Horizons, who have joined to lead the round. Our recent success in securing non-dilutive funding under Innovate UK’s ‘New Cancer Therapeutics’ program further endorses this vision.”
Tony Hickson, Chief Business Officer at Cancer Research UK and Cancer Research Horizons, commented: “Cancer Research Horizons believes that NK:IO’s technology, based on pioneering research from Imperial College, has transformational potential for cancer patients. We are delighted to support the company’s progression and excited to work with the team as they progress to the clinic.”