Glasgow University spin-out will use funds to advance development of microRNA therapeutics.
Causeway Therapeutics, a University of Glasgow spin-out specializing in tendon disease has raised £8.75 million from investors to conduct an international Phase 2 clinical trial of its lead compound, TenoMIRä in lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow).
Professor Declan Doogan, an experienced pharmaceutical executive, biotech entrepreneur and an alumnus of the University of Glasgow Medical School, led the round of investment which included existing investors Mediqventures, Scottish Enterprise and Glasgow University Holdings Ltd.
Longevity.Technology: While tennis elbow might not seem an obvious longevity-related term, anything that limits the amount of exercise you undertake can affect your longevity. Tennis elbow is characterized by inflammation and microtearing of the tendons that join the forearm muscles on the outside of the elbow and while most people who get tennis elbow are between the ages of 30 and 50, anyone can get tennis elbow if they have the risk factors.
The older you are, the harder it is to treat lateral epicondylitis effectively; this is because the injury is superimposed upon tissues have have already been compromised by age-related change.
“One in ten people will suffer from tendinopathy during their lifetime. There is no approved therapy for tendinopathy – this is a neglected area with a high degree of unmet medical need,” Doogan said.
“TenoMIRä has shown positive effects in the first human trial. These Phase I results were truly impressive and gave me the confidence to lead this financing round personally and to take an active role in the company’s operations.” As part of this round, Doogan will become Causeway’s Executive Chair.
TenoMIRä is a therapy that mimics a natural small RNA molecule called microRNA-29a (miR29a). Injury-induced loss of miR-29a in damaged tendons is a critical factor in the development of tendinopathy. Treatment with TenoMIRä restores cellular miR-29a, switching off disease pathways active in tendinopathy. In a recent Phase 1b study, TenoMiR appeared safe and well tolerated in patients with lateral epicondylitis.
Causeway’s co-founder and CEO, Dr Derek Gilchrist, another Glasgow alumnus, said, “Based on our previous studies, we were confident that TenoMIRä would improve symptoms associated with tendinopathy. We were therefore encouraged by the signs of efficacy observed in TenoMiR’s Phase 1b trial.
“As a company, we’re excited by the potential of TenoMIRä; however, as someone with tennis elbow, I also understand its importance from the perspective of a future patient. Securing investment allows Causeway to continue TenoMiR’s development in a Phase 2 multi-centre trial in the US, Netherlands, and UK, which is a significant step towards TenoMiR’s ultimate approval for the treatment of tendinopathy.”
Professor Iain McInnes, Causeway co-founder and Vice Principal and Head of College of Medical, Veterinary & Life Sciences at Glasgow University, a world leading expert in rheumatological and musculoskeletal diseases said, “It is gratifying to see the progress this team has made since the company was spun out of the University. The quality of the science and medical execution is superb, and we are proud that this University of Glasgow spin-out is showing such encouraging results.
“Causeway has been supported by the University and its IP & Commercialization team by both grants and equity, starting with a 2015 Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept Grant and continuing to GU Holdings’ participation in this recent equity raise. It is my hope that Causeway can become a pillar of a Glasgow start-up ecosystem and a Scottish Biotech Unicorn.”
Professor Neal Millar, Professor of Orthopaedics at the University of Glasgow and Causeway Therapeutics co-founder personally led the successful Phase I trial and will be Principal Investigator for the upcoming clinical trial which will be conducted in the UK, the Netherlands, and the US.
Millar, an internationally-recognized expert in tendon disease, said “We have designed this Phase 2 trial to be acceptable as one of two randomized and well-controlled trials which will be required to register TenoMIRäas a new drug. We took pains to include centers across the world and to specifically include subpopulations of athletes and normal patients. Our Phase I trial used ultrasound tissue characterization as an endpoint in an interventional trial, and I am excited to continue exploring how this novel imaging modality can help us understand how repairing tendon structure impacts the course of disease.”
This high-performance development team led by Doogan is based primarily in Glasgow but supported by an experienced board of experienced drug developers in the UK and the US.
Ahead of today’s announcement, Longevity.Technology spoke to Professor Doogan. to find out more.
“I believe exercise is one of the most important areas to address as we age,” he told us. “Pain, stiffness, and frailty prevent people from staying active, and we want to change the course of diseases like sarcopenia, relieve any issues, and get people back to full function.”
“We consider this to be a new treatment modality – there’s nothing else like this out there and today’s announcement will alert pharma that there is an unmet clinical need.”