WideCells Group PLC, which makes stem cell treatment accessible and affordable for families, is on the brink of launching its products into the market after raising £2 million by floating on the London Stock Exchange.
Based at The University of Manchester Innovation Centre (UMIC), WideCells Group has created the first global stem cell insurance policy which is anticipated to finally make stem cell storage services mainstream, and treatment, which is currently very expensive, affordable.
Stem cell storage enables parents to bank their babies’ umbilical cord blood so that in the future, should a member of their family become ill with a stem cell disease such as leukaemia, they can be treated using a stem cell transplant.
WideCells Chief Executive Joao Andrade, who co-founded the WideCells Group with Chief Operating Officer Lopes Gil, said: “We are a mission driven company and want to make stem cell treatment accessible and affordable.
“The problem in the stem cell industry today is that around three million people all over the world have paid around £2,000 to store their babies’ stem cells in private stem cell banks to protect family members against future illness and life-threatening diseases such as leukaemia.
“What most people are unaware of though, is that stem cell transplants can cost up to £300,000.
“Private health insurance today in national health care services worldwide is mainly focused on bone marrow transplant because it generally costs less than cord blood, and there’s no private health insurance that provides cover for umbilical cord blood stem cells on a global scale.”
Joao, 35, added: “Some families are facing the challenge of paying £2,000 to store their babies stem cells, plus a potential £300,000 bill.
“Now though, after four years spent building the first global stem cell insurance policy, CellPlan, it will cost families £2,000 to collect, process and store cord blood, plus an insurance policy that costs £150 per annum on average.
“For that £150 per year, families get a second medical opinion from the best stem cell specialists in the world, access to the best treatment centres and a policy which covers all the costs associated with treatment up to 1m Euros a year, including travel to the best stem cell transplant centre for that particular patient, the transplant procedure, accommodation and associated bills.
“We believe this will enable cord blood stem cell transplantation services to go mainstream, which is why we are currently building and will be opening a laboratory facility at our Manchester headquarters in the first quarter of 2017.”
Doctor Peter Hollands, Chief Scientific Officer of WideCells Group, will head up the laboratory at UMIC.
He said the IPO has allowed WideCells Group to further develop its ground-breaking insurance product as well as enter into a partnership with the University of Westminster.
“We are developing short stem cell e-learning courses, with the University of Westminster, for healthcare professionals,” said Dr Hollands.
“But we are entering this exciting commercialisation stage after four years of very hard work.
“The development of the insurance product has been an incredible amount of work.
“People have been talking about this concept for years but no one has actually achieved it. But we’ve done it and have become a public company too.”
He added: “I’ve been in stem cell technology for 30 years now in teaching, research and clinical practice.
“What I’ve seen over that time is the underuse of stem cell technology across the board.
“What we are doing here is my ultimate dream if I’m being honest.
“In Manchester, at the University of Manchester’s Innovation Centre (UMIC), we are creating a state-of-the-art clean room for stem cell processing and for stem cell research. We have a research project ready to start as soon as everything has been licensed by the Human Tissue Authority.”
WideCells is targeting around 100,000 clients to take out the CellPlan insurance policy within three years. The Group is also aiming for 5,000 clients to use the stem cell storage division over the next three years.
WideCells Group employs 30 people across its three divisions in Manchester, Madrid and Brazil.
Joao said the Group will initially sell storage services directly to parents looking to store their babies’ stem cells, in the UK, Portugal and Spain.
“It’s impossible to build a business such as WideCells – which has three divisions and seven products and has just been listed on the London Stock Exchange – without passion as problems come up every day which you have to tackle straight away,” he said.
“UMIC have been fantastic and very supportive in every aspect possible and it’s a pleasure for us to be based at UMIC and in Manchester.
“We have the benefit of being associated with the University of Manchester which is very well thought of around Europe and the world.”
- Age 35
- Born in Brazil, lives in Porto
- Has worked for UK-based stem cell banks for the past nine years and is mainly involved in international business development
- Co-founded WideCells in 2012 as Chief Executive of the Group
Doctor Peter Hollands
- Chief Scientific Officer, WideCells Group
- Peter carried out his PhD in stem cell technology in the early 1980s when modern stem cell technology was virtually non-existent
Peter trained at Cambridge University with Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe, who received the Noble Prize for the development IVF for infertile patients
The University of Manchester, through its Innovation Company (UMI3), has signed a licensing and research agreement with Douglas Pharmaceuticals that could save the lives of millions of women around the world suffering from early stage cervical cancer.
The deal initially sees New Zealand-based Douglas Pharmaceuticals sponsor research at the University to develop the cervical cancer treatment further. Then Douglas will manufacture the therapy and drive further development, clinical trials and commercialization on an international basis, focusing initially on a multi-centre phase 2 clinical trial in the UK.
Douglas is a family owned company headquartered in Auckland, New Zealand which is committed to improving health outcomes through price containment and accessibility to complex generic medicines developed in-house for international markets.
A burgeoning interest in drug repurposing is evidenced in the current collaboration with The University of Manchester.
Douglas Managing Director, Jeff Douglas, said: “We are delighted in the collaboration with The University of Manchester, in this promising treatment of early stage cervical cancer. We are confident in the research
team which consists of Dr’s Ian and Lynne Hampson and Dr Pierre-Martin Hirsch, who is President Elect of the British Society of Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology and we look forward to progressing the Phase 2 trial with them.”
“Douglas is committed to building strong relationships in medical research for global markets with a particular emphasis on medicine repurposing.”
Chief Scientific Officer, Mark Fletcher, added: “Drug repurposing is a sweet spot for Douglas right now. We are building on our competencies in medicine formulation and have the means to fund such opportunities at least to the point of completion of proof-of-concept clinical trials in man.”
“My team are actively engaged in the search of repurposing opportunities where we can add value to first class evidenced based medical research and Manchester is a great example of our growth in this space.”
The deal is based on the work of husband and wife team Ian and Lynne Hampson – both molecular virologists at the University – who discovered that a drug, commonly used to treat HIV, might prevent early stage cervical cancer.
The researchers found that the drug was active against strains of human papillomavirus (HPV), which cause virtually all cases of cervical cancer.
With the help of former PhD student, Dr Innocent Orora Maranga, they carried out a successful phase 1 clinical trial in Kenya using an oral form of the drug as a pessary.
Ian said: “The HIV drug is applied directly to the cervix to catch cervical cancer in its early stages. This should reduce the need for invasive and costly surgical procedures currently used in the wealthier nations.
“When we treated Kenyan women suffering from early stage cervical cancer, we found that it wiped out pre-cancerous cells in 65 per cent, and reduced the severity of disease in 15 per cent of the trial participants with virtually no side effects.”
Lynne added: “This new non-invasive treatment has the potential to provide a revolutionary self-help therapy for women with pre-cancerous changes in the cervix.
“For poorer countries that lack surgical facilities and where the disease is most common, it could be a massive game changer.”
Professor Ian Greer, Vice President and Dean of the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health at the University is delighted with the Douglas deal and is excited about the next steps as it ‘illustrates our commitment to the University’s and the Northern Health Science Alliance role in tackling global health problems’.
Dr. Rich Ferrie, Director of Operations at the University’s technology transfer division, UMIP, said: “I am delighted that we have partnered with Douglas Pharmaceuticals to drive the clinical development of this exciting cervical cancer therapy, which offers hope for millions of women globally who are at risk of cervical cancer. Douglas’s experience, infrastructure and know-how will be critical success factors in our collaboration. My colleagues Ian and Lynne Hampson are already working closely with Pierre and Douglas to design the phase 2 trial which will commence in early 2018.”
From l to r: Dr Rich Ferrie, Drs Lynne and Ian Hampson, Dr Pierre-Martin Hirsch
Following the success of Round 1 we are now seeking to ignite a new generation of individuals interested in pursuing a social business:
- Are you currently working or studying at The University of Manchester or a recent graduate?
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Funding from £500 – £2000 is available, for individuals to try out or grow their entrepreneurial ideas. This might mean finding out if your idea is viable, learning more about what is needed to develop the idea by testing the project on a small scale, right through to more robust road-testing of the idea. We also provide one to one support to assist you with your applications and informative workshops for successful applicants.
The funding opportunity is open to all members of staff, academics, research students and recent graduates (graduated within the last 2 years) from The University of Manchester.
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Click Social Enterprise Ignition Fund Application Form-final to download an application form and contact Social.Enterprise@umip.com for further information.
MANCHESTER, UK – 09 January 2017 – F2G Ltd, a UK Biotech developing novel therapies for life threatening fungal infections, today announced that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products has granted orphan drug status to its lead clinical candidate, F901318, for the treatment of invasive Aspergillosis and rare mould infections caused by Scedosporium species.
Orphan drug designation will allow F901318 up to ten years market exclusivity following market authorisation in the EU.
F901318 is the first member of a novel class of systemic antifungal agents targeting life threatening mould infections and acting through a completely novel cellular target. F901318 is being developed for both intravenous and oral formulations and will enter Phase II clinical development in mid-2017.
Dr John H. Rex, Chief Medical Officer, F2G Ltd, said: “Given the global acknowledgement of increasing resistance of moulds to the azole antifungal class, we are delighted that the EMA has granted orphan drug status to F901318. We believe this agent will offer important therapeutic options to clinicians treating these deadly infections.”
Ian Nicholson, Chief Executive Officer, F2G Ltd, added: “Receiving the European orphan drug designation for F901318 offers certain benefits and incentives, including marketing exclusivity, that are strategically important from a regulatory and commercial perspective. The positive decision of the EMA orphan drug committee is further validation of F901318 and our development program as we look forward to accelerating our Phase II clinical programme this year. ”
About European Union (EU) Orphan Drug Designation: The European Commission grants orphan drug designation status to provide incentives to develop medicinal products to treat, prevent or diagnose diseases or conditions that affect no more than five in 10,000 persons in the European Union.
About F2G Ltd: F2G is a world-leading UK biotech company focused on the discovery and development of novel therapies to treat life threatening invasive fungal infections, with experienced management & board. F2G has discovered and developed a completely new class of antifungal agents called the orotomides. The orotomides are active against Aspergillus and other rare and resistant moulds and act via a completely different mechanism than currently marketed antifungal agents. Due to their new mechanism of action, orotomides are active against fungal infections resistant to current therapies, a growing problem globally. A limited Phase II study for F901318 is planned imminently with pivotal registration trials in Invasive Aspergillosis planned for 2017 based on an accelerated regulatory pathway agreed with the relevant agencies. F901318 is being developed both as IV and oral formulations and promises to have a safe and well-tolerated profile. The company recently announced a $60 million financing to develop its pipeline of novel therapies to treat life threatening invasive fungal infections.