DSW Ventures and NGBio lead £1.4m investment into University of York spinout Mesenbio

Mesenbio, a University of York spin-out that is developing a novel treatment for arthritis created from engineered human stem cells, has raised £1.4m in an investment round co-led by DSW Ventures and NG Bio alongside grant funding from Innovate UK.

Mesenbio - l-r David Kuntin Paul Genever
Mesenbio – l-r David Kuntin Paul Genever

The treatment will initially target rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that impacts nearly half a million adults and children in the UK alone, causing debilitating joint pain and inflammation of the hands, knees, elbows, ankles, and wrists.

Current therapies can ease pain and inflammation but – unlike Mesenbio’s therapies – lack the combined actions of reducing inflammation and protecting the tissue from further damage. Mesenbio’s treatment is based on nano-sized messengers created from engineered human stem cells that not only curb inflammation but can kick-start the process of regenerating damaged tissue.

Mesenbio was founded by Professor Paul Genever and Dr David Kuntin and based on their work at the University of York’s Biomedical Research Institute. The funding will enable them to create three new roles, develop pilot manufacturing processes, carry out pre-clinical studies and prepare the regulatory dossier in readiness for clinical trials.

Professor Genever said: “We have been developing this method of treatment for a decade now, with support from Versus Arthritis, and it has proved successful in laboratory tests, but the funding will allow us to move toward human clinical trials.

“Our research has focused on extracellular vesicles or EVs, which are nano-sized structures released from cells that have therapeutic properties. We have been able to engineer these structures from human stem cells to target its anti-inflammatory and tissue-regeneration capabilities, which is what you need to treat arthritis – the ability not only to take away the pain but also to repair the damage.”

Current uses of EVs rely on donor cells, but their effectiveness as a treatment can vary from patient to patient. Engineering human stem cells allows scientists to enhance the characteristics of EVs that are most significant to arthritis treatment and produce them at scale in the laboratory.

Dr David Kuntin, CEO of Mesenbio, said: “This method and its scalability makes it much more likely we can create a drug that can be administered via injection that can not only halt the damage to tissue, but repair tissue and return the immune system to homeostatic levels.

“We know this works in a laboratory setting and this new funding will allow us to get to human trials in a reasonable timescale, so that we can look to the future of what this new therapeutic might mean for clinicians and crucially patients of this debilitating condition.”

Mesenbio, which is based at the university, becomes the twelfth company to join the DSW Ventures portfolio, and the first from its recently-launched Seed EIS fund. Doug Quinn of DSW Ventures commented: “Extracellular vesicles is an evolving technology and with the promising data generated by the team at Mesenbio, this funding enables further progress towards a treatment for what is a debilitating condition for so many people.”

Jason Goldstein, co-founder at NG Bio, said: “This is an exciting time in the search for therapies that can address tissue damage resulting from arthritic conditions. Mesenbio’s technology is uniquely placed to address this problem and we look forward to supporting this talented team on the next step in their journey.”

Weightmans LLP (legal) advised DSW Ventures and NGBio on the deal, with Taylor Wessing advising Mesenbio.