LifeArc has joined leading UK venture capital firm UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund (UKI2S) in investing into GyreOx Therapeutics (GyreOx). The funding will support a two-year programme to develop and automate GyreOx’s proprietary drug discovery platform, MACRO.

The MACRO platform generates a range of highly modified macrocyclic peptide molecules, known as gyrocycles, which can penetrate cells and be targeted to tackle the protein-protein interactions (PPI) within. These intracellular processes are potentially implicated in many health conditions including cancer, inflammation and autoimmune diseases and are difficult to reach with currently available medicine classes. Automation of the MACRO platform will enhance the generation process further to allow a greater number of novel macrocycles to be generated more quickly and more cheaply.

Dr Bill Primrose, Founder and CEO of GyreOx said: “It’s a strong endorsement of our technology that we have been able to attract support from such quality investors. We have an ambitious plan to develop the platform and to deploy it on a number of internal programmes, including one targeting an epigenetic cancer target. It is our ambition to make GyreOx into a clinical stage company with a strong drug pipeline and a number of discovery alliances with major players in the pharmaceutical industry.”

Common medicines classes include small molecules and biologics. While small molecules can enter cells to modulate intracellular process, they have difficulty in addressing complex targets, including PPIs. Biologics, such as humanised antibodies, are unable to enter the cell and are therefore only suitable for addressing drug targets on the cell surface. GyreOx’s Gyrocycle™ highly modified macrocyclic peptides combine the targeting ability of biologics with the cell-entry ability of small molecules; these molecules present an attractive, novel therapeutic modality as they can also be engineered to further improve their pharmacokinetic profile and ability to penetrate cells to reach previously “undruggable” targets.

Dr David Holbrook, Head of Seed Fund, LifeArc said: “The LifeArc Seed Fund is delighted to be supporting GyreOx on its work on the macrocycles platform and helping translate the science on the next step towards the patient. GyreOx is a great example of the type of company we are trying to support — great science, great scientists, strong start up management all addressing a significant unmet health need.”

GyreOx Ltd. was founded in May 2019 as a result of the ground-breaking science carried out by Professor James Naismith (University of Oxford, previously at the University of St Andrews) and Professor Marcel Jaspars (University of Aberdeen). This seed investment has been led by UKI2S with LifeArc as the major investor and a contribution from Oxford University’s University Challenge Seed Fund. Part of the investment will also provide match funding for an Innovate UK grant to GyreOx.

Oliver Sexton, Investment Director UKI2S said: “GyreOx can design truly novel compounds with the ability to target intracellularly. This opens up a whole new drug space. UKI2S is excited to back such groundbreaking and medically important research.”

Notes to editors

About LifeArc

LifeArc is a self-funded medical research charity. Our mission is to advance translation of early science into health care treatments or diagnostics that can be taken through to full development and made available to patients. We have been doing this for more than 25 years and our work has resulted in a diagnostic for antibiotic resistance and four licensed medicines. Our success allows us to explore new approaches to stimulate and fund translation. We have our own drug discovery and diagnostics development facilities, supported by experts in technology transfer and intellectual property who also provide services to other organisations.

Our model is built on collaboration, and we partner with a broad range of groups including medical research charities, research organisations, industry and academic scientists. We are motivated by patient need and scientific opportunity. Two funds help us to invest in external projects for the benefit of patients: our Philanthropic Fund provides grants to support medical research projects focused on the translation of rare diseases research and our Seed Fund is aimed at start-up companies focused on developing new therapeutics and biological modalities.

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About GyreOx Therapeutics

GyreOx is a new start-up company whose proprietary discovery platform creates unique Gyrocycle™ highly modified macrocyclic peptides, which combine the target-engagement power of biologics with the cell-entry ability of small molecules. From its base on the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire, GyreOx has developed a pipeline to design and rapidly generate focused libraries of molecules that can hit previously undruggable targets. GyreOx’s combination of computational design, automation and unique engineered enzymes allows the company to deliver novel drugs in the chemical space beyond the ‘rule of 5’. Focussed library design enables better compound-target interaction and the tuning of important drug properties. No other technology offers GyreOx’s degree of flexibility in design and production.

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About UKI2S

UKI2S is a national seed investment fund that helps the UK to build innovative businesses, leverage private investment and grow jobs. UKI2S achieves this by nurturing new businesses arising from the great science undertaken in the UK; providing the patient, long-term committed capital and strategic advice these companies need. Over the past decade and more, UKI2S has built a substantial track record with 55 portfolio companies created – with only £14m of capital from UKI2S – that between them have attracted over £400m of later stage investment and now have a combined market value of over £700m. UKI2S works closely with its partners – led STFC, BBSRC and NERC, which are all part of UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) and Dstl — and is aligned with the Catapults and Innovate UK to create the best environment for innovation to flourish and in turn, boost the UK’s competitiveness and productivity by commercialising key technological advances in industrial biotech, ag tech, healthcare, medicine, clean energy, materials, artificial intelligence, software and space.

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