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Female-led ImmuONE bags £2M for 3D human lung model to test drugs

ImmuONE team
Picture credits: ImmuONE

UK-based biotech ImmuONE, a University of Hertfordshire spin-out has scored a £2 million investment. The capital came from the MEIF Proof of Concept & Early Stage Fund, which is managed by Mercia Ventures and part of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF), Mercia’s EIS funds and Pioneer Group. The fund has already backed startups such as BlueSkeye AI and Nuvision.

The funding will enable ImmuONE to move into its new headquarters in Milton Keynes and new laboratories in Stevenage to meet the growing demand.

Also, the funding will enable it to expand capacity, continue its research and development, grow its team and create six new jobs.

3D model of human lung for drug testing

Founded by two UK scientists – Dr Abigail Martin and Professor Victoria Hutter in 2019, ImmuONE has developed a 3D human lung model that can assess the safety of new drugs without the use of animal testing.

ImmuONE enables companies developing new products such as drugs, chemicals or cosmetics to meet legal requirements by showing they are safe for consumption and wider use. The existing safety assessments are based on animal testing. Apparently, it is not accurate at predicting the impact on humans or use human cells taken by lung-scraping, an invasive process that only provides tissue from the upper lung.

The company’s approach involves growing human lower lung tissue and immune cells in a laboratory to create a 3D model. It only enables companies to avoid the use of animals but also allows them to test the impact of their products on the small airways and inflammation in the lung.

Currently, ImmuONE has nearly 20 customers globally, including blue-chip chemical and consumer products companies.

Dr Abigail Martin said: “Having worked on drug development projects that involve animal testing, I’ve seen the difference that new drugs can make to patients’ lives. However, I felt there had to be a better way and set out to look for an alternative. Our model not only enables companies to move away from animal testing but also improves safety for patients too. We look forward to working with many more clients and scaling the business with a view to global expansion in the future.”

Hannah Tapsell of Mercia added: “Around 90% of drugs shown to be safe and effective in animals do not work as planned in humans, which is one reason for the high failure rate in drug discovery. With growing demand for more effective testing models and pressure from consumers to replace animal testing, ImmuONE fills a clear gap in the market. Abigail and Victoria have not only created a powerful innovation but also achieved remarkable success in building a fast-growing business.”

Mark Wilcockson, Senior Investment Manager at British Business Bank, said: “The Midlands Engine Investment Fund is known for investing in innovative SMEs across the Midlands region. This new MEIF investment in ImmuONE is a perfect example showcasing its commitment to supporting small businesses making strides in their respective sectors. This funding will allow ImmuONE to continue to change the way drug testing is practised, drive change, expand the business and create new jobs.”

Dr Imelda Juniarsih, Investment Associate Director at Pioneer Group, said: “We are proud to have invested in ImmuONE, a groundbreaking company which by replacing animal testing with a new model, it has the potential to revolutionise the field of drug development and meet new business demands. As champions of innovation in the biotech sector, we look forward to supporting ImmuOne in the next steps of its exciting journey.”

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