UKI2S announces seed investment in Cagen, a pioneering engineering biology company using protein nanocages

UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund (UKI2S) and Imperial Innovations announce the launch of Cagen, a company focused on innovative uses of protein nanocages.

Founded by Dr Geoff Baldwin, Reader in Biochemistry at Imperial College London, Cagen has developed self-assembling protein nanocages which can be used to carry drugs within the body.

These nanocages can protect payloads from premature degradation or excess toxicity until they reach the target site. They can also improve the bioavailability of molecules, enabling access to novel therapeutic approaches. By controlling drug release, protein nanocages could improve the safety and toxicity profiles of compounds that have previously failed development, allowing companies to revisit these candidates.

“Drug discovery and development is a long and arduous process with many potential ways to fail, such as a drug having poor pharmacokinetics, solubility, or poor cell permeability”, explains Dr Baldwin, “we can use our protein nanocages to overcome these issues, improving a drug candidate’s chances for approval. In addition, the technology allows us to consider targets that were previously thought undruggable.”

The underlying research was supported by SynbiCITE, the UK’s Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC) for Engineering Biology, with the prime objective of accelerating and promoting the commercial exploitation of engineering biology research and engineering biology applications.

Cagen has secured seed funding from Imperial Innovations and the UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund. The spinout is working with a large pharmaceutical company to explore how its nanocages deliver complex payload.

Jon Wilkinson, Senior Healthcare Licensing Executive at Imperial Innovations, said:

“Cagen’s technology meets a concrete need in the market for new ways to make therapeutic candidates more viable. This is a promising new venture and we are excited to support its development in the coming years.”

Oliver Sexton, Investment Director at UKI2S, says:

“Cagen’s technology has shown it can significantly increase the bioavailability of novel compounds and in doing so, opens up new drug space. UKI2S’ seed funding allows the company to build on its existing collaborations and continue to grow.”

Professor Richard I Kitney, Co-Director, SynbiCITE

“SynbiCITE has been very pleased to support Cagen through the early stages of its development. The use of protein nanocages for drug development is an important application of engineering biology. The potential ability to deliver the right drug directly to the target site represents a major improvement in drug effectiveness by comparison to systemic delivery.”

About the UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund

The UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund (formerly known as The Rainbow Seed Fund) is a £27.1m early-stage venture capital fund building and growing technology companies stemming from the UK’s research base. The UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund is backed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Fund’s partners are 9 publicly funded research bodies, including STFC, BBSRC, NERC and Dstl. The Fund is independently managed by venture capital specialist Midven.

The Fund helps build companies from great science developed in: public laboratories, science and technology campuses and engineering biology and currently holds investments in some of the UK’s most innovative companies, in areas as diverse as novel antibiotics, research into Alzheimer’s disease, “green” chemicals and airport security.

About SynbiCITE

Based at Imperial College London, SynbiCITE is the Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC) for Engineering Biology. Its prime objective is to accelerate and promote the commercial exploitation of engineering biology research and engineering biology applications. As nucleating point for this rapidly emerging industry, SynbiCITE is designed to deliver sustained and substantial benefits to the UK economy.

SynbiCITE is a unique collaboration of the UK’s leading academic institutions and industrial partners, ranging from start-ups to large multinational companies, and supporting organizations including the Northern Ireland, Scottish and Welsh Regional Governments and the Greater London Authority.

SynbiCITE is one of seven IKCs set up to nucleate new industries, by closing the gap between scientific research and its commercial exploitation. IKCs are a key component of the UK’s approach to the commercialisation of emerging technologies through creating early-stage critical mass in an area of disruptive technology.