By Kristy Dorsey

Amphista Therapeutics has completed the largest fundraising so far this year in Scotland’s life sciences sector with a £38 million investment that will double its headcount within the next 12 to 18 months.

Spun out in October 2019 from the University of Dundee, Amphista’s technology uses the body’s natural processes to selectively degrade and remove disease-causing proteins from human cells. The company’s targeted protein degradation (TPD) platform is expected to lead to the creation of new drugs for a broad range of diseases that are currently difficult to treat, with the initial focus on problematic cancer tumours.

The $53m funding round has been co-led by Forbion and Gilde Healthcare, with additional investors including the Novartis Venture Fund and Eli Lilly. Based in the Netherlands and Germany, venture capital group Forbion focuses on investments in the life sciences sector, while Gilde is also a specialised European healthcare investor.

The proceeds will be used to accelerate the company’s pipeline of selective bifunctional molecules, known as “Amphistas”, into clinical trials and to extend the TPD platform. The business currently employs 15 people at its base at BioCity in North Lanarkshire, and expects the team to grow to “at least” 30 during the next 12 to 18 months.

The company is based on work from the labs of Professor Alessio Ciulli at the university’s School of Life Sciences.

“My lab’s work at Dundee over the last eight years is recognised as world-leading in the field of TPD, which is providing an entirely new way of tackling diseases,” he said. “As a co-founder of Amphista, I am delighted to have contributed to its growth, and that the commercial potential of our ideas is starting to be validated.

“This very substantive financing round by a consortium of outstanding investors shows the originality and quality of Amphista’s assets and workforce. I am very proud of their achievements and look forward to seeing them go from strength to strength.”

The fresh funding brings the total raised by Amphista since its inception to more than £45m. The company closed its first $7.5m funding round in April of last year, supported by Advent Life Sciences, the Scottish Investment Bank, the Scottish Growth Scheme, the European Investment Fund and US-based BioMotiv.

In addition to treating cancer, the company’s technology is expected to prove useful in neurological and neurodegenerative conditions, immunology and other areas requiring drug delivery through the central nervous system.

Nicola Thompson, the chief executive of Amphista, said: “This financing round, led by an outstanding investor syndicate, is a strong endorsement of our world-class team and our novel approach.

“Amphista will now accelerate its oncology pipeline towards the clinic and extend our portfolio into indications largely inaccessible by traditional TPD approaches, such as diseases of the central nervous system.”

The funding round was oversubscribed and will lead to several new board-level appointments at Amphista. They include Gilde Healthcare partner Stefan Luzi, Forbion partner Rogier Rooswinkel, and Florian Muellershausen, managing director at Novartis Venture Fund.

“Amphista emerged as the best-in-class protein degradation company in our comprehensive landscaping effort”,” Mr Luzi said.

“We believe this team, who are pioneers in this field, combined with a truly unique platform, will unlock the full therapeutic potential of a broad range of disease targets. Amphista represents a strong fit with Gilde’s longstanding strategy of identifying Europe’s leading science and of engaging with experienced drug developers to build and support high growth (bio)pharma companies.”

Mike Ferguson, Regius Professor of Life Sciences at Dundee, said the amount of money raised by Amphista is testament to the quality of science emerging from the university, and how it can be commercialised in a “very exciting” way.

“The university’s pipeline of new spin-out opportunities is stronger than it has ever been, and we are committed to growing the biomedical industry sector and creating new jobs and opportunities in Dundee and in Scotland,” he said.

“This will be hugely helped by the £25m Innovation Hub project that we are developing with funding from the Tay Cities Deal.”

Mr Rooswinkel at Forbion, which currently manages more than £858 million across 10 closed-end funds, said Amphista’s approach should allow it to overcome many of the limitations faced by other TPD companies.

“We are delighted to have selected Amphista as the first company to invest in from our fifth fund that closed late last year,” he said. “Amphista combines several attributes we typically look for: a world-class team, innovative science, and a disruptive technology that has the potential to improve treatment options and thus impact many patients’ lives.”