Cell therapy development specialist RoslinCT is merging with US counterpart Lykan Bioscience in a bid by their owner to create a global leader in the market for contract gene manufacturing.

The deal is being described as a “business combination” with the two companies maintaining separate identities and operations for the “foreseeable future”. Peter Coleman will remain as chief executive of Edinburgh-based RoslinCT and Patrick Lucy will do likewise at Lykan, which is based in Hopkinton on the outskirts of Boston.

The two businesses are being brought together by Global Health Opportunities (GHO Capital Partners), a specialist healthcare investor based in London. GHO took a majority stake in RoslinCT at the start of this year, becoming the university spin-out’s first private equity investor.

The combined operation will have about 300 staff, including nearly 190 currently employed by RoslinCT. No financial details were disclosed.

GHO said the group will benefit from expanded capacity, with development laboratories and manufacturing facilities in both the UK and the US. Demand for these services has increased around the world in line with rising levels of investment into healthcare research.

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Lykan has 16 manufacturing suites across its 64,000sq ft facility, while Roslin has eight suites at its existing 40,000sq ft facility at Roslin BioQuarter. Further laboratory and manufacturing capacity expansion is planned at RoslinCT and is expected to come onstream in the coming months.

GHO said the combination of the two businesses represents an “important step forward” in the push towards internationalisation.

“This is a significant step towards the realisation of our shared ambition for RoslinCT and Lykan to build a leading global CDMO (contract development and manufacturing organisation) in the development and manufacture of advanced cell therapies,” the firm added.

Previously owned entirely by the University of Edinburgh and the Roslin Foundation, RoslinCT is the successor to Roslin Cells, which was spun out of the Roslin Institute in 2006. The business, which became known as RoslinCT in 2015, works with leading biotech and life sciences companies from the UK, Europe and the US on the development of advanced cell therapies for the treatment of diseases such as strokes, blood disorders and macular degeneration.

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Making its investment earlier this year, GHO said it would use its network of contacts to support RoslinCT in the acquisition of new clients and the diversification of its product range.

Formerly the head of Cobra Biologics, Mr Coleman took over as chief executive of RoslinCT in May of this year from Janet Downie, who remains on the company’s board of directors in a strategic capacity.

“This combination puts us in a strong position as a leading global CDMO in the process development and manufacturing of advanced cell therapies, and we look forward to working with our new colleagues at Lykan to fuel future growth and meet the increasing demand for innovative therapies,” Mr Coleman said.

Set up in 2019, Lykan was previously majority-owned by WindRose Health Investors. As part of the new agreement, GHO is taking a majority stake in Lykan and is backing the funding of the combined entity. WindRose has re-invested as a minority shareholder in the combined group, as has the management team from Lykan.

“We are delighted to combine with RoslinCT to better serve the growing demand for manufacturing capacity and expand the range of innovative services we can provide our partners to support the development of advanced cell and gene therapies,” Mr Lucy said.

RoslinCT was among the earliest of companies producing pluripotent stem cells, which can give rise to every type of cell in the body. The requirement for these types of cells was relatively low in the years when the business traded as Roslin Cells, but scientific advances have led to a surge in demand more recently.