Oxford startup receives £4m to develop ‘biological superglue’

Google's venture capital arm has invested £4m in SpyBiotech, an Oxford University spinout

Source: Wikimedia Commons

SpyBiotech, an Oxford University company developing a biological superglue to tackle diseases and pandemics, has been given a £4m investment from the venture capital arm GV of Alphabet, which owns Google, and Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI).

As a result of the funding, the startup will be able to become an independent business. The investment, which is a part of early-stage seed funding, enables SpyBiotech to prepare for phase one trials.

The company’s intellectual property follows research from Oxford University’s Department of Biochemistry and the Jenner Institute to separate the bacteria that causes strep throat, a tonsil-related infection.

When they are separated, the two parts of the bacteria are highly attracted to each other and want to re-bond, with this desire to reconnect forming the “biotech superglue” that can be utilised to bond things together.

Consequently, it is hoped that this principle can be used to develop vaccines, and it is thought that the technology can be effective especially when there are quickly developing vaccines for fast-spreading epidemics.

Sumi Biswas, Associate Professor at the Jenner Institute at Oxford University and is one of four Oxford academics who formed the startup’s founding team, released a statement: “We view this superglue technology as a game changer to enable faster development of effective vaccines against major global diseases.

“We are excited to begin the journey of taking this versatile and innovative approach forward and moving our new vaccines from the laboratory to human clinical testing.”

Speaking to the Telegraph, Gregg Bayes-Brown, Marketing and Communications Manager at Oxford University Innovation, added: “We rarely ever see a corporate like GV come in at the seed into university companies. If this is the start of a new trend, it could be massive.”

Lachlan MacKinnon, principal at OSI, told TechCrunch: “We see the Spy technology as the missing link in rapid and robust VLP vaccine design and see GV as a natural co-investment partner to take this forward.

“We are privileged to be working with four founders who bring such an impressive combination of academic prowess and clinical-stage experience to the company.”

Tom Hulme, general partner at GV, said: “SpyBiotech has established a novel approach that shows promise in a number of markets. We’re looking forward to working with a team of world class scientists to develop more effective vaccines for a wide range of global diseases.”

The news follows a series of innovation booms from the University of Oxford in recent months. In 2016, the number of spinouts doubled to 21, while seed funding for these start-ups increased by fivefold to £52.6m.

A second round of fundraising has also been planned by SpyBiotech, and the company is set to announce a leadership team in the coming months.


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