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The Capital Fund backs Stem Cell Innovators
Plasticell secures £690,000 including first institutional investment

Stem cell technology pioneer, Plasticell, has secured an investment of £250,000 from The Capital Fund. Established in 2002, The Capital Fund is a £50 million venture capital fund that backs fast growing small and medium-sized companies in the Greater London area, and is the largest of the nine UK regional venture capital funds. This investment follows on from a recent injection of £440,000 into the Company by existing Plasticell shareholders and a £1.1 million grant from the DTI’s Technology Programme in January to support the development of stem cell robotics. Plasticell will use the new funding to develop its innovative stem cell and drug screening products.

Plasticell is a biotechnology company that has developed and holds exclusive intellectual property rights for two complementary systems in the fields of stem cell research and regenerative medicine.

Stem cells are the primal cells found in all multi-cellular organisms that retain the ability to renew themselves through cell division. Crucially, they can develop into a huge range of specialised cell types. In a developing embryo, stem cells differentiate into all of the tissues needed to grow and develop the parts of the human body. And in adults, stem cells act as a repair system for the body, replenishing damaged cells.

Identifying how stem cells develop, and encouraging them to grow into specific useful cell types, “will continue to be a bottle neck” in stem cell research, according to Plasticell Founder and Chief Executive, Dr Yen Choo.

The Company’s Combinatorial Cell Culture™ product, known as CombiCult™, is a sophisticated method of directing the development of stem cells towards defined tissue types. CombiScreen™ is a separate cell-based drug-screening tool to develop small molecule drugs that regenerate cells lost as a result of organ damage or disease.

Dr Choo said: “Conventional methods of directing stem cell development involve a vast series of individual ‘trial and error’ experiments. The processes we have developed for CombiCult™ mean the trial and error stages can be performed in parallel with many thousands of possible combinations and outcomes tested for at the same time. This speeds up the testing process and can generate substantial cost savings for major pharmaceutical firms.”

The potential market in the pharmaceutical industry for tissue types grown from stem cells is enormous. When new drugs are developed there is a period of extensive testing for possible dangers or side effects. “A pharmaceutical company might approach us and say that they are developing a new drug that targets a disease of the central nervous system. We can help develop tissue that exactly matches the neurons which the new drug would be targeting, enabling the pharma company to measure the effectiveness of that drug at an early stage” Dr Choo said.

Demonstrating the high regard that the Company has within the scientific community, Plasticell has a number of top internationally renowned scientists as advisers, including two Nobel prize winners. Professor Sir Aaron Krug was awarded the chemistry prize in 1982 and, more recently, Professor Sir Martin Evans won the 2007 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in recognition of his pioneering work on stem cells.

Plasticell is the second biotechnology start-up that Dr Choo has established. Previously he was founder of Gendaq, an MRC gene regulation company that was ultimately acquired by US biotech Sangamo Biosciences. Dr Choo’s expertise in stem cells and their commercialisation is reflected in his recent appointment to the Steering Committee for the UK Stem Cell Bank and for the Use of Stem Cell Lines, the body which oversees all UK stem cell research.

Commenting on the fund-raising process, Dr Choo said: “It was a very pleasant experience working with The Capital Fund. I was particularly impressed with their enthusiasm for the Company and the products we are developing. The financing

Publisher Contact Information:

The Capital Fund
+44 (0)1865 811199

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