Alimentary Health Limited (AH), a specialty biotechnology company focused on the development of gastrointestinal (GI) therapeutic products derived from human probiotics, today announced that it has secured over €1.3million in venture capital funding. The funding round was lead by Dublin-based Seroba BioVentures Limited (Seroba), a dedicated life sciences venture capital fund, with co-investors that included directors of the company and Enterprise Ireland.
AH, based in Cork, was established in 1999 to commercialise the output of the University College Cork (UCC)/BioResearch Ireland (BRI) probiotic research programme. The UCC Probiotic Group is internationally recognised as a world leader for their excellence in probiotic research in GI and has been a significant beneficiary of EU and national research funding over the past 12 years. The group has generated a proprietary collection of probiotic strains isolated from human intestinal tissue and have demonstrated in preclinical and initial clinical studies that certain strains demonstrate potent anti-inflammatory activity and has potential to treat gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The technology is also being evaluated for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – Crohn’s disease/ulcerative colitis and C. difficile-induced diarrhoea. The UCC Probiotic Group, with AH as its corporate partner, has recently secured €16.5 million in funding from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) as the newly created Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre - one of the three new Centres for Science, Engineering and Technology formed in 2003.
AH has a corporate co-development partnership in place with a U.S. healthcare company and in conjunction with this partner plans to begin testing its lead compound in a phase II clinical trial for certain GI indications in 2004. Independently, AH is also developing additional products based on its probiotic technology to address IBD and C. difficile diarrhoea and plans to secure corporate partner(s) to facilitate the clinical development and marketing of its products in these indications.
Commenting on the funding, Dr Barry Kiely, Chief Executive Officer of AH, said: "We are delighted with the validation this funding gives our technology which has been secured on the back of the excellent progress AH has made since its establishment. These new funds will primarily provide support for AH’s internal product development efforts in IBD and C. difficile which complement our corporate partnership activities. This is the first stage in our fund raising efforts and we plan to raise additional funding later in 2004 to push the development of our novel products and secure additional corporate partners to help us bring these products to the marketplace."
The AH probiotic approach to treating GI disease is novel and is differentiated from its competitors as it uses technology based on human probiotics that are directly involved in maintenance of a healthy GI system. AH believes this approach will allow it to bring safer products to the market for the benefit of patients suffering debilitating GI disorders. The currently available treatments for IBS and IBD are limited with low therapeutic benefits and in many cases existing products have significant toxicity concerns.
Peter Sandys a Partner at Seroba said: “We are pleased to have led this first funding round for AH. We were attracted by the novel probiotic approach being taken by AH to address clearly unmet clinical need in the GI area and its team of internationally recognised clinicians and scientists. The commercial potential of AH’s approach can be seen in the strength of its corporate partnerships and its important relationship with the SFI-funded Alimentary Probiotic Centre”
About GI Disorders GI disorders are common and the treatment of GI diseases constitutes one of the largest pharmaceutical markets in the world with an annual market in excess of $20 billion. IBS is the most common chronic gastrointestinal condition, affecting up to 58 million Americans or 20% of the adult US population. Symptoms range from constipation to diarrhoea and are often accompanied by abdominal pain and bloating. It is estimated that a relatively small percentage of IBS sufferers seek medical attention due to the current lack of effective treatment options. The American College of Gastroenterology estimates that there are about 1 million IBD sufferers in the US alone. IBD consists of two specific disease types - Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation in the lining of the colon (large intestine) and the rectum. Crohn's disease usually affects the lower part of the small intestine and the colon.
Alimentary Health Limited
Alimentary Health is a development stage specialty biotechnology company focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of proprietary probiotic-based treatments for gastrointestinal disorders including irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and C. difficile diarrhoea.
Seroba BioVentures Limited
Seroba BioVentures was founded in 2002 to manage the €25 million Irish BioScience Venture Capital Fund and is the first venture fund in Ireland dedicated solely to the life science sector. It invests in early stage biotechnology, medical device and speciality pharmaceutical companies on the island of Ireland.
Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre (APC)
The APC is one of the three recently created Centres for Science, Engineering and Technology funded by Science Foundation Ireland. Professor Fergus Shanahan is heading up a team of up to 50 scientists and postgraduate students in a world-class research centre working on themes concerned with the contribution of the gut flora to health and disease.