bubble cell image

investing in gene therapy

Monday, 12 April 2021

By Alex Ralph, Source: The Times
Edi Truell is backing a gene and cell therapy start-up and is seeking to lead a £100 million financing as part of his latest venture.
Virocell Biologics is positioning itself as a contract development and manufacturing organisation to supply viral vectors and gene-modified cells to academic and corporate clients for therapies entering clinical trials.
The veteran financier said that viral vectors, the delivery mechanism to get the gene therapies into cells, was an “amazing technology” that could tackle diseases such as cancer and epilepsy.
He said that the Truell Conservation Foundation, his family charity vehicle, was putting up about 30 per cent of the total funding and was in talks with four other life sciences investors, two of which are also charitable foundations, to raise the financing.
Truell, 58, has assembled a management team who are also investing in the venture, which is built around Farzin Farzaneh, a professor of molecular medicine at King’s College London, who is its chief scientific oOcer. Virocell is looking to employ more than 50 people in Britain by the end of the year and plans to focus on the United States and Switzerland, as well as the UK.
Truell ran Duke Street Capital in the 1990s, founded Pension Corporation and advised Boris Johnson on pensions when he was London mayor. His Pension SuperFund venture is trying to pioneer a huge consolidating vehicle for traditional pension funds.
Danny Truell, his late brother, was chief investment oOcer at Wellcome Trust, which backed Syncona, the FTSE 250 biotechnology investor whose portfolio includes cell therapy companies. Truell said that Syncona was supportive of the venture and would promote its products to its companies.
Virocell aims to speed up the availability of viral vectors for clinical use and to double Britain’s vector manufacturing capacity in the next 12 months. It plans to repurpose laboratories and clean rooms at three London hospitals. It is also expecting to work at an academic institution in Scotland and has been approached to build a facility in Switzerland, where Truell is resident.