Mills & Reeve advises scientists behind 3D human lung on funding deal

National law firm Mills & Reeve has advised two scientists behind a 3D human lung, designed to replace the use of animals in drug testing, on a £2m funding deal.

ImmuONE, founded by Dr Abigail Martin and Professor Victoria Hutter, secured the cash injection from the MEIF Proof of Concept & Early-Stage Fund, which is managed by Mercia Ventures and part of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF), Mercia’s EIS funds and Pioneer Group.

The funding will enable the company to move into new headquarters in Milton Keynes and laboratories in Stevenage and continue its research and development.

The company currently has around 20 customers globally including blue-chip chemical and consumer products companies. Since its launch two years ago, the biotech company has generated over £1m in revenue.

ImmuONE enables companies developing new products such as drugs, chemicals or cosmetics to meet legal requirements by showing they are safe for consumption and wider use. Current safety assessments are typically based on animal testing, which is not accurate at predicting the impact on humans, or use human cells taken by lung-scraping, an invasive process that only provides tissue from the upper lung.

ImmuONE’s approach, which involves growing human lower lung tissue and immune cells in a laboratory to create a 3D model, not only enables companies to avoid the use of animals but also allows them to test the impact of their products on the small airways and inflammation in the lung, providing results that are more reliable and reproducible.

Dr Abigail Martin said: “Having worked on drug development projects that involve animal testing, I’ve seen the difference that new drugs can make to patients’ lives. However, I felt there had to be a better way and set out to look for an alternative. Our model not only enables companies to move away from animal testing but also improves safety for patients too. We look forward to working with many more clients and scaling the business with a view to global expansion in the future.”

Edward Sloan, head of venture capital investments London at Mills & Reeve, said: “ImmuONE has an exciting and innovative life sciences offering, and we are pleased to advise the company on securing investment which will help fuel their ambitious expansion plans.”

Hannah Tapsell of Mercia added: “Around 90% of drugs shown to be safe and effective in animals do not work as planned in humans, which is one reason for the high failure rate in drug discovery. With growing demand for more effective testing models and pressure from consumers to replace animal testing, ImmuONE fills a clear gap in the market. Abigail and Victoria have not only created a powerful innovation but also achieved remarkable success in building a fast-growing business.”

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