Promethera Biosciences raises €23.6m series-B financing
28 March 2012
Mont-Saint-Guibert, Belgium. Promethera Biosciences, a
cell therapy company operating in the field of liver diseases, has
completed a fundraising round that generated €23.6 million, including
€17 million in capital.
Among the new investors are the venture arms of pharmaceutical
industry leaders Boehringer Ingelheim and Shire, Japanese investment
fund Mitsui Global Investment, US company ATMI and Belgian venture
capital fund Sambrinvest.
This Series-B fundraising has been successful thanks to the major
achievements made by Promethera Biosciences since its Series-A
fundraising in 2009. Most outstanding is the GMP accreditation
following the successful transfer and scaling up of the production
process developed at Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL) into a
larger-scale pharmaceutical operation.
Meanwhile, the company has been granted authorisations from the
respective agencies to start its phase I/II clinical study in
Belgium and the UK for its innovative cell therapeutic product
HepaStem which may hold a cure for liver diseases and offer a
breakthrough technology for repairing severe liver defects.
Belgian spin-off attracts foreign investors
A little over two years after its first fundraising initiative in
October 2009, which raised €5.3 million, Promethera continues to
attract investors in this second round, securing a further capital
increase of €17 million.
In addition, the Walloon region, which has backed the project
since its inception, has granted a loan of €6.6 million to support
the clinical development of the HepaStem product. Five new investors
have now acquired equity in Promethera: Boehringer Ingelheim Venture
Fund, the venture capital fund of the pharmaceutical giant; Shire, a
leading biopharmaceutical company; Mitsui Global Investment, the
venture capital fund of Japanese industrial conglomerate Mitsui and
Co Ltd.; ATMI, a global leader in semiconductors and innovative
In addition to these four groups of international scope and
reputation is Sambrinvest, the investment fund of the Charleroi
region in Wallonia. These five investors join the Belgian investors
attracted in the first round: Vesalius Biocapital, the lead
investor, SRIW, Vives-Louvain Technology Fund, Life Science Research
Partners, NivelInvest, Financière Spin-off Luxembourgeoise, Sopartec
(UCL's technology transfer company), as well as several business
"We are delighted at the trust our investors have placed in us
and the opportunity to successfully complete this exceptional
fundraising drive in the current economic context," comments Eric
Halioua, CEO of Promethera Biosciences. "Achieving all our
objectives a year ahead of plan, the quality of the team, the
attractiveness of the company's business model and the proof of
concept obtained in humans have been key factors in our investors'
“We believe that Promethera HepaStem has, even though early in
development, significant potential to treat metabolic liver diseases
and we are looking forward to working with the company now and in
the future,” comments Doctor Ilka Wicke, director at the Boehringer
Ingelheim Venture fund.
Successful technology transfer
In the wake of the first round of fundraising in October 2009,
Promethera Biosciences has undergone a significant and fast growth.
The successful transfer of technology from the UCL laboratory and
from the tissue bank of Cliniques Universitaires St-Luc has enabled
the company to develop from an academic towards an industrial
In order to achieve this, premises in Mont-Saint-Guibert with
more than 170 m² of clean rooms have been set up and received
official GMP accreditation from the Belgian authorities (AFMPS). To
date, 14 batches of its flagship product, HepaStem, have been
produced at the new site. In just over two years, the company's
staff has grown from two to forty, headed by an experienced
HepaStem: phase I/II clinical study authorisations
Since the discovery of HHALPC (Heterologous Human Adult Liver
Progenitor Cells, forming the basis for Promethera HepaStem product)
by Professor Sokal and Doctor Najimi at the UCL laboratories in
2005, Promethera Biosciences has made considerable scientific
advances. The patent protecting the HHALPC cell and all of its
applications has been officially awarded in Europe.
The proof of concept for the therapeutic use of the cells has
been demonstrated in three different animal models. Between 2009 and
2011, injections of HHALPC were safely administered to three
patients — a world first — at Cliniques Universitaires St Luc by
Professor Sokal and his team.
These various achievements have enabled Promethera Biosciences to
obtain the first authorisations from the British (MHRA) and Belgian
(AFMPS) regulatory authorities to begin the phase I/II clinical
study of HepaStem. As part of the clinical study, the cell
therapeutic product is assessed in a paediatric setting involving
children suffering from Crigler-Najjar syndrome or urea cycle
disorders. Most young patients have only limited other therapeutic
options and may die at an early age.
"There is a real need for medical innovation to treat metabolic
diseases in children; too many diseases are still intractable,"
notes Professor Etienne Sokal, founder and chief scientific officer
at Promethera Biosciences, paediatric hepatologist at Cliniques
Universitaires St Luc and director of UCL's cell therapy research
lab. "The first HepaStem studies represent a major step towards, we
hope, eventually transforming the prognosis of these diseases."
The major innovation of Promethera HepaStem resides in the
simplicity of the treatment — a simple injection into the vein
leading to the liver — which may make it possible to avoid radical
and invasive surgery such as a liver transplant.
Promethera HepaStem could be used to treat a wide variety of
liver pathologies. Thanks to the industrial development, if this
therapy proves to be safe and effective, as many as a hundred
patients could be treated from a single liver, thus largely
overcoming the organ shortage problem.
In parallel, Promethera Biosciences is developing HepaScreen, a
cell model designed to mimic and reproduce the metabolism and
stimulate the detoxification of new drugs by the human liver.