UK deal sees consolidation of two players in the iPSC space

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/alphaspirit
© GettyImages/alphaspirit

Related tags iPSC Cells CRO

Axol Biosciences, a UK provider of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) derived cells, media, and characterization services, has merged with Scotland based, Censo Biotechnologies, a cell biology CRO with expertise in iPSC-related technologies.

Under the terms of the agreement, the CEO of the Cambridge headquartered Axol Bioscience, Liam Taylor, and the Axol senior leadership team, will take over the management of the merged businesses, with the intent to migrate the brand to Axol Bioscience.

Censo’s interim CEO, Dr Tom Stratford, was also appointed non-executive director of the combined board.

The new entity, according to the parties, will become a leading provider of products and services in iPSC-based neuroscience, immune cell, and cardiac modeling for drug discovery and screening markets, providing customers validated ready-to-use cell lines and a suite of services with broader expertise, robust functional data, and customization capabilities.

They also promise shorter lead times for clients. On that, Liam Taylor, CEO Axol, told BioPharma-Reporter: “Doubling the size of the scientific and technical project team and moving into two sites means bandwidth for larger production scale on the product side and ability to run simultaneous projects.”

The transaction was also accompanied by a fundraising round in excess of £3.8m (US$5.3m) across shareholders. The funding was led by EIS fund manager, Calculus Capita, and Par Equity, a VC firm, based in Edinburgh. Also involved in the financing of the merged entity were Jonathan Milner, founder and former CEO of Abcam and chair of the Axol Bioscience board, Intuitive Investment group, Scottish Enterprise, and SyndicateRoom.   

The investment will be used to enable growth of the business along with new hires to meet customer demand.

Robust R&D pipeline 

The growth plan, said Taylor, is to increase the manufacturing scale of flagship products while keeping a robust R&D pipeline moving to productize new cell lines as well as those owned by Censo.

“At the same time, the merged entity will grow through our ability to run simultaneous service projects across a greater [number of] areas. There will be limited recruitment, merely to fill current gaps in field commercial, scientific technicians and quality,”​ he added.

Dr Milner said merging these two players in the iPSC space, which have complementary expertise and offerings, is the most direct and low risk path to gaining a more competitive market position. He said the deal will move “both organizations from thriving start-ups to a more polished commercial entity that is able to meet aggressive demand increases.”​ 

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