Enterprise Therapeutics secures cash for cystic fibrosis work

Brighton, U.K.(By hozinja (Brighton Pier at dusk, UK Uploaded by BaldBoris) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Enterprise Therapeutics has secured funding from the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. The money will enable Enterprise Therapeutics to further research through its bronchospheres, a technology designed to facilitate high-throughput screening in miniaturized models of the human airway.

Brighton, U.K.-based Enterprise Therapeutics is looking to bronchospheres to support its own drug discovery efforts and land it collaborations with biopharma companies. The structures contain ciliated cell lines that wave to move a mucus gel, and goblet cells that produce mucus. This mix mimics the composition of human airways. When functioning properly, the cells produce mucus, trap potentially harmful intruders and clear the mix for safe destruction in the stomach.

Enterprise Therapeutics is interested in what happens when this system ceases to function, either because the goblet cells produce too much mucus or the ciliated cells fail to adequately hydrate the mucus. Either way, the mucus becomes too sticky for the system to clear it to the stomach, potentially resulting in infections and breathing difficulties.

Using bronchospheres, the British biotech has identified a target it thinks could enable it to cut the number of goblet cells. That could eventually lead to a treatment for diseases caused by increases in the numbers of the mucus-producing cells, such as chronic bronchitis. But the grant shows the company and others think bronchospheres could support the discovery of drugs against diseases associated with insufficient airway fluids, notably cystic fibrosis.

The size of the grant reflects the early-stage nature of the work. Cystic Fibrosis Trust is putting up £95,000 ($119,000). Enterprise Therapeutics is matching the commitment, furthering the trust’s goal of using its grants to stimulate investment by other organizations in cystic fibrosis research and setting the company up to advance its activities in the field.

“The Trust’s funding will enable critical research to be undertaken to drive a greater scientific understanding of CF and support development of innovative treatments for this challenging genetic disease,” Enterprise Therapeutics CEO John Ford, Ph.D., said in a statement.

Ford took charge of Enterprise Therapeutics in October, one month before the company finalized a £4 million investment led by Epidarex Capital and Touchstone Innovations, then known as Imperial Innovations.

The appointment gave the fledgling company a CEO who has had a hand in some of Europe’s recent biotech success stories. Ford served as COO of Dezima Pharma before Amgen bought it in a $1.55 billion deal and headed up the U.K. operation of Akarna Therapeutics for some of the brief window between Forbion investing in the NASH biotech and Allergan buying it for $50 million upfront. Ford also cofounded Ario Pharma, Metrion Biosciences and Xention.