U.K. biotech PolyTherics scores $20.1M in funding for Antitope merger

PolyTherics and Antitope have completed a merger of their equally sized biopharma services businesses in the U.K., seeking to provide technology and support to the pack of drugmakers in the hunt for biologics such as antibody-drug conjugates.

To finance the merger, PolyTherics has picked up £13.5 million ($20.1 million) from a group of backers that includes Imperial Innovations, Invesco Perpetual, Mercia Fund Management and Advantage Enterprise & Innovation Fund. The funds also provide working capital for the combined company, according to the company's release. Imperial Innovations, a previous investor in PolyTherics, owns 25% of the company, a spokesman said. Invesco, which bet £7 million on PolyTherics in the financing, made the largest investment in the deal.

Antibody therapies and other biologics have become hot areas of drug research for pharma and biotech companies, and many CROs have hurried to align their services with demand from drugmakers with interests in biopharmaceuticals. Antitope, founded in 2004, specializes in testing the immune responses caused by antibody therapies and engineering modifications for the drugs. These capabilities are expected to complement the conjugation and polymer technologies from PolyTherics.

PolyTherics CEO John Burt

Last year PolyTherics beefed up its polymer offerings through the buyout of Warwick Effect Polymers, which provides biopolymers for modifying biotech drugs. Through the acquisitions, PolyTherics has also expanded its customer base and says that it now works with many of the largest pharma and biotech outfits in the world.

"Increasingly it's recognized that there are a number of challenges with developing biologics," said PolyTherics CEO John Burt, who will lead the combined company, in an interview. "So there's a real need from pharma and biotech, and increasingly they are externalizing their technology requirements."

Antitope CEO and Chief Scientist Matthew Baker is staying on as chief scientific officer of the combined company, and Antitope is going to continue operations in Cambridge, U.K. Antitope co-founder Frank Carr is also joining PolyTherics. Through the merger, PolyTherics now has 82 employees, Burt said.

- here's the release