Wednesday 13 December 2017

Biotech investment firm Malin buys 33pc stake in British biopharma company

Kelly Martin, director of Irish biotechnology investment firm Malin
Kelly Martin, director of Irish biotechnology investment firm Malin
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Irish biotechnology investment firm Malin has taken a 33pc stake in UK biopharma firm Wren Therapeutics - six months after Malin chief executive Kelly Martin became a director of the business.

Wren is developing technology used to treat neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's.

Under the terms of the agreement, Malin has an option to increase its stake in Wren to 67pc.

Malin chief investment officer Adrian Howd also joined Wren as a director in July 2016.

Wren was spun out of the University of Cambridge and Lund University in Sweden and was formally founded in 2016 by researchers including Chris Dobson.

The company's technology can be broadly applied to the more than 30 human protein misfolding diseases.

Those conditions include a number of significant and devastating major neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, as well as several non-neurological disorders including type-2 diabetes.

Kelly Martin, the former chief executive of drug company Elan, said that he had known Mr Dobson for over a decade.

"We have some unfinished business to tend to in the area of certain neurological afflictions and we are delighted to be working alongside Chris and his colleagues from Cambridge and Lund in tackling this long-standing area of significant human need," he said.

In 2015, Mr Dobson, the master of St John's College, Cambridge, secured a key investment to research Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. In 2014, he was awarded the $200,000 Dr HP Heineken prize for biochemistry and biophysics.

One of Elan's blockbuster treatments was Tysabri, used for treating multiple sclerosis. Its partner in the drug, Biogen Idec, acquired sole control of the treatment in 2013. Elan was subsequently sold to Perrigo that year for $8.6bn.

By the end of June, Malin had invested in 16 companies, including Dublin-based medical imaging firm 3D4Medical. It had raised a total of €380m in capital, with €313m of that having been invested by the end of the first half of the year.

Among its other investments are stakes in companies including UK drug and vaccine firm Kymab, Hatteras Venture Partners, UK biotech group Immunocore, and San Diego-based Poseida Therapeutics.

Malin has made 60pc of its investments in either the UK or Ireland.

In June, Malin secured a €70m, seven-year debt facility from the European Investment Bank.

Mr Martin owns about 7pc of Malin.

At the end of December, Malin's executive chairman, John Given, resigned. Kyran McLaughlin took on the chairmanship in a non-executive capacity.

Irish Independent

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