Index Ventures, an early investor in photo-sharing service Dropbox Inc., spent $11 million creating a company to develop an antibody-based clot-busting drug intended to treat heart attacks or strokes while limiting bleeding.
The new company, X01 Ltd., represents London-based Index Ventures’ largest-ever initial investment in a life sciences project, said David Grainger, a partner in the venture-capital fund who is also the drug developer’s interim chief executive officer. Funds will be used to complete research prior to human testing and finance manufacturing of the antibody, Grainger said in a telephone interview.
An estimated 7.3 million people died from coronary heart disease and 6.2 million from stroke in 2008, according to the Geneva-based World Health Organization. Current preventive medicines include clot-dissolving drugs such as warfarin, which can cause excessive bleeding when given in the doses needed to stop formation of the blockages that cause heart attacks and strokes, Grainger said.
“You would expect to see really substantial gains in reducing those events” in people taking the antibody, called ichorcumab, Grainger said. “You can maintain patients more anti-coagulated, because that risk of bleeding is reduced or not present.”
The treatment was developed by researchers at Cambridge University in England after Trevor Baglin, a blood specialist at the affiliated Addenbrooke’s Hospital, treated a patient in her 50s who had suffered a head injury in 2008. The patient’s condition was resolved without medical intervention, even though tests of her clotting ability showed she was at risk of severe and possibly fatal bleeding from the injuries, said Jim Huntington, a biologist who collaborated on the project.
Their analysis found that the woman’s blood carried a rare form of an immunoglobulin A, or IgA, antibody. They tested an anticoagulant compound based on the antibody on mice, whose tails didn’t bleed at the rate expected when clipped, Huntington, a professor of molecular hemostasis at the university who is based at the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, said in a telephone interview.
The antibody seems to affect thrombotic clots, which develop inside blood vessels, Huntington said.
The researchers have a “good idea” how the antibody works and that will form the basis for additional patent applications, Grainger said. X01 plans to file a regulatory application and begin safety testing of the antibody in humans in the U.S. in two years, he said.
Index Ventures’ investment is derived from its $200 million Life Sciences fund, which the venture-capital company began in March 2012. Investors in the fund include GlaxoSmithKline Plc and the venture capital arm of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen pharmaceutical unit.