Newcells Biotech announced the outcome on their company blog on 23 February. The funds will be used to support expansion into the USA and further develop 3D tissue models relating to liver and lung conditions.
Newcells Biotech is a life science company using stem cells and cell biology to build models of human tissues, which improves the ability to discover information on the safety and pharmacology of drugs prior to trials on humans.
Including the recent investment, they have received 10 million pounds in funding over the past 5 years. This new round of funding will support the development of their models for lung and other organ conditions—the former of which may help with understanding SARS-Cov-2 (Covid-19).
In partnership with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, they are developing a lung epithelium (the tissue lining the lungs) model of Covid-19 infection and reproduction.
Newcells Biotech’s Chief Scientific Officer, Lyle Armstrong wrote an article for Drug Target Review in November 2020 illustrating how their model can be successfully infected with COVID-19.
Their data shows COVID entering through the enzyme ACE2, which is usually a receptor for angiotensin - a hormone involved in regulating blood pressure. Covid-19 appears to enter their models’ cells by binding to those receptors, then entering the epithelial cells and reproducing.
Their modeling provides an important platform through which to study Covid-19 pathogenesis, as well as evaluating potential vaccines and therapies.
Since 2020, they have also been developing a model for the kidney’s proximal tubule, which serves a significant role in the expulsion and absorption of drugs and carcinogens. Their current models use proximal tubule cells and allow them to predict the rate a compound is filtered by the kidneys and nephrotoxicity (its toxicity to kidney tissues) accurately.
Models like these are an alternative to using freshly isolated cells for testing pharmaceuticals. Their 2021 blog about their kidney models states that their team is “dedicated to building models that incorporate the “best biology” for predicting in vivo [inside living bodies] outcomes”. They claim that advancing their model will open them up to performing chronic, low dose exposure studies to measure both long treatment regimens and chronic toxicity—their current models have a maximum lifespan of up to two weeks.
Newcells’ blog predicts that these improvements to their models will positively affect pre-clinical drug discovery, helping prevent costly failures in late-stage clinical trials.