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Respiratory disease drug company Verona Pharma relocating to Wales

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Respiratory disease drug company Verona Pharma relocating to Wales

Mar 06, 2014 By Sion Barry

The £100m Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund has made its third investment in a deal that will see London-based Verona Pharma relocating its headquarters to Cardiff.

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The Aim-listed firm is developing a range of medicines to treat respiratory diseases.

The fund which is managed on a discretionary basis by Arthurian Life Sciences, chaired by Port Talbot-born biotech serial entrepreneur and investor Sir Chris Evans, is the lead investor in the deal which will see a £14m cash injection into Verona.

The company currently has a number of its drugs in clinical trials.

The funding will be raised through the placing of new shares, with leading institutional investors in the US and UK having already committed funding alongside Arthurian – in what will be an oversubscribed placing.

The deal represents the third investment made from the Wales Life Investment Fund, which Arthurian is currently in the process of securing match funding to take it to an initial target of £100m. As the cornerstone investor in a placing, subscription and open offer Arthurian is investing £4.6m from the fund, which will give it a 20.8% stake in the enlarged share capital of Verona.

The Welsh Government has already committed £50m to the fund, which as well as attracting life sciences firms into Wales will also seek to back indigenous firms in the sector, including those in biotech, pharma, life sciences and medical devices.

Arthurian has already made investments into Merthyr-based Simbec Research and was the lead investor in a £25m rights issue which will see Surrey-based Aim-listed cell therapy firm ReNeuron relocating to South Wales.

Sir Chris said: “We are delighted that we have a great pharmaceutical company like Verona coming to Wales. This is one of the greatest things I have done in Wales in the last few years. In the last couple of deals [Arthurian] we have brought to Wales some of world’s biggest investors in the sector such as Abingdon, who have hundreds of billions in funds.

“It really is a case of wow that these leading funds are coming to Wales for the first time and there is more [co-investment with Arthurian] to come.

“Verona has the potential to be worth hundreds of millions in value. We have invested roughly £10m from the fund to date. but the value added is that this has brought more than £50m in cash into Wales from our co-investors.”

As part of the deal within the next couple of months Verona will establish a new headquarters in Cardiff.

An element of Verona’s drug formulation and clinical trial work will also be coming to South Wales. Simbec is expected to be supporting Verona in its clinical trials.

Verona is developing drugs to treat conditions such as chronic asthma and severe cough, as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Sir Chris said: “With 10% of the population in Wales suffering from a respiratory disease bringing this world class company here is  particularly relevant.”

Chief executive of Verona Dr Jan-Anders Karlsson said: “I am delighted at the strong demand for shares form institutions in both the UK and US for this proposed fund raising. which was significantly oversubscribed.

“The monies raised will allow us to progress our lead pipeline asset, RPL554, in further phase two studies through the next significant value inflection point.

“We would like to thank our existing investors for their continuing support and look forward to  welcoming our new shareholders to the company.

“We are confident that the progress we will make in the medium and longer term will not only result in important new medicines for patients with respiratory, disease but will also translate into the creation of significant value for our shareholders.”

Speaking earlier at the BioWales 2014 event  at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay, Sir Chris said that Arthurian has 360 targets on its deal flow database. He added: “Of these we are talking seriously to 42 companies.”

Sir Chris told the conference, attended by 600 delegates, that Wales was working on a much needed life sciences brand which would be recognised by companies, researchers and investors globally.

He added: “We have to think international and that is all that I think about. I see that as my principle role within the life science sector in Wales.”

He said that Wales needed to develop a “truly iconic” Welsh science park, which he is confident will be realised.

He added: “At the moment we are one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t have a national science park. We have to bring the world to embrace Wales and they have to come here because we are brilliant.”

Arthurian Life Sciences Fund leads Reneuron PLC to new era

Arthurian Life Sciences Limited, manager of the new £100m Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund, has arranged a £13.8m funding commitment from the Welsh Government to enable ReNeuron PLC (AIM: PLE) to relocate to Wales and continue to grow the unique stem cell R&D, clinical trials and manufacturing base of the company.  The funding package is made up of £5m direct equity investment from the Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund and a £7.8m commitment of non-dilutive grants from the Government.

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This investment has formed the cornerstone of a total fundraising of £33.2m for the Company in which several other leading, expert international life sciences investors, hedge funds and Venture capitalists including Invesco and Abingworth, have joined Arthurian as part of this landmark fundraising.

Stem cells are one of the most exciting fields in medical science today given their potential to regenerate and repair damaged or diseased tissue. After many years in development, a number of therapies are now either available or in the clinic. Over many years, ReNeuron has led the way with the development of its CTX cell line.

Arthurian Chairman Professor Sir Chris Evans orchestrated a highly innovative plan structure to bring to Wales a listed English company with unique, world-leading technology, secure sufficient financial support from leading institutional investors to enable it to progress several of its products to a value inflexion point, making this a very attractive investment indeed for Wales and for the Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund. The non-dilutive nature of the Welsh grant monies towards all of ReNeurons future growth also make this move to Wales a very attractive benefit to the Company and all its shareholders.

Sir Chris originated the plan by making a very compelling proposition to the CEO and Board of ReNeuron to create a state of the art human stem cell R&D and Manufacturing infrastructure for ReNeuron in Wales to be underpinned by £7.8m of Welsh government grants and £5m equity investment from the £100m Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund.  As well as the £13.8m financial package from Wales, Port-Talbot born Sir Chris will join the board and bring his extensive range of skills and international networks to the future growth of ReNeuron.

Once the board of ReNeuron had committed to the Welsh plan put forward by Sir Chris , the Arthurian Investment  Committee Chaired by former Rothschilds biotech veteran Jeremy Curnock Cook and the Welsh Government’s Life Sciences team under Business Minister Edwina Hart, were able to complete extensive due diligence and commit their combined £13.8m package in a matter of weeks.

Lord John Hutton, a Board member of Arthurian commented: “I was incredibly impressed by the creativity, speed and rigour of the Arthurian investment managers and delighted to see them working in excellent partnership with the Welsh Government’s own expert due diligence team to complete such a complex and substantial transaction in a matter of weeks”.

ARTHURIAN LIFE SCIENCES FUND LEADS RENEURON PLC TO NEW ERA 

Arthurian Life Sciences Limited, manager of the new £100m Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund, has arranged a £13.8m funding commitment from the Welsh Government to enable ReNeuron PLC (AIM: PLE) to relocate to Wales and continue to grow the unique stem cell R&D, clinical trials and manufacturing base of the company.  The funding package is made up of £5m direct equity investment from the Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund and a £7.8m commitment of non-dilutive grants from the Government.

This investment has formed the cornerstone of a total fundraising of £33.2m for the Company in which several other leading, expert international life sciences investors, hedge funds and Venture capitalists including Invesco and Abingworth, have joined Arthurian as part of this landmark fundraising.

Stem cells are one of the most exciting fields in medical science today given their potential to regenerate and repair damaged or diseased tissue. After many years in development, a number of therapies are now either available or in the clinic. Over many years, ReNeuron has led the way with the development of its CTX cell line.

Arthurian Chairman Professor Sir Chris Evans orchestrated a highly innovative plan structure to bring to Wales a listed English company with unique, world-leading technology, secure sufficient financial support from leading institutional investors to enable it to progress several of its products to a value inflexion point, making this a very attractive investment indeed for Wales and for the Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund. The non-dilutive nature of the Welsh grant monies towards all of ReNeurons future growth also make this move to Wales a very attractive benefit to the Company and all its shareholders.

Sir Chris originated the plan by making a very compelling proposition to the CEO and Board of ReNeuron to create a state of the art human stem cell R&D and Manufacturing infrastructure for ReNeuron in Wales to be underpinned by £7.8m of Welsh government grants and £5m equity investment from the £100m Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund.  As well as the £13.8m financial package from Wales, Port-Talbot born Sir Chris will join the board and bring his extensive range of skills and international networks to the future growth of ReNeuron.

Once the board of ReNeuron had committed to the Welsh plan put forward by Sir Chris , the Arthurian Investment  Committee Chaired by former Rothschilds biotech veteran Jeremy Curnock Cook and the Welsh Government’s Life Sciences team under Business Minister Edwina Hart, were able to complete extensive due diligence and commit their combined £13.8m package in a matter of weeks.

Lord John Hutton, a Board member of Arthurian commented: “I was incredibly impressed by the creativity, speed and rigour of the Arthurian investment managers and delighted to see them working in excellent partnership with the Welsh Government’s own expert due diligence team to complete such a complex and substantial transaction in a matter of weeks”.

On the back of this initiative and cornerstone investment, Sir Chris was able to assist in securing substantial co- investment from some of the world’s largest specialist investors including Invesco where Pharma and Medical focussed funds managed by CIO Neil Woodford are some of the most successful in the sector, along with hedge funds and leading VC firms such as Abingworth Partners. This then enabled the company and its advisers to attract over £27 million of interest within one week against an original target of £15 million. The company was able to capitalise on the momentum begun by Arthurian to complete an over-subscribed fundraising in a fraction of the anticipated time.

Sir Chris Evans commented:

“Among the hundreds of deals Arthurian has screened as it seeks investments for the Wales Life Sciences Fund, this is one of the most exciting and hugely significant transactions for both Wales and the future of medicine.

This transaction represents the sort of exciting and innovative deal and investment that will become the hallmark of this Arthurian investment strategy for Wales. The underlining theme throughout all that Arthurian does is to seek out exciting, high quality international life science businesses and assemble bespoke, but substantial, funding packages that will use Wales as a base, using the Fund, reputable specialist co- investors and the Welsh Government itself . These packages will consist of equity investment, non-dilutive grants, very competitive loans and other infrastructural financial incentives to give businesses the best possible growth prospects as they launch their international activities from their Welsh base.”

Minister for Business Economy Transport and Science Edwina Hart commented:

“I am delighted by the news that ReNeuron has decided to move to Wales.  ReNeuron is the first company in the world to have been granted permission to run clinical trials of ground-breaking stem cell technology to treat patients with stroke, one of the top three causes of death and a leading cause of adult disability in Wales.

Cardiff University has always been one of the leading centres in the UK for both stem cell and neuroscience research, strengthened in June this year with the opening of the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics and the appointment of Professor Yves Barde to the Sêr Cymru Research Chair in Neurobiology.

This is the second investment made by the Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund, a key component in our strategy to support the growth of the life sciences sector in Wales- one of our key priority sectors with the potential to make a significant contribution to the Welsh economy.

Finally I am delighted with the speed and professionalism of Sir Chris and his Arthurian Board at securing this excellent opportunity for Wales.  It is exactly the sort of exciting new activity we outlined at BioWales in our Vision for growing Wales’ Life Sciences sector over the next decade.”

 

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Welsh move puts stem cell team on path to growth

Andrew Clark Deputy Business Editor

Published at 12:01AM, July 23 2013

The Welsh government has provided a £7.8 million grant to lure a promising English biotechnology company across the border as part of an attempt to build a global base for stem cell research.

ReNeuron, founded in Surrey, is developing a technique of using stem cells to restore movement to people who have been paralysed by strokes.

Politicians in Cardiff want to create a bioscience hub along the M4 corridor between Cardiff and Swansea, with a particular expertise in stem cells – the body’s biological building blocks that stimulate new tissue growth. “It was a deal that was too good to turn down,” said Michael Hunt, the chief executive of ReNeuron, which has agreed to move its headquarters and to build a new factory in Wales. “We needed to find a way to secure control over the manufacturing of our products and this is not an investment we could have made from our own resources.”

ReNeuron raised a further £25 million in a placing of shares yesterday to fund clinical trials. The company had £17,000 of revenue last year and burnt through £6 million of cash. It won heavyweight backing as Sir Christopher Evans, the prominent Welsh biotech entrepreneur, invested in yesterday’s fundraising and joined the board as a non-executive director. The company’s lead product is still at an early stage, the second of three phases of clinical trials are due to begin this year.

 

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ReNeuron stem cell firm relocates in £33.2m investment

22 July 2013 Last updated at 15:49

A medical company is due to relocate to south Wales after securing £33.2m to continue its research into stem cells which can repair damaged tissue.

ReNeuron has received almost £13m in Welsh government grants and investments as part of its move from Guildford.

Minister Edwina Hart said life sciences was a key business sector with the “potential to make a significant contribution to the Welsh economy”.

The company is working on treatment for stroke patients.

Bosses are planning to relocate to south Wales over the next two years, bringing 25 jobs and possibly expanding to employ about 70 people.

It has not been established exactly where the company will be based but it is looking a number of potential sites between Swansea and Cardiff.

The deal includes £7.8m of Welsh government grants and £5m equity investment from Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund which is worth £100m.

‘Exciting and innovative’

The Welsh government says life sciences – which includes pharmaceutical and medical technology firms – employs 15,000 people in Wales and is worth £1.3bn to the economy.

Ministers have previously spoken about their desire to make Wales an attractive place for scientific research and development.

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Arthurian Life Sciences Limited manages the investment fund and its chairman Prof Sir Chris Evans is said to have devised the plan leading to ReNeuron’s move.

“This transaction represents the sort of exciting and innovative deal and investment that will become the hallmark of this Arthurian investment strategy for Wales,” said Prof Evans, who is originally from Port Talbot.

He is a scientist and entrepreneur who has created over 50 medical companies with some since sold as multi-million pound enterprises.

Prof Evans helped bring the deal about, with £12.8m investment and grant money from Wales, which persuaded the company to move from Surrey to Wales.

He said the firm was likely to be located close to Cardiff.

“We’re not rushing into it, it’s something we’ll look at carefully over the next few months,” he told BBC Radio Wales.

Prof Evans said if things panned out well, manufacturing and research would expand and there was a potential for hundreds of jobs in the long term “with some of the highest skilled jobs you’re ever likely to see in Wales.”

Ms Hart, Minister for Business, Economy, Transport and Science, said she was “delighted” by ReNeuron plans.

“ReNeuron is the first company in the world to have been granted permission to run clinical trials of ground-breaking stem cell technology to treat patients with stroke, one of the top three causes of death and a leading cause of adult disability in Wales,” she said.

 

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Stem cell company ReNeuron relocates to Wales

By Roland Gribben

5:10PM BST 22 Jul 2013

Financial assistance from the Government in Wales and the promise of long-term support has played a key role in persuading ReNeuron, a leading clinical stage stem cell business, to make the move from Guildford. The aid forms part of a £33m financing package the company says will transforms its prospects.

Funding of £7.8m in grants and up to £5m in an equity stake is being provided by the Welsh administration in a venture that breaks new ground in the competition for high-tech investment.

Aim listed ReNeuron is expected to make the move to South Wales in the next two years bringing 25 jobs and the hope of increasing the total to 70.

The company is raising £25.35m through an over- subscribed placing of just over a billion shares at 2.5p, a 20pc discount on recent trading, to fund therapeutic programmes through trials and development.

Major new investors, including Invesco where chief investment officer Neil Woodford manages extensive medical funds and Abingworth have subscribed to the placing while directors are chipping in £110,000 for 4.4m shares.

Michael Hunt, ReNeuron chief executive, said the fund raising would transform the financial position of the business and its future prospects. The Welsh grant package would enable the company to take control over the manufacture of stem cell therapy candidates as they get closer to market.

Sir Chris Evans, Welsh born serial entrepreneur, a ReNeuron shareholder and chairman of Arthurian Life Sciences which arranged the Welsh funding, has played a key role in persuading ReNeuron to make the switch. He helped the company get off the ground out of his own pocket and is joining the board as a non-executive director.

ReNeuron is the first company in the world to have been granted permission to run clinical trials of ground breaking technology to treat patients with a stroke. The company is also developing stem cell therapies for other conditions such as critical limb ischaemia, a serious and common side effect of diabetes and blindness causing diseases of the retina.

The investment boost accompanied the release of full year figures showing ReNeuron had revenues of just £17,000 in the year to March 31 and a pre-tax loss of just over £7m.

Sir Chris Evans’ Arthurian closes first investment by Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund

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Two former directors, Howard Jenkins and Trevor Tanner, have returned to Simbec backed by the new Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund managed by Arthurian.

This new team has acquired the company from its former parent the Canadian Altasciences Group, to make it once more a totally independent Welsh company.

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This is the initial investment for Wales’ first-ever dedicated Life Sciences Fund whose launch was announced by Professor Sir Chris Evans at BioWales in March.  It marks a momentous stage in Simbec’s history spanning almost four decades. Merthyr Tydfil-based Simbec Research employs around 90 staff.

With the backing of the Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund and commercial support from Sir Chris’ Arthurian team and networks, Simbec hopes to expand to employ over 100 skilled staff. In particular, the fund intends to invest in a range of clinical stage opportunities and believes these will create great synergies with Simbec. Professor Trevor Jones, board director of Arthurian and former head of research and development at Wellcome Plc, will become chairman of Simbec.

Jenkins, chief executive, says: “We will continue to work with the world’s leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies specialising in the early clinical development of new pharmaceuticals. This new partnership with the Wales Life Sciences Fund is a major step towards creating an invigorated and more dynamic company and we look forward to a highly stimulating period of growth for Wales and for all involved.”

Sir Chris, who will join the board of Simbec, says: “We had been watching developments at Simbec very closely and had to move fast to secure this deal once the Canadian owners had decided to sell.  We are pleased we were able to anchor this company in Wales and preserve this very significant number of skilled jobs.  This is a good Welsh-based clinicals business and the extensive Arthurian networks should be able to contribute significantly to the growth of Simbec’s commercial activities in the near future.”

Marc Davies, PwC Corporate Finance, says: “Simbec has been a client of PwC for many years and is a high quality business. We were delighted to bring together and work with the returning management and WLSIF on this deal. WLSIF is an excellent partner for Simbec and we look forward to seeing the continued development of the business and the benefits the partnership will have for Wales and the life sciences sector.”