The BioTech behind a drug to combat COVID-19 has raised a pre-IPO funding round of £3.5 million.

Glasgow-based ILC Therapeutics, which in May strengthened its board and management, has added another three names to the board to advance its lead novel hybrid interferon drug candidate Alfacyte. 

The startup is a pioneer in the discovery and development of a new class of interferon drugs which ‘interfere’ with viral reproduction and are one of the body’s key defences against all viral pathogens.  

In some cases – including SARS, MERS and COVID – viruses can evade the interferon response by delaying the innate immune response.  

A therapeutic like Alfacyte can offer enhanced interference to COVID-19 replication in the body and activate the body’s own Natural Killer (NK) cells to fight virus infection. It can also reduce ‘off target’ effects and reduce production of cytokine storm mediators which often cause the most severe cases of COVID.

In vitro testing at the University of St Andrews demonstrated that Alfacyte had many times greater antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2 cell culture, the virus which causes COVID-19, than any other available interferons. 

ILC Therapeutics is preparing Alfacyte for human clinical trials. 

Investors include Los Angeles-based lawyer and investor, Robert Kopple, St Andrews-based Eos Angel Investment Syndicate, Scottish Enterprise and ILCT management.

“We are very pleased to complete this important funding round and to strengthen the board with the appointment of Robert Kopple, Professor David Harrison and Chris Brinsmead,” said chairman Peter Bains.

The company’s CEO, Dr Alan Walker, said: “We are living through the most rapidly evolving viral environment the world has seen. Catalysed by the global COVID crisis, governments and markets alike are recognising the critical need for effective and safe antiviral medicines, both to meet the immediate challenges of today and the inevitable new threats of tomorrow.

“ILC Therapeutics’ Hybrid interferon platform technology is well positioned to address these needs and Alfacyte, our lead candidate, has the potential to become an important antiviral treatment in the ongoing global fight against COVID-19, and future pandemic threats.’’