A spinout from the University of Oxford has launched after raising £16.5 million to target a range of cancers with its biotechnology.

Yellowstone Biosciences is seeking to unlock a new class of therapeutically targetable, frequently expressed antigens with potential to significantly transform patient lives. 

FTSE 250 life sciences investor Syncona committed £16.5m to fund the company in progressing its lead programme in acute myeloid leukaemia, and exploration into expanding its pipeline.

Spun out of the University of Oxford with the support of Oxford University Innovation, Yellowstone is built around the pioneering research of Professor Paresh Vyas, a world-renowned scientific academic, key opinion leader and practising clinician with a specialist focus on AML. 

Over 20 years, Prof. Vyas’ laboratory has collected a proprietary biobank of over 10,000 samples from over 3,000 AML patients, including a rare cohort of patients cured by allogeneic blood cell transplantation. 

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From this cohort a novel set of frequently expressed peptide antigens were identified, which could unlock a new class of highly selective cancer therapeutics.

The company says its T-cell engagers have the potential to selectively kill target tumour cells whilst sparing healthy cells. 

It will focus initially on its lead programme in AML, which accounts for 62% of all leukaemia deaths, and where there is no universally agreed standard of care for the majority of patients. 

Other common solid tumours it could then target include ovarian cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, renal cancer and melanoma.

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Prof. Vyas is the new company’s chief scientific officer while Julian Hirst – who held senior finance roles at Immunocore and MiroBio – joins as co-founder and chief financial officer.

 Neil Johnston, who spent 17 years at Novartis – most recently as global head of business development and licensing – also joins as executive chair.

Gonzalo Garcia, investment partner at Syncona and non-executive director at Yellowstone, said: “Yellowstone is the latest company formed from Syncona’s model of creating and building businesses based on exceptional science and world-class founders. 

“The work Prof. Vyas has undertaken in this field is truly remarkable. Although difficult to identify, tumour-selective, frequently expressed antigens are particularly strong cancer targets as they allow development and manufacturing of therapies that can treat large numbers of patients. 

“We believe that Syncona can build a globally leading UK company around this novel discovery that has significant patient and commercial potential.”

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