The Reporter
Issue 491, 16 June 2003
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Cancer drugs spin-out secures 3.5m


University of Leeds spin-out company, Photopharmica, has secured £3.5m funding to help bring innovative cancer treatments nearer to public use. The company, the brainchild of Professor Stan Brown of biochemistry and molecular biology and Professor John Griffiths of colour chemistry, is working with drugs known as photosensitisers, which harness energy from light to kill unwanted tissue or other organisms.

The drugs have been developed at the University’s centre for photobiology and photodynamic therapy. The photosensitisers spread throughout the body, but concentrate in cancerous or infected tissue. Without light, they are harmless, but when laser or other light is applied they activate and kill target cells. This allows for accurate treatment of a set area, avoiding the harmful side effects associated with chemotherapy and radiation therapies.

Research at the centre, which brings together academics from colour chemistry, biological sciences and medicine, is funded through Yorkshire Cancer Research. Director of the centre and chief scientific officer of Photopharmica, Professor Stan Brown said: "These types of therapies have great potential for cancer treatments, but could also be effective in destroying organisms resistant to antibiotics, the so-called 'superbugs'. There are major opportunities in this field which Photopharmica is now well-placed to exploit."

Photopharmica Ltd was set up in 2001, and subsequently gained White Rose technology seedcorn funding. The £3.5m venture capital will be used to carry out trials on two potential drug candidates for cancer and anti-infection.

Company CEO John Lyon said: "We’re extremely pleased to have secured this funding, especially in the current harsh economic climate. Photopharmica is one of a few life science companies which has been funded to this level in the UK this year, and this is testament to the strength of our products and our strategy."


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