o2h Ventures Limited
o2h Ventures is a leading investment firm which specialises in backing biotech companies, offering private investors the opportunity to back promising medical innovations via the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and the Seed Investment Scheme (SEIS). It is the only firm, believes the management, that specialises in biotech therapeutics, as a deep technical expertise is required to analyse such businesses.
Managing Partners are brothers Sunil (CEO) and Prashant Shah. Both have been working in the biotech/pharma space most of their careers and have invested personally in around 20 biotech companies, mainly in the Cambridge area.
The investment focus of the Fund will be therapeutic drug opportunities or technologies that enable drug discovery with an emphasis on Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The geographic scope shall be UK wide but will target the growing Cambridge biotech cluster which is now the global headquarters of AstraZeneca, and is home to many biotech companies some of which have subsequently been snapped up by large pharmaceutical companies.
Key team members
Sunil Shah is a serial entrepreneur having begun his career in the Life Sciences team at PA Consulting group followed by co-founding two companies in the information technology and life sciences sector. Sunil is the CEO of the o2h Group. The o2h Group has developed an engine for seeding a pipeline of early stage life science assets through research collaborations, in-licensing, spin-outs & investments. The DNA of o2h is centred around the nurturing of its people, values and culture, it reflects in the way we work with each other, as well as our collaborators and partners.
Sunil was awarded Angel of the Year 2019 by UKBAA for his active participation in backing high growth potential startups and early-stage businesses in the UK as well as the OBN Special Recognition Award for his signification contribution in the Life Sciences Industry. He is a Board Director of Cambridge Angels and also is a member of the Advisory Panel of Cancer Research UK (CRUK) which is the UK’s largest cancer research charity. He is either Chairman, Director, Board Observer or investor of: Phoremost, Exonate, Opal Oncology, Five Alarm Bio, Somaserve, DeepMatter, Oppilotech, Sentinel, Small Pharma, Arecor, Metrion, Talisman, Stemnovate, Acacia, Privitar and Oxford Drug Design.
A serial entrepreneur having begun a career with the Strategy group of at Accenture followed by co-founding two companies in the technology and life sciences sector. The second of these companies focused on drug discovery was acquired by a public company. Prashant co-founded o2h Ventures which is involved in seeding, incubating and investing in early stage life science and technology companies. Prashant has a BEng, MSc and an MPhil in Management.
Andy is a medicinal chemist with over 25 years working in major pharma (Sanofi-Aventis, AZ). He has experience across all discovery phases, having supported five candidates into the clinic. He is an author and inventor of over 55 publications and patents. He has been working with the o2h group since 2013 to lead the scientific evaluation of the investments and also provides scientific support on key projects within the portfolio. He is the CSO of Opal Oncology and effective CSO for two o2h earlystage collaborations.
Example portfolio companies
A systems biology approach that uses artificial intelligence to predict valid drug targets for further development. This is a new investment that we made in October 2019 alongside Cambridge Angels and Martlet Capital. The company is currently focused on building the team.
DeepMatter Group PLC
An AiM listed company focused on the digitization of chemistry. The company has built a combined software and hardware platform (a unique low footprint sensor array in flask) to enable synthesis planning, the collection of data as a chemistry reaction progresses, which can then be analysed to give a predictive capability to make molecules cheaper and faster.
On the 10th December 2019, DeepMatter announced a positive update, which was a collaboration with the global big pharma - Astra Zeneca: https://www.fiercebiotech.com/medtech/astrazeneca-applies-ai-to-molecule-building-work-deepmatter-collaboration
We regularly meet with the CEO Mark Warne, provide connections into our network and also strategic advice.
Exonate is Cambridge UK based company working on mRNA targeted therapies to form an alternative isoform of VEGF. The company aims to introduce a revolutionary, game changing eye drop for the treatment of retinal vascular diseases including Diabetic Macular oedema and wet Age Related Macular Degeneration. These are the most common causes of blindness in the developed world. The current gold standard of care is monthly injections of anti-VEGF treatments (~$11B annual sales), directly into the eye. Exonate hopes to reduce this treatment burden and to become the treatment of choice and market leader in therapeutic area. The Company has a highly respected board of directors of which Sunil is the Chair. It has received significant funding from the Wellcome Trust.
Exonate is very close to completing a substantial research collaboration deal with a global pharma company by the 19th December 2019 with a view to announce this on the 6th January 2020 at the JPM Healthcare conference in San Francisco, USA, which I will be attending.
Metrion Biosciences Limited
Metrion Biosciences provides specialised ion channel contract research services to the pharmaceutical and biotech industry. Ion channels are increasingly being identified as drug discovery targets in a wide variety of human diseases. In addition, all drugs in development are required to be tested against cardiac ion channels for safety assessment.
Based in Granta Park, Cambridge, UK, Metrion is an international leader in ion channel biology. Since our investment, whilst continuing to support interesting assets and collaborations for Auto-Immune diseases the main focus has been to achieve profitability in the service business.
When we made our initial investment, the company was EBITDA negative and now this year the company expects to achieve revenues in excess of £2m, a significant expansion of its US customer base and positive operating profits. We attend board meetings and have ad-hoc calls with the Chairman. We also leverage our network to be supportive to the business.
Oxford Drug Design Limited
Post investment the company has started to drawdown part of the $11m in non-dilutive funds to support the development of its Antibiotic drug. Governments are more aware than ever around the issue of “resistance” of existing antibiotics which can render them in-effective and the urgency for new drugs. Two of our co-investors in this round have joined me on the Board who are experts in finance and drug discovery. With new recruits from Oxford University, Department of Mathematics we are optimising the machine learning platform to start new projects for attractive but difficult to drug targets.
The company has recently generated exciting positive data that indicates that the drug could be used as an oral treatment for AMR. We attend board meetings and support on business development and strategy.
Small Pharma Limited
The Small Pharma team have specific experience in IP and the drug development process. The company has proprietary DMT compositions and a high yielding scalable GMP-ready synthetic route for DMT, a psychedelic compound, that they believe is a promising candidate as an effective rapid-acting treatment for depression. They have been raising funds to support this and planning on closing a funding round on 19 December 2019.
o2h Ventures plan to further support the project in this investment round. Chris Torrance, who is a member of our investment committee is a Board Member.
Somaserve is a uniquely positioned specialist reagent and pharma service business which exploits the proprietary polyNaut™ technology (a ‘bionic’ nanoparticle vesicle). The reagent products are highly differentiated and address an unfulfilled area in the live cell imaging market. The ‘fee for service’ offering solves molecule viability problems for clients presenting a new approach to drug discovery.
The company is a UCL spin out which closed its seed funding round in July 2019. Investors include Abcam plc who are also the company’s strategic marketing partner, o2h Ventures and three angel investors.
Somaserve has now commenced work on its first paid services contract with a UK Biotech and the pipeline of future business opportunities continues to expand. In addition, they are finalising the development work with their corporate partner for the full launch of the live cell imaging reagents business early in the new year. Overall, the business is off to a positive start. We have frequent interactions with the CEO and other board members to monitor our investment.