Imperagen has developed a unique technology to accelerate the design, optimisation, and validation of novel enzymes for large molecular drug discovery. Northern Gritstone, along with IQ Capital, has led a £3.5 million Seed Round to fund the initial spin out of Imperagen from University of Manchester. 

Imperagen, a life sciences company building unique technology to accelerate the development of enzyme biocatalysts, has secured a £3.5m seed round of investment led by IQ Capital and Northern Gritstone. For Imperagen, this represents the company’s first significant external capital raise.

Chemical manufacture is a multi-trillion-dollar global industry and green biocatalysts, rather than hazardous metallic catalysts, are at the centre of the next industrial revolution, making processes cleaner and more efficient, significantly reducing both raw material waste and costs.

The IP-rich firm is a spinout from the University of Manchester led by serial entrepreneur Dr Andrew Almond, who co-founded Conformetrix, now listed on AIM as C4X Discovery.

Imperagen will use the funding to support the development and validation of its ultra-fast enzyme engineering platform. Its ambition is to initially target its novel enzyme products at the manufacture of complex drug molecules, with the longer-term aim of developing enzymes for applications ranging from laboratory tools to enzyme replacement therapies and drug delivery systems.

Its proprietary technology combines cutting-edge computational design with synthetic biology and laboratory automation to speed up the process of developing optimised enzymes for pharmaceutical companies, enabling them to rapidly establish more efficient and environmentally friendly manufacturing at industrial scale.

The company’s enzyme products will enable exciting new green processes, revolutionising old manufacturing routes by reducing use of raw materials, energy, and harmful by-products.

Pharmaceutical manufacture has some of the highest purity demands, and this results in substantial raw material usage and waste production using traditional chemical engineering and metallic catalysts. Specific enzyme biocatalysts can make a big impact, cutting raw material and waste by 80% during product manufacture. But enzymes must be reengineered for every new process, and currently this may take years. Delays to marketing a drug can result in millions of dollars of lost revenue per day.

IQ Capital is the leading deeptech venture capital firm based in London and Cambridge that invests in early-stage deeptech businesses using hard-to-replicate technology in massive global markets.

Northern Gritstone is a new investment business focused on university spinouts in the north of England, founded by the Universities of Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield. Having announced its first close of £220m in May, since its launch it has made two later-stage investments in Iceotope, which develops liquid cooling for data centres, and Opteran, which uses biological systems to power decision-making capabilities for autonomous machines. Imperagen represents Northern Gritstone’s first direct seed investment in a university spinout.

Imperagen has been supported by the University of Manchester Innovation Factory and was advised on the fundraising by Clarion Solicitors.

Commenting, Dr Andrew Almond, Founder and CEO of Imperagen said:

“Our world-leading technology will be at the very forefront of revolutionising the frustratingly slow process of enzyme engineering and solving the sustainability crisis. Imperagen aims to shrink a process that typically takes years to months and fit into the tight window of opportunity required during chemical manufacturing scaleup. The exceptional support provided by IQ Capital and Northern Gritstone is central to realising this vision.”

Commenting, Ed Stacey, Managing Partner at IQ Capital said:

“Imperagen is an incredibly exciting company at the forefront of modernizing legacy industrial manufacturing processes. The company’s several technology breakthroughs have the potential to accelerate development of biocatalysts by many orders of magnitude, unlocking environmentally sustainable processes across multiple trillion dollar industries. We have deep conviction in Imperagen’s vision, technology, and potential impact for the planet.”

Commenting, Northern Gritstone CEO Duncan Johnson said:

“Imperagen’s technology has the potential to transform drug discovery by speeding up the process by which enzymes are developed and reducing its environmental impact.

“The company is an outstanding example of the innovative spinouts in life sciences currently emerging from universities in the north of England. These are exactly the kinds of companies which Northern Gritstone was created to support as they develop their propositions and scale up.”

Commenting, Professor Luke Georghiou, Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Manchester said:

“This landmark investment demonstrates the huge untapped potential of innovation in the North of England. Our researchers at the University of Manchester have created a pipeline of opportunities which will play an important part in economic recovery and sustainable growth.”