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Spin-out secures £1.1 million for ground-breaking 'supercharged' cell therapies to treat solid tumours

The surface of a tumour CytoSeek

Adam Perriman, Professor of Bioengineerng in the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and founder of CytoSeek CytoSeek

Press release issued: 25 November 2019

A University of Bristol spin-out company has raised £1.1 million in funding to develop next generation cell therapies that could open new ways to treat solid tumours and improve the lives of 18 million people worldwide who are diagnosed with cancer each year.

Presently, treatments for solid tumours, which account for most tumour deaths, are limited by the inability of immune cells to penetrate the tumour microenvironment. CytoSeek's pioneering cell membrane augmentation technology is being used to create the first effective cell therapy for solid tumours. The process involves modifying a patient’s own immune cells to “supercharge” them against cancer cells.

Adam Perriman, Professor of Bioengineerng in the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Bristol, and founder of CytoSeek, explained: "At the moment cell therapies of this kind are only used in the treatment of cancers in the blood, such as leukaemia. We are looking at ways that cell therapy can also be used for solid tumours, which are responsible for 85 per cent of cancer-related deaths. To do this, we have developed a protein-based cellular paint that can be put on cells to improve their cancer-killing performance.

"In the last three years Bristol has created an incredible environment for the clinical translation of science to biotechnology, and this investment will help us to rapidly accelerate the pre-clinical validation of the technology, which will help get it to the clinic faster."

The company, which is based at Bristol's Unit DX incubator, secured funding from ten entrepreneurs who are all members of the Bristol Private Equity Club; the Venture Capitalist fund UKI2S and the University of Bristol Enterprise Fund managed by Parkwalk.

Jerry Barnes, founder of Bristol Private Equity Club, said: "Ten of our members have put their money and business expertise behind CytoSeek as biotech businesses like this need the financial backing in their early years to enable them to make progress.

"It is exciting that work going on in Bristol today may lead to breakthroughs in treatment that could benefit people throughout the world in the future."

Oliver Sexton, Investment Director of UKI2S, added: "UKI2S was the founding investor in CytoSeek supporting its early growth and following again in this latest round. We are excited about the potential to improve efficacy across a range of immuno-oncology therapies."

Keith MacDonald, Chairman of CytoSeek, said: "We're pleased to have closed our latest investment round so quickly - now our research team can focus on bringing this important science to the clinic. Getting the backing of local angel investors and national venture capital funds is a real boost. CytoSeek’s deep tech will make a real impact in medicine."

Further information

Bristol Private Equity Club
BPEC was founded in 2016 and now has 80 successful entrepreneurs and business people from the Bristol area with capital to invest as club members. In three years the club has invested more than £6 million into 19 different businesses.

About Parkwalk
Parkwalk is the largest growth EIS fund manager, backing world-changing technologies emerging from the UK’s leading universities and research institutions. With £250m of assets under management, it has invested in over 100 companies across its flagship Parkwalk Opportunities EIS Fund as well as the award-winning enterprise and innovation funds Parkwalk manages for the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Bristol.

Parkwalk invests in businesses creating solutions to real-world challenges, with IP-protected innovations, across a range of sectors including life sciences, AI, quantum computing, advanced materials, genomics, cleantech, future of mobility, medtech and big data. 

About the University of Bristol Enterprise Fund
Managed by Parkwalk, The University of Bristol Enterprise Fund is an early stage investment fund backing scientific and technological companies spun out of the University of Bristol or being supported by the University’s SETsquared incubator.

For more information, please visit:

About UKI2S
UKI2S is a national seed investment fund that helps the UK to build innovative businesses, leverage private investment and grow jobs. UKI2S achieves this by nurturing new businesses arising from the great science undertaken in the UK; providing the patient, long-term committed capital and strategic advice these companies need. Over the past decade and more UKI2S has built a substantial track record with 55 portfolio companies created – with only £14m of capital from UKI2S – that between them have attracted over £400m of later stage investment and now have a combined market value of over £700m. UKI2S works closely with its partners – led STFC, BBSRC and NERC, which are all part of UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) and Dstl — and is aligned with the Catapults and Innovate UK to create the best environment for innovation to flourish and in turn, boost the UK’s competitiveness and productivity by commercialising key technological advances in industrial biotech, ag tech, healthcare, medicine, clean energy, materials, artificial intelligence, software and space. For more information, please visit

Unit DX
Unit DX is central Bristol’s deep tech incubator, home to the city's most innovative science and engineering companies. Unit DX empowers scientists as entrepreneurs, providing facilities, investment, and mentoring. Its member companies are using emerging technologies from biotechnology and synthetic biology, to artificial intelligence, photonics and advanced materials, to create new markets and deliver solutions to big societal problems.

Unit DX was established in 2017 by the founders of Ziylo, a start-up that was acquired in 2018 by Novo Nordisk to develop smart insulins. In the process of spinning out the company, the founders realised that there was no home for science companies in the city centre. The first facility is now full and home to over 30 businesses, which have collectively raised over £28 million in the last two years. A second location is in development.

About Bristol BioDesign Institute
Bristol BioDesign Institute (BBI) is the University of Bristol's Specialist Research Institute for synthetic biology. With wide-ranging applications from health to food security, BBI combines pioneering synthetic biology approaches with understanding biomolecular systems to deliver the rational design and engineering of biological systems for useful purposes. This is delivered through multidisciplinary research that brings together postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers, academics, policy makers and industry, whilst also engaging the public with emerging solutions to global challenges. 

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