Pharmaceutical startup takes £830,000 in equity funding

Small Pharma, a London-based pharmaceutical startup, has announced it has raised £830,000, supplemented by a £140,000 grant from Innovate UK to support the development of a rapid-acting drug for patients experiencing severe depression.

The round was led by Chris Torrance, co-founder of Horizon Discovery and PhoreMost, with the Angel CoFund, pharma sector experts and investors Steve Harris, David Ebsworth and Peter Keen, and Secret Escapes co-founder, Tom Valentine, also participating. The investors were joined by 63 additional angels, following a successful campaign on SyndicateRoom, an angel investing platform with a track record in assisting early-stage life sciences companies.

Chris Torrance has also joined the board of Small Pharma, alongside Steve Harris who has sat on the board since November 2015, and is now becoming Chairman of the two year-old preclinical biotech. Mr Harris’ wealth of board experience includes Skyephama Plc, now merged with Vectura, and Cyprotex Plc, recently acquired by Evotec.

Small Pharma, founded in 2015 by Peter Rands, focuses on low-cost pharmaceutical product development and has a unique model for selecting and executing projects centred on detailed intellectual property (IP) strategy. The funding will support Small Pharma’s latest project as it develops an antidepressant based on a derivative of ketamine. With an estimated 615 million people suffering from depression and/or anxiety globally, many remain severely undertreated. Small Pharma has identified an innovative solution that could bridge this gap in the treatment of one of the biggest causes of disability worldwide.

Clinical trials have demonstrated a potent antidepressant effect using intravenous infusions of ketamine. However, delivery of the drug via this method requires the presence of a healthcare professional and normally requires patients to travel for treatment. This problem is compounded by ketamine’s adverse side effects, and the potential for abuse. Small Pharma are developing a modified drug product which aims to overcome these challenges. The funding will be used, specifically, to formulate the company’s novel drug product and prepare for proof-of-concept clinical trials.

Peter Rands, Managing Director of Small Pharma, commented: “We are extremely excited to team up with a fantastic set of investors, enabling us to take this project further over the next two years. Depression remains severely undertreated, and with these funds in place we can move forward with a focus on developing our drug candidate to help address the unmet needs of patients with depression.”

Chris Torrance, lead investor, commented: “Developing drugs of this nature has to be a priority. Current antidepressants typically take six to twelve weeks before a response is established. A fast acting drug, with a novel yet proven mechanism with reduced side-effects would be transformative in bridging this treatment gap.”

Tim Mills, Investment Director at the Angel CoFund commented: “The negative impact of acute depression has long been recognised, but to-date the treatment options open to clinicians have been extremely limited. The focus on this major but unaddressed area promises to bring relief to many. We’re extremely proud to be backing Small Pharma as it progresses its latest project that will hopefully change the treatment of depression for millions of people.”

By UKBAA 07 Apr 2017