£1.52 million boost for Halo Therapeutics as life-sciences business invests in Wales

Clinical trials of an easy-to-use home therapeutic treatment for SARS-CoV-2 (coronaviruses) are underway following a £1.52 million investment led by the Development Bank of Wales alongside Science Angel Syndicate members and the KBA Group, an angel consortium of high net worth individuals co-led by Dr Nikolaos Kostopoulos and Paras Barot.

Based on world-class research carried out at Bristol University, Halo Therapeutics was established as a spin-out company in 2020 by Dr Daniel Fitzgerald, Professor Christiane Schaffitzel, and Professor Imre Berger. Halo Therapeutics has been attracted to Wales following an £1,000,000 equity investment by the Development Bank of Wales and will be initially based at Welsh ICE, Caerphilly.This first-in-human study of Halo Therapeutic’s respiratory antiviral spray for coronaviruses will investigate the safety and tolerability of the treatment prior to subsequent studies being conducted in patients that are SARS-CoV-2 positive or are at risk of becoming SARS-CoV-2 positive.

Dr Daniel Fitzgerald said: “Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause minor diseases, such as the common cold, whilst others cause much more severe disease, such as Covid-19, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronaviruses. SARS-CoV-2 enters the body through the nose.  After several days of multiplying in this area, SARS-CoV-2 spreads to the throat and salivary glands and then into the lungs. The virus can subsequently spread to other organs, causing in some cases acute damage and long-term damage known as long-Covid.”

Professor Berger added: “Vaccination and treatments have reduced the impact of the virus but it is still a significant health risk. Our self-administered and cost-effective antiviral treatment stops the virus from entering and multiplying in the nasal epithelial cells. It is a potential game-changer in the treatment and prevention of coronaviruses, particularly in third-world countries with the emergence of new viruses. However, we needed support to progress with pre-revenue research and development. As our lead funder, the Development Bank of Wales has stepped-up and convinced us why Wales has such a competitive advantage in the sciences industry  – the agile approach, established ecosystem, high-tech infrastructure and financial support available is second to none.”

Dr Mark Bowman, Venture Fund Manager for the Development Bank, commented: “It is encouraging to see a growing number of life sciences and medical technology companies investing in Wales. As a nation, we offer  a vibrant and prosperous environment that is an attractive proposition for early-stage businesses like Halo Therapeutics as they move towards global commercialisation from a base here in Wales.”

Dr Johnathan Matlock, Co-Founder of Science Angel Syndicate said: “We have worked closely with Imre and Daniel since their pre-seed round. We are delighted to have helped them to secure this latest funding round from the Development Bank of Wales. Beginning with publications in the world’s leading scientific journals it is rare that you get the opportunity to see scientific innovations so rapidly translate into the clinic and one step closer to patients.”

The investment in Halo Therapeutics came from the £216 million Wales Business Fund which is  financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the Welsh Government. Loans, mezzanine finance, and equity investments are available with terms ranging from one to seven years for small and medium-sized businesses (those with fewer than 250 employees) based in Wales, or willing to relocate to Wales.