Atelerix – an Interview

The Cell Line Development market has been making huge strides and is expected to be valued at $7.5bn by 2024 and Atelerix are at the forefront. We interviewed CEO, Mick Mclean to find out the thinking behind Atelerix and it's role in the market.

Gap in the market

UK start-up, Atelerix is hoping to exploit the growing market, focusing its efforts on the transportation of cell across counties, countries, and laboratories all over the world.

Atelerix is a Newcastle University spinout that has created a transformative technology for the storage and transportation of cells at room temperature, overcoming the barriers and limitations presented by the current need for cryo-shipping. This assures that cells retain their natural state and are not damaged nor altered whilst being transported.

Leading this exciting new company is CEO, Mick McLean. Mick first attended Birmingham University, studying chemistry, before embarking on a post doctorate in Birmingham Alabama. Mick then came back to the UK before venturing on to study Biophysics, at Cambridge University. This is where Mick’s passion in Bioscience came to the fore and since 1997 he has been, a founder, advisor or CEO of six UK starts up in the bioscience sector.

Mick’s latest venture Atelerix is based at Newcastle University. This is where Antelerix’s scientific founder and CSO Che Connon lives and works. Antelerix is now purchasing a new three-year lease in Newcastle to add to the existing laboratory lease with Newcastle University.

This is a big step for Atelerix since its incorporation as a company in September 2017 as Mick explains, “By having an office space, we can now look to build a team that will specialise on the development of commercial partnerships in the UK and internationally. The incorporation of Atelerix as a company was a big turning point. Che was a fantastic researcher and somebody who continues to drive the technology forward, however, it is difficult to juggle the research with the actual day to day business administration. By becoming a fully-fledged company with its own office space, we were able to fully focus on the commercialisation while still driving the technological barriers of the Atelerix product.”

Newable’s involvement?

Since Atelerix secured £25,000 worth of grant funding from the Rainbow Fund (otherwise known as the UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund), Mick was invited to present Atelerix’s business plan to Newable’s Investment Advisory Committee, an experience that Mick remembers well!

“Newable were incredibly thorough and asked for a huge range of information. One of the committee members actually asked to speak to one of our customers; I duly handed over some contact details. Thankfully, the customer feedback was very positive. We were then asked to pitch in front of Newable’ Angel Network where two Angels invested alongside the Newable fund, bringing Newable’s total investment to just shy of £200,000.”

How bright is the future for Antelerix?

One person, who is hugely excited about Atelerix’s prospects, is Newable Ventures Limited’s Investment Director, Alexander Sleigh. “One thing that has impressed me about Atelerix is that from day one, there has been a very clear process presented to us on the move towards full commercialisation, be it the type of talent that they are looking to employ, the markets that they are looking to export to, and the timescale that these goals will take. We also see potential for strong growth in the cell therapy industry, something we feel will directly benefit Atelerix. Furthermore, Mick’s experience of being involved in six previous start-ups is apparent, and the strategic decisions that we are seeing Atelerix take, are ones that we are fully supportive of.”

Delving more into Atelerix’s strategy, it is clear where they are heading. Due to gene editing still being a relatively new technology, there isn’t as of yet, not one single supply chain that enables pharma companies to take cells from one location, and transport them to another location for testing. Mick is well aware of this and has ensured that the technological changes that Antelerix are driving, are focused upon exploiting this gap in the market in the short term.

Looking towards the medium to long term, Atelerix is then looking to adapt its technology to focus from the transportation of cells that are being tested, to those that are actually being implanted into humans. As Mick explains this brings its own challenges. “At the moment, our revenue has been sourced from gene editing research companies transporting cells between laboratories. In the next couple of years, we are going to be looking at adapting our technology to be involved in cell therapy, essentially the patient’s own cells being extracted, engineered and then put back into the body to enable the cells to fight diseases such as cancer. These cells are, understandably subjected to completely different regulatory standards to ones that are simply being used for research. This creates much higher costs, yet produces much higher revenues.”

Next Step

Moving forward, Atelerix is looking to recruit a Senior Commercial Director to lead its imminent entry into the Japanese market. Japan leads the cell therapy market globally and will be the largest market for Antelerix.

This is closely followed by the US and UK. Atelerix hopes to be exporting to Japan within six months despite the cultural, economic and geographical issues as Mick explains. “With Japan the cultural, linguistic and geographical challenges are very clear and something that is impossible to mitigate. With the US, the market is probably bigger than Japan but not as advanced. Furthermore, the threat of Medicare for all being abandoned will potentially threaten the potential for cell therapy being available for the mass market. The UK will still very much remain an important market for us.”

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