Vetsina Animal Diagnostics is seeking up to £3
million from investment partners to commercialise its microRNA-based diagnostic
tests for the animal health market.
It is on target to launch its first product in
Q3 this year, with subsequent launches scheduled in 2022. Chief executive Dr
Simon Wheeler says initially the company plans to work through distribution
partners in the UK, then further afield.
“To support our commercial effort, we are
seeking investment partners to work with us as we believe our unique
technology, exciting innovation pipeline and business plan easily justifies the
level of investment we are seeking.
“Our ambition is to develop and commercialise
four diagnostic tests in infectious disease, oncology, metabolic disease and
fertility. With this success, we anticipate being an attractive target for
leading diagnostic companies and the diagnostic divisions of the main animal
Alongside its fundraising efforts, Vetsina is
also seeking new research partners. While it currently has three new research
projects identified, with two in the early proof-of-concept stage, Dr Wheeler
says the company is “open to other collaborations with parties interested
in this kind of exploratory research”.
Vetsina does not simply want to take research
from academia and turn it into commercial products. The idea is to partner with
universities around the world, recognise the work they have done and
collaborate jointly on further developing the research.
Dr Wheeler says while polymerase chain reaction
(PCR) testing is the current gold standard for microRNA diagnostics, Vetsina is
working with a platform technology it believes can offer an alternative method
that can be more cost-effective and accessible to a wider range of users.
The company has a global sub-license to
Destina‘s chemical-based system, which was originally invented at the
University of Edinburgh. Destina uses this technology to detect
disease-specific microRNAs in human pharma, while Vetsina has exclusive rights
to use the platform for animal health.
“PCR requires a lot of skill and expertise to run
accurately. What the Destina technology has, is a PCR-free method of detecting
and quantifying microRNAs. It is more user-friendly and more accessible, and
hopefully it’s going to be transformative because it will allow better access
for vets and agriculturists.
“The other advantage Destina has, is a
technology that stabilises the samples. By and large, transport for PCR testing
requires temperature control. The Destina technology allows the samples to be
transported at room temperature and stops the biomarkers from degrading for
well over a week.
“Our credibility depends on being able to
replicate the PCR results with a more accessible and cost-effective
technology,” says Dr Wheeler who explains that the firm’s tests will work on
standard laboratory equipment and will not require specialist expertise to run.
The company will initially target metabolic
diseases – the first test is for canine liver disease. The start-up hopes to
translate this test to other species.
“It‘s a little bit like a lock and a key,” Dr Wheeler explains. “The microRNA is the key and someone has to develop
the very specific lock that key will fit into. That‘s the work Destina does. We
can then take the same sample that was looked at with PCR and run it on the
Destina platform to check we get the same results. That‘s a tech transfer and
validation step. The next phase is to scale things up to get reliable results.
“Our focus is on new tests in
animal fertility, oncology and infectious diseases for animal health
application, with the tantalising possibility of translating the research into