Biotech firm closes £5.6m seed financing

Pencil Biosciences team

Seed funding of £5.6m has been awarded to a Macclesfield bio company developing a full synthetic gene modulation and editing platform.

The Pencil Biosciences work will have impact across a wide range of applications, including new therapeutic options for patients with rare diseases and cancer. It aims to transform the gene editing landscape as applied to therapeutics and industrial biotechnology.

The company, based in Alderley Park, has completed the seed financing round adding new investors Octopus Ventures, Northern Gritstone and Martlet Capital.

Existing investors, including the Greater Manchester and Cheshire Life Science Fund managed by Catapult Ventures, UKI2S, Jonathan Milner (Meltwind), o2h Ventures participated in the round, with additional support from SyndicateRoom’s Access, a data-driven super angel fund.

Pencil Biosciences was founded in 2019 by Dr Rajik Ibrahim, Dr Timothy Schulz-Utermoehl and Dr Martin Quibell.

Now led by CEO Dr Amanda Smith, primary founder and CTO Dr Rajik Ibrahim and Chair Dr Jon Moore, Pencil Biosciences will be deepening and widening the capabilities of its proprietary editing and modulation technology, which is modular in design, non-CRISPR in composition and significantly smaller than any Cas-based gene editing technologies.

Pencil’s technology also has potential for the treatment of infectious disease, novel diagnostics, and innovation in agriculture and cell line engineering.

Chief executive, Amanda Smith, said: “Our ambition is to develop a truly innovative and unique gene modulation technology that catalyses innovation across a range of applications, including new therapeutic options for patients with rare diseases and cancer. This investment brings us closer to achieving our goals.”

Oliver Sims, investor at Octopus Ventures, said: “Octopus are really excited to back Pencil Biosciences and their experienced team to deliver the next generation technology for gene editing. There is huge potential in the technology to impact therapeutics, research tools and industrial applications all of which are key areas for investment under Octopus Ventures’ Bio thesis.”

Duncan Johnson, Northern Gritstone chief executive, said: “Led by our philosophy of ‘profit with purpose’, we aim to back people and ideas that are changing the world, and there are few better sectors in which we can do that than biotechnology.

“In this sector, Pencil is a fantastic example of the exciting new generation of science and technology businesses emerging and scaling in the North of England, and we look forward to working with Amanda and her team as they progress with the development of their innovative technology platform which has the potential to transform treatment provided to patients with rare diseases.”

Northern Gritstone is funded by the universities of Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield to help boost the commercialisation of university spinouts and start-ups in the North of England.

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