When Jellagen announced a new round of CCR-supported strategic investment earlier this year, it did more than reinforce the world-class credentials of our fast-growing Medtech economy here in South East Wales.
January’s £8M+ series A funding was the latest milestone in a remarkable journey begun by Dr Andrew Mearns Spragg, Founder, Managing Director & CSO of Jellagen, back in 2015.
Working on an early project to discover new natural product innovations sourced from marine microorganisms, Andrew experienced something of a Eureka moment while surfing off the coast of Scotland – and finding himself amongst a shoal of one of Earth’s oldest organisms: Jellyfish.
Fast-forward eight years and that moment has evolved from a revolutionary concept to become one of the world’s highest-performing collagens: the first ever jellyfish-derived medical grade collagen, with the potential to transform tissue engineering and regenerative medicine – and radically reduce human health risk.
It’s an extraordinary tale totally befitting of the CCR Medtech sector – as Dr. Mearns Spragg explains ….
Transforming tissue engineering and regenerative medicine
“My academic background is in the field of marine biotechnology and specifically in the area of bioprospecting biologically active novel natural products.
“I was always fascinated by collagen as a potential force for good. Every mammal is made up of collagen; a fibrous protein that forms a scaffold providing strength and structure within the body.
“It’s an essential component of connective tissue and plays a crucial role in holding the body’s cells together. So when I found myself in the North Sea trying not to bump into some of the oldest evolutionary entities on the planet, a thought suddenly struck me: ‘would the collagen of these ancient organisms be very different to that of everything else?’
“Sure enough, back in the lab, tests have shown that jellyfish collagen displays the essential properties of mammalian collagens, and beyond that, also has unique behaviours reflective of its undifferentiated, evolutionary primitive form – and that sparked our development of this unique Collagen Type 0.
“The next big question to be understood was ‘how would a human body react to it?’ Preclinical test results have been dramatically good, with Collagen Type 0 showing excellent performance, and its ability to reduce both the environmental and human risk.
“The first application of our Collagen Type 0 innovation is currently in development, for the treatment of glottal insufficiency – otherwise known as vocal cord paralysis and atrophy – and the applications appear endless in the way we can transform tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, in everything from soft tissue repair and bone repair to implantable devices and cell culture.
“The progress made underlines why being part of an established CCR Medtech sector gives us such a great advantage, with the investment available, the human capital pipeline of world-class universities just down the road – and an ideal location that helps us meet our sustainability ambitions, allowing us to harvest jellyfish off the Welsh coast.”
Another major boost for CCR’s fast-growing medtech sector
“The £2M funding from Cardiff Capital Region, £1.2M investment from the Development Bank of Wales and £1M from our external investors Thai Union have all played a significant part in our series A funding – enabling us to take major studies forward, employing people and developing the infrastructure we need to realise our potential, at our 10,000 square foot facility that combines R&D labs with state-of-the-art manufacturing.
“Fulfilling that potential will further strengthen the CCR Medtech priority sector, helping us generate local sustainable growth, unlock a greater GVA, and add further momentum to a sector that’s primed for more inward investment and local innovation.
“It means we can accelerate our paradigm shift in collagen chemistry – and continue to make the right kind of waves, developing a sustainable biomaterial that opens up endless possibilities for revolutionising regenerative medicine worldwide.”
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