LONDON - CellFactors plc raised #1.6 million (US$2.3 million) in a late-stage seed-funding round, enabling the company to move ahead with a clinical trial of Skeletex, its human cell-derived bone healing product.

CEO Iain Cubitt told BioWorld International, "We were very pleased because we were three times oversubscribed. Because we were looking for late-stage seed capital it was at a very competitive price, and there is a lot of interest in the whole area of cell-based therapy at present."

Skeletex consists of a combination of proteins and bone growth factors and has been shown to initiate bone development in preclinical models. "We have not designed the trial yet, but it will be in the dental area - using Skeletex to cement in implants and getting the bone to grow around - because it is easy to quantify the results."

The Cambridge, England, company is looking for a GMP manufacturer for Skeletex. "It is fairly well-established technology," Cubitt said. "We have the cell lines and the protocol, and hope to have manufacturing in place fairly quickly."

CellFactors' second product is a dopamine-producing cell line for the treatment of Parkinson's disease, which Cubitt said will progress to clinical trials in the next year or two. "In Parkinson's we already have some cell lines ready, but there are more regulatory questions to be answered."

CellFactors' cell lines are based on partly differentiated embryonic cells, known to have chosen characteristics, rather than undifferentiated stem cells. Cubitt said the Parkinson's cell line is "100 percent dopamine producing." The cell lines are temperature sensitive and will multiply only in culture, and not at the higher temperature in the body. In addition, a second, drug-sensitive control mechanism makes it possible to regulate the number of cells after grafting. "This is of crucial importance because it is possible to overdose," he said. "Administration of the drug permits partial or complete elimination of the cells."

Cubitt is planning to raise more money, and is looking for partners for the development programs. He also aims to license the technology in areas such as drug discovery that CellFactors will not pursue itself.

CellFactors is based around research carried out by the co-founders, Bradley Stringer, of the University of Sheffield School of Clinical Dentistry, and George Foster, at the University of Wales in Cardiff. The company's research laboratories will continue to be based at the two universities.