LONDON - Renovo Ltd., a spinout from Manchester University, raised #8 million (US$11.6 million) in its first-round funding to develop treatments to prevent scarring and accelerate wound healing.

The company was formed around the research of Mark Ferguson, head of the school of biological sciences, who is giving up his academic post to become CEO.

The high level of funding for a start-up reflects the fact that Renovo already has products that have completed preclinical development, and has some preliminary human data.

Sharon O'Kane, co-founder and research director, told BioWorld International, "We have taken our technology through preclinical. Now that we have the funding we are hoping to start a Phase I safety trial in volunteers within the next few months of a product to reduce post-surgical scarring."

The product, RN2, is a growth factor that dampens the effect of other growth factors that cause scarring, while at the same time enhancing the effect of growth factors that promote healing. It will be given by intradermal injection to volunteers who have received incisions on the arm.

"Although this is a safety study, the nature of the indication means we will also get some proof of efficacy," she said. "While it will take one year to get to the point of showing if RN2 prevents scarring, we will get the safety data sooner, allowing Phase II to begin before that." That trial will be for patients undergoing elective surgery.

The company has just agreed to the appointment of a clinical director from a pharmaceutical company to guide the ongoing trial program.

Renovo, based at the bioincubator at Manchester University, has two other compounds, one to accelerate wound healing and a second anti-scarring treatment. In total it has more than 300 patents and patent applications, based on research by Ferguson going back to 1984.

O'Kane said the anti-scarring technologies also have the potential to treat fibrotic disorders such as pulmonary fibrosis and liver cirrhosis.

Renovo will begin recruitment next week to raise staff numbers to 30, of which 25 percent will be involved in clinical development. The current plan is to license products out after Phase II.

The funding has come from Atlas Venture and Chase Capital. Manchester University also has a stake in Renovo.

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