Why I invited investors into my lab

In December 2021, Apple Tree Partners (ATP), a leader in life sciences venture capital, announced the launch of Adendra Therapeutics Ltd, a spin-out of immunology research by Crick Principal Group Leader Caetano Reis e Sousa and his team. One year on, Caetano explains why working with ATP on early stage discovery research in his lab has been key to the early success of Adendra.

Until a couple of years ago, I probably hadn’t thought enough about the translational potential of the research in my lab. As a scientist working on diseases like cancer, I had always hoped that our discoveries might lead to a new test or treatment, but I had never progressed any of these ideas myself. 

Caetano Reis e Sousa
I anticipate that more investors here in the UK will see value and potential in discovery research.
Caetano Reis e Sousa

As it turns out, it was these basic discoveries that had attracted the interest of investors. Cancer immunotherapy is a field with considerable potential, as many parts of the immune system remain underexplored. ATP saw potential in my dendritic cell research and, together, we built a company. The Crick translation team was immensely helpful. The tough part was coming up with a name. After many discarded suggestions, we settled on Adendra Therapeutics.

Dendritic cells have a key role in alerting the immune system to the presence of threats, such as cancer and pathogens, and so are promising targets for treatments that boost the body’s natural defences. Adendra is exploring the molecular pathways and protein receptors that signal and trigger these cells into action. 

Adendra has been a collaboration from the start. Raj Mehta, the ATP Entrepreneur-in-Residence, and I had many meetings to exchange ideas and learn from each other, setting the tone for a fruitful partnership. We wrote the company model together and Raj took on the role of Adendra CEO. ATP have committed US$53 million in Series A investment, which we hope will take candidates for new molecular and biological therapeutics against cancers and autoimmune disorders, all the way into clinical trials. 

Much like my own lab does, the Adendra team comes together every other week to discuss progress and work through any challenges. We’re still a young company and we’ve faced a steep learning curve - not everything we do is a success.

There have also been reasons to celebrate. We’ve filed three patents in the last 12 months and are starting to build an exciting portfolio of projects. And we recently won the Cancer Research Horizons Start-Up of the Year Award, which was a huge boost to our team.

Reflecting on this first year of establishing Adendra, I can say with confidence that discovery and translational research are complementary pursuits. The advancement of knowledge is key to its application, and its application opens new avenues for discovery. 

I anticipate that more investors here in the UK will see value and potential in discovery research. And I think this is reflective of the research excellence we have in this country. 

I also hope that more researchers will be open to working with industry partners. I am learning much from my work with Adendra. We’re not only making great progress as a company, my lab’s research has also been impacted, making it even more meaningful. 

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