A University of Glasgow spinout which is developing a promising new treatment for tendon problems in humans and horses has received a £1m investment from Mediqventure and the Scottish Investment Bank, the investment arm of Scottish Enterprise.

Causeway Therapeutics develops therapies for tendon injuries and disorders, collectively known as tendinopathies. Tendinopathies are extremely common, accounting for between 30 and 50% of all sporting injuries. Around 1 in 10 people will be affected by tendinopathies in their lifetime, usually caused by repetitive strain or major trauma. Treatment for tendinopathies cost the NHS £250 million per year, often with unsatisfactory results for patients.  The worldwide market for treatments is estimated at around £3.85bn.

While working in the laboratory of Professor Iain McInnes at the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Infection, Immunity & Inflammation, Causeway co-founders Dr Derek Gilchrist and Mr Neal Millar discovered that a single microRNA-miR29a plays a key role in regulating the production of collagens, the proteins that give tendons their strength.  Replacement of Type I collagen with Type III collagen is characteristic of tendinopathy; loss of miR29a in human tendons drives an increase in Type III collagen production. Causeway’s lead product, TenoMiR™, is a replacement for the natural miR29a that is depleted in tendinopathy.

“We’re delighted that Causeway is receiving the backing of Mediqventures and SIB” said Dr Derek Gilchrist, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Causeway. “Translating our detailed understating of the molecular processes driving tendinopathy into a promising therapy has been a true multidisciplinary collaboration between scientists, surgeons and veterinarians in Glasgow and internationally.”

Neal Millar, co-founder and clinical senior research fellow in orthopaedics at the University of Glasgow, said: “We have applied high-level molecular interrogation to an under investigated yet highly prevalent and burdensome disease process. TenoMiR™ has the potential to transform the treatment of tendon injuries, getting patients back to normal quicker.”

“Our lead product is a completely novel approach to tendon disease. I am delighted to be associated again in a meaningful way with the University,” said Declan Doogan, a Partner at Mediqventures.  Declan, an alumnus of the University of Glasgow and Visiting Professor at the Medical School will be joining Causeway’s board as Chairman.

Kerry Sharp, Head of Scottish Investment Bank, said: “ Scottish Enterprise, through the Scottish Investment Bank, is delighted to be co-investing with Mediqventures to help the company fully commercialise its technology. We have supported Causeway Therapeutics through our High Growth Ventures Programme to help with company formation, research and now investment to help it grow to the next stage.  We look forward to working alongside Causeway to help it achieve its potential, both in Scotland and internationally.”

In addition to developing TenoMiR™ as a human therapeutic, Causeway is developing an analogous therapy for horses suffering tendinopathy.  It is estimated that tendinopathy affects between 10 and 30% of competitive and working horses. At the moment the most common therapeutic option is a long period of box rest that only helps in 50% of cases.  In addition to being a significant welfare issue for the horse, equine tendinopathy is a substantial financial and practical burden on the owners. Initial studies of EquiMiR™ in horses have shown significantly improved tendon healing when compared to untreated animals.

Professor  Jon Cooper, VP Knowledge Exchange & Innovation at the University of Glasgow, said:  “We are thrilled that Causeway Therapeutics has completed its investment round and that the company is now in a position to drive forward the development of this highly innovative therapeutic approach. This is another example of the University’s ability to convert research-led innovation into economic impact for the benefit of Glasgow and the Scottish economy.”

Dr Carol  Clugston, Chief Operating Officer at the University of Glasgow College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences said:  “We’re delighted that Causeway Therapeutics has chosen the University of Glasgow’s Clinical Innovation Zone at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital as the location for their exciting new company.  The Clinical Innovation Zone comprises 22,000 sq ft of purpose built space to facilitate biomedical innovation, by bringing industry, academia and the NHS together to create a thriving new life sciences cluster. This will provide economic benefit for Glasgow by supporting the growth of new companies, together with benefits for patients through the development of new diagnostics and treatments. ‘