Enterprise Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company dedicated to the development of novel therapies to improve the lives of patients suffering with respiratory disease, is working with the University of Sussex to build research and expertise in the UK’s increasingly vibrant biotechnology sector.

“When we started Enterprise Therapeutics, we just had ideas about what we would do. We had no assets and no drugs – just a blank sheet of paper,” said Professor Martin Gosling, Chief Scientific Officer, Enterprise Therapeutiics.

Those ideas have resulted in a pipeline of therapeutic assets, and have proven powerful at securing venture capital funding. Enterprise raised £1.6 million in 2014, £2.4 million in 2015, another £4 million in 2016 and then £29 million from five venture capitalists in 2018.

The university already had a successful drug discovery group, the Sussex Drug Discovery Centre, within the School of Life Sciences. Enterprise Therapeutics has helped diversify the group’s focus to include respiratory disease, and helped it grow. The University of Sussex holds shares in the company and has four post-doctoral researchers fully funded by the company carrying out research in its labs. Enterprise has been able to focus its efforts on executing the drug discovery programs rather than building scientific infrastructure, allowing rapid progression. This benefits both partners – Sussex, a leading UK university, is now affiliated with a successful UK respiratory biotech company.

Enterprise Therapeutics launched in 2014 with the aim of developing new therapies to regulate mucus congestion to treat respiratory diseases, with a primary focus on cystic fibrosis (CF). People living with CF have a gene mutation which leads to a protein not working correctly to move chloride to the surface of the lung. Chloride is important because it attracts water through osmosis. Without water, the lungs build-up thick, sticky mucus filled with pathogens, leading to chronic infections. More than 70,000 people around the world are living with CF; the median age of death of a CF patient is around 31. New medicines could bring relief and prolong patients’ lives. They could also benefit millions of people living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, chronic bronchitis and severe asthma.

“Enterprise Therapeutics is a spin-in rather than a spin-out,” Gosling said speaking from his office at the Sussex Innovation Centre. “The company was founded before I joined the University of Sussex, so it’s not the traditional trajectory. We had a company with ideas and have found a synergistic interaction with the University of Sussex.”

Enterprise Therapeutics’ research is focussed on two complementary therapeutic strategies. The first targets specific ion channels found in a cell’s membrane, to allow ions to pass in and out of the cell in order to hydrate and thin the mucus. The second reduces the number of cells creating mucus in the airways from the offset. The company plans to begin testing the medicines modulating ion channels on patients next year.

This article first appeared in the 2019 State of the Relationship report published 19 June 2019.