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15 September 2011

Merseyside Pharmaceutical Firm secures Series A investment package

Evgen limited has secured its first significant venture capital investment

Evgen Limited has secured its first significant venture capital investment from a syndicate led by The North West Fund for Biomedical and EV Group's Rising Stars Growth Fund.

The North West Fund for Biomedical is managed by early-stage venture capital firm SPARK Impact and is a new investor in Evgen. EV Group, an investor in Evgen since its inception, also participated in the round, together with a number of private individuals. A second closing is expected later in the year to meet the demand for the subscription.

Evgen, which will move to Merseyside following the investment, will use the funds to complete the pre-clinical development of Sulforadex®, a patented pharmaceutical composition with enormous potential in the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer and other cancers.

Prostate cancer is becoming one of the world's leading health issues with 80% of men developing the condition within their lives. This increasing incidence is linked to more widespread screening; a phenomenon that has created a substantial population of men who have been told they have an indolent form of the disease where "watchful waiting" is the preferred course of action.  For this group of patients, a treatment that could retard future disease progression (30% measurably advance over one year) with minimal side effects could improve quality of life, prevent complications and lower treatment costs.

Unfortunately, there are no drugs on the market today that have successfully addressed this problem.

 There are many hundreds of scientific studies that have focused on the anti-cancer activity of a molecule called sulforaphane - a molecule that can be produced from eating cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli.  However, sulforaphane has hitherto never been a viable drug candidate because it is inherently unstable, decomposing rapidly in open air within minutes to hours. Evgen holds the intellectual property rights to a unique composition of a synthetic sulforaphane encapsulated within a sugar structure called an alpha-cylodextrin. This unique composition, called Sulforadex®, extends shelf life from hours to years, making pharmaceutical applications viable for the first time.

Commenting on the investment, Evgen's chief executive Dr Stephen Franklin said: "We are delighted to be working with the team at SPARK Impact. They have demonstrated a full appreciation of the clinical potential of the technology.  We intend to initially target men with indolent prostate cancer. However, Sulforadex® has much wider potential in the treatment of more advanced cancers, most likely in combination therapies with existing treatment regimes. A number of other clinical applications will be pursued in due course."

 The North West Fund for Biomedical is a sub-fund of the £185m evergreen The North West Fund that is financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Dr Penny Attridge, senior investment director at SPARK Impact and manager of The North West Fund for Biomedical, said: "Evgen is a particularly exciting investment proposition due to the fact that it is a drug development opportunity that targets an enormous clinical need but with a significantly lower development risk. This is the first substantial investment from the North West Fund for Biomedical and we expect to announce other deals of a similar scale in the near future."

Mark Wyatt, investment director at EV, added: "We have worked with Steve from the inception of Evgen, and are pleased that with the incoming investment the company will be able to accelerate the development of its core programme."  

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