Research Impact


Better pharmaceuticals developed through UCL spinout company PolyTherics (an Abzena company)

14 December 2014


PolyTherics, a highly successful UCL spin-out company, emerged as a direct result of new conjugate technology developed at UCL. PolyTherics is a significant and effective technology provider to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, managing a portfolio of over 100 granted and pending patents.

PolyTherics was co-founded in 2001 by Professor Steve Brocchini (UCL School of Pharmacy), based on the development of novel conjugation technologies.

Conjugate technology is an approach to medicines development whereby a bioactive molecule (typically a protein such as a cytokine, an antibody or a low molecular weight drug) is synthetically altered so as to incorporate a second molecule - typically a polymer such as poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) - which significantly improves the pharmacokinetics or stability of the bioactive agent. Initial research in this area at the UCL School of Pharmacy formed the basis of spin-out company Polytherics.

PolyTherics was supported with funding from the Wellcome Trust Catalyst Biomedica, the Bloomsbury Bioseed Fund and Imperial Innovations. Further underpinning research and development of the patent portfolio continued in close collaboration between PolyTherics and the UCL School of Pharmacy over the following years, in parallel with the development of the company. PolyTherics moved in 2006 to the London Biotechnology Innovation Centre. The company acquired Warwick Effect Polymers in January 2012. PolyTherics then merged with Antitope Ltd. in July 2013 and the combined company became Abzena in May 2014.

Abzena has a suite of services and technologies to enable the development of better biopharmaceuticals. The company currently employs about 80 staff in Cambridge and Coventry. The company has relationships with a wide range of companies including most of the top 20 biopharmaceutical companies, many large and small public and private biotech, and academic groups, across the world. Abzena also has an extensive patent portfolio with over 100 pending and granted patents, with several license and partnership agreements in place. The company has also funded or partially funded the PhDs of 12 scientists since 2007. Abzena (AIM: ABZA) was admitted on the AIM Market of the London Stock Exchange in July 2014.

Within Abzena, PolyTherics' conjugation technologies are available to be used to increase protein circulation half-life (TheraPEG™, CyPEG™, HiPEG™), to develop ADCs (ThioBridge™) and other protein-drug conjugates, and to develop new product formats (e.g. bispecific antibodies). Other technologies within Antitope (another Abzena company) are focused on immunogenicity assessment, protein de-immunisation and protein engineering which are being used to produce better antibody based medicines, conjugates and modified protein-therapeutics. These technologies are being merged to provide new integrated platforms to innovate in the development of new biopharmaceuticals.