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Synthetic Blood Vessel Maker Gains $2.2M in Seed Funds

Red blood cells illustration

(Arek Socha, Pixabay.

21 July 2021. A start-up company creating synthetic blood vessels for transplants, based on research in materials science and cell biology, is raising $2.2 million in seed funds. ClexBio, a biotechnology enterprise begun last year in Oslo, Norway, applies research from academic labs in Europe and the U.S. to tissue engineering for artificial blood vessels.

ClexBio aims to meet what it says are huge unmet needs for blood vessels to treat vascular diseases. The company’s technology is based on research by its founder Armend Håti, while a graduate student and postdoctoral researcher at NTNU – Norway University of Science and Technology, Harvard University, and EPFL in Switzerland. Manuel Schweikle, with a doctorate in materials science from University of Oslo and research at the SINTEF applied science institute in Trondheim, Norway, is also a company founder. Håti is ClexBio’s CEO, while Schweikle is the company’s chief scientist.

The ClexBio technology is derived from studies by Håti and colleagues of living cells interacting with hydrogels, or water-based polymer gels. The Clex technology, short for Competitive Ligand Exchange X-Linking, alters the chemical properties of a bio-friendly hydrogel to allow polymers in the gel to cross-link and form stronger bonds, resembling human tissue. These stronger hydrogels can then be engineered into three-dimensional forms for tissue engineering. At the same time, the hydrogel remains chemically neutral to living cells, making it safe to form into replacement tissue, such as for blood vessels. In addition, cells moving on or through the hydrogels can be monitored and assessed, down to individual cells.

Angel investments and research grants

In June, ClexBio and Sphere Fluidics, a developer of single cell analysis systems in Cambridge, Mass., announced a deal to apply Clex-based hydrogels to microfluidic or lab-on-a-chip devices for simulating and analyzing single cell properties. The new Cytrix hydrogel kit, says Sphere Fluidics, allows for safe and efficient encapsulation of mammalian cells, bacteria, and other microorganisms in an extracellular matrix that support cell viability.

ClexBio is raising $2.2 million in seed funds from multiple sources. More than half of the funds, $1.2 million, is from a group of private angel investors in Europe and Asia. The company says these investors include board members of Fortune 500 companies and senior executives from the biotechnology industry, among others. The remaining $1 million comes from grants made by several research funding agencies: Research Council of Norway, U.K. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Innovation Norway, and the Centre for Digital Life Norway.

ClexBio expects to apply the funds to advancing its technology further into tissue engineering, particularly synthetic but still fully humanized blood vessels. “With our exceptionally talented team and our breakthrough technology platform,” says co-founder Schweikle in a company statement released through BusinessWire, “we have a unique advantage in solving the grand challenge of engineering functional vascular tissue transplants that are 100 percent human.”

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