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Venture to Build Cell, Gene Therapy Businesses

Gene therapy graphic

(Genome Research Limited, Flickr.

31 Aug. 2022. A joint venture with business development and bio-manufacturing companies aims to build new cell and gene therapy businesses to advance treatments from Mayo Clinic labs. The new enterprise, called Mayflower BioVentures, combines resources of biotechnology finance and business development company Hibiscus BioVentures in Rockville, Maryland and Innoforce Pharmaceuticals, a biologics development and manufacturing service in Hangzhou, China, with the Mayo Clinic.

Mayflower BioVentures plans to form new companies to further develop discoveries from Mayo Clinic’s Center for Regenerative Biotherapeutics in Jacksonville, Florida.  The Center studies and designs therapies that seek to repair cells and tissue damaged by chronic diseases, going beyond management of symptoms to address root causes of the damage. Those regenerative therapies, says the Center, address damage to the cardiovascular system including heart valves and blood vessels, islet cells in the pancreas producing insulin, brain and spinal cord, muscles and connective tissue, as well as liver and lung damage.

The Regenerative Biotherapeutics Center says its new treatments focus on biologics derived from living organisms as well as biotechnology and synthetic biology solutions. The Center says its labs design therapies from stem cells, engineered immune system cells such as those with chimeric antigen receptors, genetically altered viruses, phage viruses that attack drug-resistant bacteria, extracellular vesicles, and tissue engineering. In addition, says the Center, its labs devise production methods for these therapies to make it possible for Mayo Clinic’s campuses to manufacture biologic treatments on site for their patients.

Reach proof-of-concept in one to three years

Hibiscus BioVentures is a three year-old company with separate business development and venture capital divisions. The business development arm, known as Hibiscus Biotechnology, says it builds companies from the ground up by first acquiring rights to commercially viable technologies designed to address serious unmet medical needs. Hibiscus Bio says it seeks to advance its new enterprises to proof-of-concept in one to three years. Hibiscus Capital Management, the venture capital arm, says it supports Hibiscus Biotech start-ups as well as other new companies that focus on patient health with a clear regulatory pathway. In Nov. 2021, Science & Enterprise reported on seed funding for cell therapy start-up Cellevolve Bio in San Francisco that includes an investment from Hibiscus.

In March, Hibiscus Bio and Innoforce Pharma agreed on a deal to advance new advanced therapy medical products — a term for engineered gene, cell, and tissue treatments — and biologics from companies formed by Hibiscus. Innoforce is a contract product development and manufacturing service specializing in generation of therapies made from DNA plasmid, RNA, viral vectors, and engineered cells. The company’s U.S. facilities are in Rockville, Maryland.

While all three parties have a financial interest in Mayflower BioVentures, further financial details are not disclosed. “Cell and gene therapies,” says Julie Allickson, director of biomanufacturing and product development at the Center for Regenerative Medicine in a Mayo Clinic statement, “have the potential to provide a new era of biologic drugs that offer hope for people with conditions that have few or no therapeutic options.” Allickson adds, “Mayo Clinic is committed to building an advanced ecosystem for the development, manufacture, and delivery of next-generation therapeutics.”

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