Rotterdam, February 18 - Zeeuws Investment Fund and InnovationQuarter have invested in the biotech company Toxys, located in Leiden, the Netherlands. Toxys is a spin-off from the Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC) and specialized in a new generation of innovative testing which quickly and reliably can identify the main carcinogenic properties of new substances. The official figurehead for top sector Life Sciences & Health professor Jan Raaijmakers announced the investment during the Axon Innovation Pitch session at Innovation4Health, an event focused on innovations in healthcare. Toxys will be using the investment to further expand their business, to market their current testing technology and to develop new tests.
The need for better testing
Industries are continuously developing new types of substances that are used in the manufacturing of new products, such as medicines, cosmetics and food. These substances should be thoroughly tested for safety before they can be marketed. Industry, however, is experiencing limitations with the tests that are required in the legislation, and it happens far too frequently that a substance is wrongly classified as being either safe or harmful. As a result of these erroneous tests, unnecessary investments are made in harmful substances, and the development of valuable drug candidates is terminated improperly. The innovative biotech company Toxys from Leiden has solved this problem by developing a much better test, the ToxTracker assay.
ToxTracker is a unique test, based on stem cell technology, which is able to very quickly and reliably identify the main cancer-causing properties of new materials. The substance to be tested is dripped onto the test plate (assay), developed by Toxys. Following this, there is a reaction, and data is collected and interpreted. The test is more sensitive and specific than the tests that are currently available. The Toxys test reduces the percentage of current in vitro false test results from 30% to 3%.
"We obviously see to what extent they are toxic, but what is really unique is that we provide mechanistic insight into the various harmful properties of materials," says Dr. Giel Hendriks, the founder of Toxys. "By understanding how substances react in our cells, we can determine much more reliably if they are possibly carcinogenic or not."
Great benefits for industry
It is of great importance for companies that the materials and ingredients they use have no harmful effects on human health. If new substances or ingredients are to be put into the products, companies want to know as soon as possible whether it is worthwhile to invest further in the development of a substance, or if for health reasons it is not suitable. Significant adverse effects may result if the toxicity only emerges once the product is being used, which may lead to health problems, damage claims, and loss of reputation.
Another advantage of the ToxTracker technique is that fewer test animals are needed. Pharmaceutical and chemical substances with the strongest carcinogenic properties are eliminated, and therefore do not need to be tested on animals.
Further expansion and development
Toxys is a spin-off from the Department of Human Genetics at Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC). Toxys was founded in 2014 by scientist Giel Hendriks and is currently located in the LUMC, but next month they will move to a private laboratory at the Leiden Bio Science Park. In 2015, Giel Hendriks took the BioBusiness MasterClass of HollandBIO and finished it in June as the winner of the BioBusiness MasterClass Award for the best business plan.
Toxys is using the investment to bring the existing products to the markets, to accelerate the development of new tests, and to move to a private laboratory. "With this investment Toxys can work on new innovative tests and services, and thereby contribute to the development of better drugs and safer products," says Giel Hendriks.
The Zeeuws Investment Fund and InnovationQuarter are together investing in this young biotech company. Zeeuws Investment Fund invests in young, potentially successful Dutch companies that have developed a new product, process, or service recently introduced to the market.
Johan Sebregts, Fund Manager of ZIF is very pleased with the investment: "From the first meeting on, we were impressed with the performance of Toxys. The validated test, the involvement of LUMC and Leiden University, and the fact that there are various reputable clients gave us immediate confidence. This, coupled with new product developments and the growing market for early stage testing, ensures that we have great confidence in the potential of Toxys. Through the investment of ZIF and InnovationQuarter, and the contribution of our knowledge and experience, we want to contribute to the realization of Toxys’s growth."
Francis Quint, Head of InnovationQuarter Capital, stated: "InnovationQuarter invests in life sciences companies that have a positive impact on the improvement of our care. Toxys provides a service that both reduces the health risks of drugs and substantially reduces the cost of drug development. " For InnovationQuarter, this investment is made possible by a contribution from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) by the European Union.
The investment in Toxys was announced by professor Jan Raaijmakers during Innovation4Health 2016 at the Rotterdam World Trade Centre. Professor Jan Raaijmakers, the official chairman for Top Sector Life Sciences & Health has the mandate to further strengthen the co-operation between the various parties.
Professor Jan Raaijmakers is very pleased with the investment: “Toxys is a good example of a project that fits well with the objectives of the Top Sector Life Sciences & Health. Stimulating spin-offs and creating growth opportunities for startups has the focus of the sector. Promoting regional commitment, and certainly in financial terms, is of great importance.”
Innovation4Health is a leading event focused on innovations in healthcare, and is being organized this year for the third time. A year ago, Toxys was also present during the Axon Innovation Pitch session. Young innovative life sciences entrepreneurs get the opportunity to pitch their business during this session. A good opportunity to announce the investment in Toxys. At the end of the day the Axon for Health Innovation Award is awarded to the most promising life sciences startup. By winning the award the winning company will receive a check for legal assistance by Axon Lawyers.
Source: Innovation Quarter
Photo credits: © Floris Heukensfeldt Jansen