Adelaide-based biotech firm Ferronova has raised $8 million from investors, complemented by a $3 million research grant from the federal government for its nanoparticle platform to help surgeons locate and remove malignant cells in stomach and brain cancers.
Irish health tech firm Renew Pharmaceuticals led the raise, backed by existing backers Uniseed and Artesian Venture Partners. The additional $3 million came through a grant from the Co-operative Research Centers Project (CRC-P). The new money comes on top of $4.6 million previously raised in Seed and Series A rounds.
Dr. Ferronova chairman John Parker said the capital will help accelerate gastrointestinal and brain cancer studies.
“Research now shows that one in two people will develop cancer in their lifetime and new technology, awareness and screening programs are helping to detect cancers earlier,” he said.
“Improving precision imaging, surgery and therapy are now essential to improving long-term outcomes. Australia has a strong track record of developing breakthrough medical solutions and I believe Ferronova has the ability to change the game in this area.”
Dr. Parker said Renew is a world leader in dye-based contrast agents for image-guided cancer surgery and a key strategic investor.
“This partnership will help us continue our pilot program and eventually deliver our products to the 80+ countries that Renew’s distribution network supports,” he said.
Declan Cassells, CEO of Renew, said Ferronova’s new approach to tackling the most challenging gastrointestinal and brain cancers attracted them to invest.
“Ferronova and Renew have a common mission to improve patient outcomes through image-guided surgery,” he said.
“We believe that this investment will accelerate the clinical programs and approvals of Renew’s fluorescent dye in combination with Ferronova’s magnetic nanoparticles for surgical use in the treatment of cancers with the worst survival rates, enabling us to make this unique solution available to patients through our global distribution network.”
Ferronova’s shareholders include Uniseed, the University of South Australia, the South Australian Venture Capital Fund (SAVCF), Powerhouse Ventures, the University of Wellington in New Zealand, the University of Sydney, PAN Ventures and Allan Moss, ex- director of Macquarie Bank.
CEO Stewart Bartlett said raising capital in a difficult environment, in addition to the substantial subsidy, was a testament to the strength of Ferronova’s technology.
“Surgery remains the only curative therapy for most cancers involving solid tumors, with best results when confined to a primary tumor and nearby lymph nodes,” he said.
“However, even in these early-stage patients, identifying and removing high-risk lymph nodes is challenging, especially in upper gastrointestinal cancers, which have a high rate of cancer recurrence and poor survival.
“Ferronova’s proprietary iron oxide nanoparticle platform and Renew’s Verdye (Indocyanine Green) infrared dye were successfully tested in first human trials at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Australia. The new funding will be used to expand the pilot program to brain and gastric and esophageal cancers, which have some of the worst outcomes of all solid tumors.”