Big data-science for cell therapies: Mogrify boosted by $3.7m funding

All current cell therapies are failing on at least one of three key performance indicators: efficacy, safety and scalability, says Mogrify’s new CEO Darrin Disley.

Cambridge, UK-based firm Mogrify is looking to transform the cell therapy space through its technology platform that it claims makes it possible to transform – or ‘transmogrify’ – any mature human cell type into any other without going through a pluripotent stem cell or progenitor cell state.

The firm has bolstered its position by raising $3.7 million through a seed funding led by existing investor Ahren Innovation Capital, and by expanding its senior management team through the hiring of Darrin Disley.

Mogrify execs left to right: Dr Darrin Disley, OBE, CEO, Professor Julian Gough, Co-founder and CSO, Pierre-Louis Joffrin, Corporate Development Associate

Disley, who led Horizon Discovery Group for 11 years, including through a $113 million IPO, is a scientist, entrepreneur and angel investor, and spoke to BioProcess Insider about both his new company and the current challenges in cell therapy production.

BioProcess Insider (BPI): Firstly, can you explain how Mogrify’s platform works?

Darrin Disley (DD): Building on a decade of world-class multidisciplinary science in the fields of bioinformatics, machine learning and molecular biology, Mogrify is using a systematic big data-science approach powered by next-generation sequencing and gene-regulatory data to identify the optimal combination of transcription factors needed to convert any mature cell type into any other mature cell type without going through a pluripotent stem cell- or even a progenitor cell-state.

BPI: What challenges in cell therapy production does it aim to tackle?

DD: Firstly, it is important to note there are only eight FDA approved cell therapies so far, when there is potential for many dozens in the field of regenerative medicine and precision medicine.

Secondly, all current cell therapies, even those approved by the FDA such as Kymriah, are failing on at least one, if not a combination, of the three key performance indicators: efficacy, safety and scalability (and consequently, cost).

This comes as a result of cells requiring complex engineering to acquire the right markers to have an effective therapeutic effect and avoid rejection (similar to organ grafts).

Until now the creation & manufacture of these cells has relied on a very unproductive process of educated guess & trial and error. The Mogrify approach aims to dramatically accelerate the quest for new cell therapies which are currently limited by the lack of available sources of cells with suitable efficacy, safety and manufacturing profiles.

BPI: How do you intend to use the seed funding?

DD: We are looking to grow quickly by setting up our own facilities in central Cambridge, UK, and building a world class scientific & management team around it.

Beyond this our focus is on expanding our IP Footprint from the many dozens of cell conversions already covered by our foundational patent and working as an IP enabler with early partners in our core market verticals of cell therapy, cell manufacturing and cell tools development.

Beyond this we will build the thesis for a very significant Series A raise of up to $30M within the next 12 months.

BPI: Can you explain your business model and which types companies you are currently/hoping to work with?

Mogrify is looking to partner with companies in the fields of regenerative medicine, cell therapies, biomanufacturing and research tools, to develop cell conversions from proof-of-concept to commercial products with impact in their respective market sectors. Once commercially viable cell conversions have been developed, Mogrify will look to license the intellectual property or go to market as a joint venture.

Mogrify’s IP-centric business model could have a similar impact on next generation cell therapies as Arm’s superchip licensing approach had achieved across cutting edge technology devices. Ours is a hub and spoke IP centric business model – a similar model that enabled Arm to be so dominant globally for so long in the world of hi-tech devices and, going forward, in IoT.

Arm was clever: It didn’t set out to build devices – it chose to design the chips that drive them all. Mogrify’s IP will broadly cover and enable market sectors where the cell lies at the heart of value creation. With the model we have chosen everyone is our customer. We don’t have to make the tools, therapies and manufacturing processes that drive the healthcare revolution; customers right across the chain can use our IP to make the products, provide the services and create the processes that will power their businesses.

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