Discovery Park has launched its investment fund, Discovery Park Ventures (DPV), with stakes in VisusNano and Vitarka Therapeutics.  The £1m fund will invest in exciting early-stage companies at start-up or to help them leverage non-dilutive funding, and has plans to expand to up to £25m in the next three years. Ophthalmology company VisusNano and drug delivery start-up Vitarka Therapeutics have received investments of £100,000 and £140,000 respectively from DPV.

VisusNano is developing a pipeline of drug-eluting intraocular lens implants (MEDILens), expected to revolutionise cataract surgery in both the human and veterinary markets and dramatically improve outcomes for patients. DPV’s investment provides matched funding for the company’s £1.39m Innovate UK Biomedical Catalyst award to test the safety and efficacy of MEDILens in humans. It is part of VisusNano’s £1.5m Series A round, which is expected to close shortly. The company is based at Discovery Park.

Vitarka Therapeutics is a preclinical biotech company focused on the development of combination medicines using RNAi therapies and a non-viral drug delivery platform with an initial focus on oncology. This proprietary approach aims to activate the immune system and normalise the tumour vasculature, significantly changing outcomes for late-stage patients with lung, colon, breast, and other cancers.

The company was founded in 2021 by Dr Vineeta Tripathi, who refined the company’s focus while undertaking Discovery Park’s Reactor growth programme. She has more than 15 years’ experience in drug development, including at Boehringer Ingelheim and Ipsen Bioinnovation. Discovery Park Ventures’s investment is part of a £150,000 seed round which will be used to generate first-in-class lead RNAi candidates for two validated cancer targets. The company expects to move to Discovery Park in due course.  

Discovery Park Ventures is chaired by Discovery Park CEO Mayer Schreiber. Emma Palmer Foster and Dr Martino Picardo, who have many years’ experience in life sciences company development and investment, are Directors. The fund will invest in novel and disruptive technologies, usually related to Discovery Park’s areas of focus1. Investee companies will have a strong collaborative relationship with Discovery Park or may be a tenant.

Dr Picardo is Independent Chairman of Vitarka Therapeutics, and Mayer Schreiber joins the company’s Board as Investor Director as part of the investment.

Mayer Schreiber, Chairman of Discovery Park Ventures, said, ‘VisusNano and Vitarka Therapeutics are very exciting investments with which to launch Discovery Park Ventures. We’re looking forward to investing in many more innovative companies in the UK as the fund grows, helping to develop healthcare innovations and drive regional economic growth.’

Dr Joanna Gould, CEO of VisusNano, said, ‘We’re delighted to welcome Discovery Park Ventures as a new investor as we enter this exciting clinical phase of development.  As a Discovery Park tenant we have found the environment very supportive and this investment is another way in which the Park is driving our growth.’

Dr Vineeta Tripathi, CEO of Vitarka Therapeutics, said, ‘We’d like to thank Discovery Park Ventures for its belief in our innovative approach to cancer treatment and therapeutic delivery, and welcome it as a shareholder. Vitarka Therapeutics looks forward to working with DPV as we generate our proof of concept data2.’