Viral centre receives funding

The world’s only viral research centre that uses human volunteers under quarantine conditions has received £2.6m of investment to begin drug development.

Retroscreen Virology, based in the UK, received the investment through fundraising led by Aquarius Equity Partners with IP Venture Fund, a fund managed by IP Group plc’s venture capital subsidiary.

In the past, the centre’s studies focused on respiratory viruses, but the new funds will allow researchers there to investigate enteric viruses such as norovirus.

John Lyon, chairman of Retroscreen Virology, said: ‘The team at Aquarius Equity Partners are committed backers of innovative technology and their investment in Retroscreen is a testament to the expertise and unique research services Retroscreen provides to its clients. The proceeds will be used to grow our business, ensuring that Retroscreen remains at the forefront of virology research and development.’

Steve Sealey, chairman of Aquarius Equity Partners, said that his group is looking forward to providing Retroscreen Virology with the support it needs to ‘realise the full potential of the company’.

Retroscreen Virology was founded in 1989 by John Oxford, a professor of virology. The centre performs anti-viral research and designs and coordinates clinical trials for global pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies that are developing antiviral drugs and vaccines.

To date, the centre has conducted more than 30 quarantines, infecting more than 700 volunteers. It claims that these studies reduce the cost and the duration of drug development by accelerating the selection of dose and dosing regimes for later licensing studies.

Retroscreen Virology recently took part in a consortium led by Qinetiq Nanomaterials, a Qinetiq subsidiary, which is developing a range of viral treatments from nanomaterials.

The two-year programme, which was recently completed, was funded by the South East England Development Agency, which allocated £2m to the project.

Retroscreen Virology is also the lead participant in the European Surveillance Network for Vigilance against Viral Resistance (VIRGIL), which was established with a £9m grant from the European Union. The programme was developed to integrate and coordinate the activities of doctors and scientists from institutions across Europe who are investigating viral resistance.