Funds for Limerick firm to take on a global killer

Limerick firm Cala Medical seeks €3m to develop a drug to treat global-killer sepsis, writes Trish Dromey

Limerick company Cala Medical is seeking €3m to complete development of a revolutionary new treatment for sepsis — the first in the world designed to control the immune system overreaction which causes it.

Cala Medical chief executive and co-founder Brian Noonan

A condition which results from catastrophic overstimulation of a patient’s immune system in response to infection, sepsis is a global killer responsible for over six million deaths a year.

Cala Medical chief executive and co-founder Brian Noonan says that the only available treatment option at present is to administer antibiotics for the infection.

There are no effective treatments for sepsis or interventions which can bring the patient’s immune response back under control,” he says.

Entering the global war against sepsis, Cala Medical has developed a patented therapy called Cytoflow5, which will be ready for clinical testing in humans in 2019 and is expected to be launched on the market in the next two to three years.

This technology involves filtering a patient’s blood and using an enzyme to deactivate the blood protein C5a which is responsible for triggering the sepsis cascade which can cause organ failure and death.

During therapy with Cytaflow5, the patient’ s plasma is separated from their blood, passed through a Cytoflow5 cassette which renders the C5a inactive and then recombined with the blood and returned to the patient, explains Mr Noonan.

He says that as the first treatment which involves the patient’s own immune system in the fight against sepsis, this technology is ground-breaking.

The setting up of Cala Medical in February 2017, followed more than 20 years of work on the technology by two of its co-founders Jakki Cooney and Todd Kagawa who are both attached to the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Limerick.

“Their research on enzymes began out of interest but they realised that it had a medical application,” says Mr Noonan, who was working at pharma giant Astra Zeneca when Mr Cooney asked him for advice on applying for commercialisation funding for the technology from Enterprise Ireland, in

2014.

Seeing the potential in the venture, he took on the role of CEO at Cala Medical when it was set up at the Nexus Innovation centre at UL.

Licensing the already patented technology from UL, the company raised €500,000 which included private investment as well as High Potential Start Up funding from Enterprise Ireland.

Taking on a staff of four, the company has since been working on testing the technology on human plasma and also identifying three companies which will be able to manufacture the components required for Cytoflow5.

The company is also engaging with both investors and potential distribution partners.

“Ideally we are looking for a partnership with a major player with a distribution global distribution network,’’ says Mr Noonan explaining that the company now needs €3m in funding to advance to the next level and begin clinical trials.

“Our aim is to grow the staff size to 10 and to carry out the clinical trials in Ireland, Sweden, and Germany,’’ he says, adding that within six months of starting the trials the company could be ready to start work9ing on securing regulatory approval.

He says the pace of development will depend on how quickly the company raises the funding.

If we find the right distribution partner we could scale quickly. One option would be to establish a plant to build the devices — I would love to see this happening here in Ireland,’’ he says.

Mr Noonan believes that Cytoflow5 has the potential to be a game changer in the treatment of sepsis and would like to see it being used in intensive care units in hospitals across the globe

within a few years of launch.

He sees enormous potential for a company which can provide an effective treatment for a condition on which in excess of €30bn a year is spent in the EU alone.

“It also has a significant impact on the healthcare budget in Ireland where there are 14,000 cases with a mortality rate of approximately 20%,” says Mr Noonan, who plans to deploy the technology in Ireland before expanding into the EU and other markets.


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