Bordeaux-based biotech startup TreeFrog Therapeutics has just received an additional €3 million in grant funding through the French government and the Horizon 2020 programme, after having raised a round of €7.1 million in May.
According to TreeFrog, the key bottleneck in the cell therapy industry today is the cultivation of pluripotent stem cells – self-replicating cells which can form to grow any part of the human body. These cells are fragile and difficult to grow, and so current cell therapy programmes are limited by manufacturing capacity, cell processing costs, and cell quality.
To address this challenge, TreeFrog Therapeutics developed C-Stem, a proprietary technology for stem cell culture; a 3D cell culture system enabling the mass production of stem cells with short lead times while preserving genomic integrity. C-Stem aims to significantly lower costs and accelerate bioproduction to treat millions of patients living with currently incurable chronic and degenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, type 1 diabetes, and heart failure.
As an i-Nov winner, between now and 2020 TreeFrog Therapeutics will receive €450k from Bpifrance. Launched by the French Government in 2018, the ‘i-Nov Innovation Challenge Phase 2’ aims to support innovative projects led by startups and SMEs and accelerate the emergence of leading companies in their field, capable of global reach.
The project will also receive €2.4 million in funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme through the SME Instrument Phase 2. In 2019, the European Commission received 5,638 SME Instrument applications from 40 countries and selected 232 laureates. TreeFrog Therapeutics became a laureate at the first submission; most laureates submit at least three times.
The funding will be used to help the company attain a cGMP certification, a prerequisite for FDA approval, and to further develop C-Stem. Compatible with conventional bioreactors, C-Stem will turn into a bioproduction platform to service the cell therapy industry with stem cells and differentiated therapeutic cells. The company aims to deliver its first clinical-grade batches by 2021, introducing a new quality standard for cellular products and reducing production costs by at least 10-fold.
“Being supported and recognized as a strategic asset by the European Commission and by the French government marks the beginning of a new chapter in TreeFrog’s history,” said Maxime Feyeux, president & CSO of Treefrog Therapeutics. “Over the past year, we have secured intellectual property, successfully closed a Series A round, set up the operations team and established the company’s governance. We now have two years to complete the next chapter, which is all about entering the market to provide patients with access to safe and affordable cell therapies.”
“Our focus is now on accelerating our programmes,” said Kevin Alessandri, CEO & CTO of TreeFrog Therapeutics. “To do so, we are working on the recruitment of seasoned executives to be in charge of the cGMP certification, as well as on extending our production capacity, with a view to delivering clinical-grade batches to our partners by Q1 2021.”