£1.5m investment in Lightox boosts development of innovative treatment to prevent oral cancer

Pictured: Laurence Tan (Praetura Ventures), Jess Jackson (Praetura Ventures), Sam Whitehouse (LightOx), Carrie Ambler (LightOx), Sim Singh-Landa (Praetura Ventures)

A Durham University spinout has raised £1.5m investment to help develop a ground-breaking treatment for patients with early-stage oral cancer.

LightOx, now based at The Biosphere at Newcastle Helix, has raised money to develop its lead candidate LXD191. LXD191 is an oral gel activated by a light device targeting a serious pre-cancerous condition called oral epithelial dysplasia (OED).

LightOx was founded by Professor Carrie Ambler (CSO) and professor of Biosciences at Durham University, and Dr Sam Whitehouse (CEO). They aimed to develop a treatment to replace painful and highly invasive surgery or radiotherapy.

This latest funding round was led by the GMC Life Sciences Fund by Praetura – a collaborative fund managed by Praetura Ventures and made up of Bruntwood SciTech, Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership and Greater Manchester Combined Authority with LightOx’s existing investors also contributing, including Newcastle’s Northstar Ventures.

Improving on current treatments for OED

Current treatments for OED include cutting tissue from the mouth, which can leave 95% of patients with life altering consequences. Half of patients never return to work.

Professor Carrie Ambler, Chief Scientific Officer at LightOx, said:

“The new investment will enable us to finalise the pre-clinical data package over the next 12 months needed for us to advance our lead drug into clinical trials.

“We are thrilled to have new investment partners to support LightOx during this exciting phase of our drug programme.”

Investing now to save lives in future

Sim Singh-Landa, Investment Director at Praetura Ventures and Head of the GMC Life Sciences by Praetura, said:

“The research and clinical tests the LightOx team are doing now could save and improve countless lives in future as well as alleviate pressure on the NHS by treating OED at a much earlier stage.

“The Praetura team are looking forward to supporting LightOx as it enters this next phase of growth and clinical testing. Likewise, we are delighted that the business will be increasing its presence in Manchester and the North West, where there is a wealth of life sciences expertise.”

Alex Buchan, Investment Director at Northstar Ventures, added:

“With oral cancer currently being ranked as the sixth most common, we see this as a really exciting new therapeutic. Northstar are very pleased to support LightOx in the vital work they are doing.”

LightOx is committed to exploring other uses within healthcare, including bacterial infections and wound care. The business is also preparing to expand beyond its current headquarters in Newcastle with a new Manchester base and plans to launch the next phase of its clinical trials in the North West region.

Spinning out – Northern Accelerator support for research commercialisation

Lightox spun out from Durham University and has benefitted from Northern Accelerator support, including investment from our seed investment fund and a growth support grant.