Singapore-headquartered venture capital firm Vickers Venture Partners, along with Exen Capital, led a US$3.5 million series A investment into Irish biotech company SiSaf. The round was joined by Invest Northern Ireland, the country’s economic development agency, which is an existing investor in the company.
SiSaf has developed a unique method that improves the way drugs can be administered to patients.
Under the deal, Vickers co-founder Dr. Elkhalil Binebine and Exen managing partner Eric Attias will have seats at the firm’s board of directors.
SiSaf was founded in 2008 and is based in Belfast. It has developed a unique method of drug delivery that improves the way drugs can be administered to patients.
The tech is based on what the firm calls “a patented elemental nano-silicon.” Using it, the company can customize drugs in order to make them easier to administer or to have more control of the dosage and time of release.
For example, a less soluble drug that needs to be injected directly into the bloodstream could have its solubility enhanced through SiSaf’s method and be administered as a pill. A drug that’s toxic in large doses could be delivered in smaller, controlled releases.
“We see this as not quite a new class of drugs, but a platform to deliver drugs more safely and more precisely,” Dr. Jeffrey Chi, Vickers co-founder and vice chairman, tells Tech in Asia.
Betting on life
The cash will be used to help SiSaf expand to new markets and boost research and development. Vickers will help open up pathways and networks for the company in Asia and the US, where it operates. “We are generally hands-on with our companies, contributing in whatever ways we can,” Jeffrey says.
“SiSaf is at a very exciting point in its history. After years of R&D, our technology is ready for full commercialization,” says co-founder and chairwoman Suzanne Saffie-Siebert in a statement. “Vickers and Exen have a great track record of building companies and their global network and expertise in the life science sector will be key to accelerating SiSaf’s growth.”
Vickers will help open up pathways for SiSaf in Asia and the US.
The investment comes from Vickers’ recently announced fifth fund, which has a target size of US$250 million. The investor is targeting early-stage companies, from seed up to series A and B, in areas including media and telecommunications, financial services, and life sciences.
Biotech and life sciences are attractive but challenging sectors for investors, as breakthroughs in that space can take a while to come out and are subject to strict regulations. And let’s not forget the insecurity that Theranos brought to the market.
Vickers’ approach is meant to minimize risk, Jeffrey says. SiSaf’s technology is already proven – meant to enhance solutions that are already out there rather than inventing new drugs itself. Backing biotech companies that innovate on platforms of delivery provides a better risk/reward ratio to the investor.