Aquapharm secures second round investment of £4.0M
Oban, July 24, 2007
Aquapharm Biodiscovery Ltd (Aquapharm), a UK based marine biotechnology company, is
pleased to announce the completion of its latest round of investment financing of £4 million.
Leading the investment with £1.5M are the Amsterdam based VC fund, Aescap Venture
which has over €100M under management. Co-investing along side Aescap are Tate & Lyle
Ventures. Further investments have also been made by existing investors Scottish Enterprise,
NESTA Investments and HIE Argyll and the Islands (HIE AIE) to complete the £4.0 million
package. Patrick Krol, Partner of Aescap Venture and Simon Barnes, Managing Partner of
Tate & Lyle Ventures will join the Aquapharm board.
Aquapharm, led by CEO Dr Andrew Mearns Spragg, was incorporated in 2000 and is located,
near Oban, Scotland, within the facilities of the European Centre for Marine Biotechnology
(ECMB). The Company currently employs a team of 15 full-time staff and has commercial
interests ranging from anti-infective drug discovery to the development of novel anti-oxidants
for the nutraceutical and cosmeceutical markets.
Dr Andrew Mearns Spragg, the CEO of Aquapharm said “Completing this new investment is
recognition by venture capital of the exciting advances made by the company over the past 3
years in the areas of anti-infective development and novel ingredients for functional foods and
cosmeceuticals. It is another confirmation of the potential economic benefits that marine
biotechnology holds for the development of new innovative natural products for the wellness
of all of us.”
Aquapharm builds value from developing new bioactive compounds derived from marine
micro-organisms, with the aim to develop these as the next generation of bio-actives, with
applications in a diverse range of sectors. With good access to diverse marine environments,
Aquapharm has sampled ecological habitats ranging from shallow brackish waters to the cold
oceanic depths. By applying its proprietary technology the company has been able to culture
previously unculturable microbes from collected samples and has built a substantial and
specialised library of over 6,500 marine bacteria and fungi. By applying patented
fermentation technology to its microbial library, based on key stress mechanisms within the
micro-organisms, Aquapharm can achieve sustained production of important secondary
metabolites within the culture system. This resulted in the discovery of a plethora of new
chemical entities with interesting properties and immediate market application, including:
• Pharmaceutical compounds such as new antibiotics to tackle MRSA and C. difficile
• Novel bio-catalytic enzymes
• Cosmeceutical compounds (e.g. anti-oxidants and anti-ageing compounds)
• Carotenoids, Polymers, oligosaccharides and essential fatty acids (omega-3, DHA,
Mr Patrick Krol, partner of Aescap said “The bio-diversity of the (deep) sea is an un-tapped
treasure. Aquapharm is ideally suited to exploit this value with its top-tier team of scientists
and commercially savvy management team”.
Dr Simon Barnes, Managing Partner of Tate & Lyle Ventures added:
"Aquapharm has an excellent ability to develop natural marine-derived ingredients for a wide
range of functional food applications and nutraceuticals. Aquapharm's focus on the
sustainable production of ground-breaking bio-ingredients and the advancement of
fermentation technology enjoys an excellent fit with our fund strategy."
Gerard Kelly Senior Director, Scottish Enterprise Investments said “We are pleased to be able
to continue to support Aquapharm, investing alongside Tate & Lyle Ventures and Aescap
who are both partners of the new Scottish Venture Fund, and E-synergy an existing Scottish
Co-investment Fund partner. Aquapharm is a great example of a young and innovative
growing Scottish technology company with significant potential which, with the support of
the public sector, has been able to raise a substantial amount of local and international risk
capital to help develop its products and market.”
Area director for HIE A&I, Ken Abernethy said: "Aquapharm is a resounding success story
for Argyll and the Islands. Andrew Mearns Spragg's dedicated research team are well placed
to push the boundaries of science. Marine biotechnology is an emerging science, and HIE
A&I's investment is geared to keep this innovative company right at the forefront of research
into the health-enhancing benefits of marine organisms.
"Aquapharm has profited from just a fraction of the ocean's reserves and we are extremely
proud that the ECMB is the catalyst for this new phase of growth for the company. We are
delighted to be making this investment in a sector which is bringing such high quality jobs
into the Highlands."
Notes for Editors:
• Aquapharm develops natural products from the, as yet, untapped microbial resource of
• By applying its proprietary technology the company has been able to culture
previously unculturable microbes from collected samples and has built a substantial
and specialised library of over 6,500 marine bacteria and fungi.
• Aquapharm has developed culturing techniques within its laboratories that favour
biological diversity, a strategy which has been rewarded by the discovery of many
new species and subspecies, some of which do not fall into any known biological
• The microbial library sits at the core of the company and serves as a valuable resource
for Aquapharm’s own commercial activities
• By applying unique fermentation technology (patent pending) it is possible to induce
stress mechanisms within the organisms and thus achieve sustained production of
important secondary metabolites within the culture system.
• Collects samples of bacteria and fungi from the marine environment to build a
microbial library and a natural products library. This is valuable because the library
could contain previously unknown compounds that may provide cures for diseases or
answers to manufacturing problems. Using this library, Aquapharm actively looks for
o new antibiotics active against multi drug resistant organisms, such as MRSA,
VRSA & c. difficile
o natural organic pigments for use in the human and animal feed industry.
o functional food active ingredients (foods with health giving benefits, i.e. anti-
oxidants) An example of a marketed functional food is a fatty acid included in
a yogurt & margarine which reduces cholesterol.
o Novel enzymes with applications in the pharmaceutical and food industry
• The Company has a means to find new classes of pharmaceuticals (new drugs to fight
disease) and to find industrial products (pigments, antioxidants etc) that can be
produced organically (bio-fermentation) i.e. without the need to use petrochemicals.
• It undertakes discovery in an environmentally sustainable manner. Most marine
discovery companies look at larger species such as corals and sponges and collect
these. Aquapharm, however, collects samples of microscopic bacteria and fungi,
which has no adverse environmental impact.
Aescap is a new European biomedical venture capital fund with €102m under
management. So far Aescap has invested in four biomedical companies: Affectis AG,
ActoGeniX NV, ProtAffin AG and to-BBB NV.
Aescap was founded by Michiel de Haan, founder and former CEO of Atlas Venture and
Dr Dinko Valerio, founder and former CEO of Crucell, a Euronext/NASDAQ-listed
biotechnology company. Other partners are Patrick Krol, an entrepreneur and expert in
life science marketing and business development, and Kreske Nickelsen, a previous
director of life sciences at 3i.
Tate & Lyle Ventures
A £25M venture capital fund focused on investing in high growth companies in the fields
of renewable ingredients, food technologies, renewable resources such as biomaterials and
biofuels and industrial processing technologies.
Tate & Lyle PLC the fund’s leading investor is one of the world's leading renewable
ingredients companies focused on innovation and product development in these sectors.
Tate & Lyle Ventures is structured and managed as an independent venture capital fund.
The name of the management company that manages Tate & Lyle Ventures is Circadia
Scottish Enterprise is the main economic development agency for Scotland covering 93%
of the population from Grampian to the Borders. The Scottish Enterprise Network
consists of Scottish Enterprise and 12 Local Enterprise Companies. Working in
partnership with the private and public sectors the Network aims to build more and better
businesses, to develop the skills and knowledge of Scottish people, and to encourage
innovation to make Scottish business internationally competitive. Further information on
Scottish Enterprise is available at www.scottish-enterprise.com
Scottish Enterprise has a portfolio of three investment products for growing businesses.
For early stage businesses, the Scottish Seed Fund provides investments from £20,000 to
£100,000. For small and ambitious companies, the Scottish Co-investment Fund provides
between £50,000 and £500,000 in company finance deals of up to £2m. For larger
companies trying to raise funds for the next crucial stage of development, the Scottish
Venture Fund provides investments in the range, typically, between £2m and £10m. Both
the Scottish Co-investment Fund and the Scottish Venture Fund invest in partnership with
the private sector on at least a matched funding basis. Further information on Scottish
Enterprise investments is available at www.scottish-enterprise.com/equity
Highlands and Islands Enterprise
The Highlands and Islands Enterprise network (HIE) is responsible for economic and
community development in an area which covers more than half of Scotland, from
Shetland to Argyll. HIE's headquarters are in Inverness and most of its services are
delivered through local enterprise companies. The Network employs around 550 people
and last year invested more than £100 million to help people living in the Highlands and
Islands realise their full potential.
NESTA is the National Endowment for Science, Technology & the Arts. With endowed
funds of over £300 million, our mission is to transform the UK’s capacity for innovation.
We do this in three main ways: by working to build a more pervasive culture of
innovation in this country; by providing innovators with access to early stage capital; and
by driving forward research into innovation, with a view to influencing policy.
Dr Andrew Mearns Spragg
Aquapharm Bio - Discovery Ltd
European Centre for Marine Biotechnology
01631 559 390