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Dr Sarah Trewick
Business Development Manager College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine Institute of Genetics and Cancer, Usher Institute

Combining world-class clinical and drug discovery expertise, the team behind the University of Edinburgh spinout Pheno Therapeutics is uniquely positioned to provide novel treatments that could halt the progression and alleviate the debilitating symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

Dynamic partnership

Pheno Therapeutics exploits the peerless clinical insight and vast drug discovery expertise of its two distinguished founders. Professor Neil Carragher is a phenotypic screening pioneer with over 25 years of translational research experience from within the pharmaceutical industry and academia; Professor Sidharthan Chandran is a world-leading regenerative neurology specialist. The founders’ joint skillset, their utilisation of Professor Carragher’s Phenomics Drug Discovery platform, and access to world-class facilities within the Edinburgh Medical School have combined to create the ideal conditions for accelerated novel discovery.

After co-founding Pheno Therapeutics in 2019, Professor Carragher and Professor Chandran secured £5 million in investment funding from Advent Life Sciences and UK medical research charity LifeArc, which launched Pheno Therapeutics on its trajectory to identify novel drugs that will significantly improve the quality of life for MS patients.

A regenerative approach to MS

MS is a devastating and unpredictable chronic disease of the central nervous system characterised by the immune system attacking and damaging the myelin sheaths that protect nerve cells. It affects 2.5 million people worldwide and is the leading cause of disability in young people. While some recently developed MS therapies can address the immune system aspects of the disease and reduce the frequency and severity of relapses, no current treatments can halt or reverse ongoing neurodegeneration. Pheno Therapeutics is poised to address that urgent and unmet clinical need.

The company will employ the astounding capabilities of the Phenomics Drug Discovery platform, which applies the latest advances in genetics, proteomics, imaging and informatics tools to explore target biology and drug mechanism-of-action across complex cell and tissue-based models of disease. The platform can operate at scale by integrating automated liquid handling with high content microscopy, the latest image analysis and machine learning pipelines. This enables comprehensive surveys of pharmacological and target classes across multiple disease cell phenotypes.

By exploiting the astounding capabilities of the platform, and using a unique human stem cell model to identify novel remyelinating agents, Pheno Therapeutics aims to develop transformational therapeutics that repair damaged myelin sheaths, thus reversing the effects of the disease and significantly improving quality of life for MS patients.

A brighter future

Pheno Therapeutics is now in the process of licensing a molecule suitable for trials on individuals living with the disease. The company is also focusing on how their innovation in remyelination therapies can also benefit people with other neurological disorders such as psychosis and dementia.

In 2022 the company recruited Mo Shahid as its CEO. A successful and entrepreneurial drug discovery expert with a formidable track record of achievements in pharmaceutical R&D innovation in his 35 years working in the industry, Mo is leading the team with a core focus on taking Pheno Therapeutics’ innovation to the next level where it can ultimately benefit people who are suffering from MS and other neuro-degenerative diseases.

Pheno Therapeutics’ development of first-in-class remyelination therapies has the potential to transform the lives of people with MS and other neuro-degenerative diseases.
Through the efforts of Professors Chandran and Carragher, the company has successfully pioneered a new approach in treating a range of diseases leveraging the University of Edinburgh’s world-leading expertise in neuro degenerative disorders. We now have an immense opportunity to test the impact of our innovation through clinical trials. ”

Mo Shahid, CEO of Pheno Therapeutics

Support at every stage

Pheno Therapeutics has been facilitated and championed from its inception by Edinburgh Innovations (EI). From helping to shape original pitches to establishing the scope of the company and introducing the academic founders to financial partner Advent Life Sciences, EI has been instrumental.

Now, EI continues to assist Pheno Therapeutics by negotiating all commercial, consultancy and license agreements, and by working in close partnership with both the company and its investors. Dr Andrea Taylor, Director of Strategic Partnerships at EI, has provided continuous guidance, and currently sits on the board to support Pheno Therapeutics as it continues to innovate and bring novel treatments for MS patients from bench to bedside.

For more information about how Edinburgh Innovations manages the University’s equity positions in early-stage companies, read about OCC Holdings.

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