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Hooke Biotechnology have secured €5.5m in blended finance from the highly competitive Horizon Europe EIC Accelerator to develop Mera.
Drug development is a long and expensive process. A significant part of this time and money goes into the preclinical phase where drugs are tested on animal models. However, these animal tests are not always effective in predicting human responses.
Fortunately, Hooke Bio has come up with a game-changing solution: Mera, a “body-on-a-chip” platform that aims to make drug testing more efficient and humane.
Funded by €5.5m from the Horizon Europe EIC Accelerator, Mera will offer a more reliable and humane way to test drugs.
The initial phase of drug testing, known as preclinical drug screening, accounts for 40% of the total costs and takes up 60% of the time. This makes drug development expensive and time-consuming.
Although animal models are the standard, they are not always reliable. Of the drugs that make it through animal testing, 89% fail when they move on to human trials. About 50% of these failures are due to unexpected toxicity in humans. Furthermore, 700 HIV/AIDS vaccine trials have shown promise in animals but failed in humans.
Existing screening and animal models simply do not simulate the conditions of the human body realistically enough for scientists to make accurate predictions based on experimental results.
Testing drugs on animals is highly unrepresentative in replicating the human response: Animal testing’s current predictive power is around 60% effective. 90–95% of drugs found to be safe and effective in animal tests fail during human clinical trials, primarily because of toxicities not predicted by animal tests or because of lack of efficacy.
Hooke Bio has developed Mera, a groundbreaking “body-on-a-chip” solution that simulates the entire human body’s response to drugs. Unlike existing models that mimic just single organs, Mera offers a more holistic approach.
The company, with the help of the grant bid writing team at Myriad Associates, has secured €5.5 million from the Horizon Europe EIC Accelerator a highly competitive funding program. The support from Enterprise Ireland has also been instrumental in this achievement.
Mark Lyons, CEO, Hooke Bio said: “Hooke Bio’s Mera platform will be transformative for the drug development process. Our success in the EIC accelerator will allow us to bring this to market faster enabling us to have a positive impact on the lives of patients throughout the world. Enterprise Ireland have played a key role in supporting us on this journey from its very inception.”
Finola Cliffe, COO, Hooke Bio said: “Marc and his team have assisted us in securing EIC Accelerator funding (blended finance). I doubt that we would have navigated the complicated EIC process and portal successfully without their in depth knowledge of the structure of the portal, and of strategic grant writing. They have fantastic attention to detail, are easily contactable and always very clear with their feedback.
Marc and Lauren were always positive and encouraging throughout the process and was always confident that we would succeed. The assistance does not end with notification of the funding, they continues to advise, assist and put us in contact with others in his wide network who have received similar funding.
I would eagerly look forward to working with both Marc and Lauren in the future as not only do they excel in their jobs but are really lovely people also.”
The shortcomings of traditional drug testing methods are glaring, both in terms of their predictive power and their ethical considerations. Hooke Bio’s Mera platform is poised to disrupt this landscape by offering a more efficient and humane alternative. With substantial funding and a dedicated team, Mera is set to make a lasting impact on drug development and potentially save millions of lives.
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