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South Australian biotech startup Ferronova banks $11 million to tackle cancer treatment

- January 23, 2023 2 MIN READ
Ferronova CEO Stewart Bartlett
Ferronova CEO Stewart Bartlett
Adelaide biotech company Ferronova has raised $8 million from investors topped up with a $3 million research grant from the federal government for its nanoparticle platform to help surgeons to locate and remove malignant cells in stomach and brain cancers.

Irish healthtech venture Renew Pharmaceuticals led the raise, supported by existing backers Uniseed and Artesian Venture Partners. The additional $3 million came via a Co-operative Research Centers Project (CRC-P) grant. The new cash comes on top of $4.6 million previously raised in Seed and Series A rounds.

Ferronova chair Dr John Parker said the capital will help accelerate trials in gastrointestinal and brain cancers.

“Research now shows one in two people will develop cancer in their lifetime and thanks to new technology, awareness and screening programs cancers are being detected earlier,” he said.

“Improvement in precision imaging, surgery, and therapy are now essential to improving long term outcomes. Australia has a strong track record in developing ground-breaking medical solutions and I believe Ferronova has the capability to be a game changer in this field.”

Dr Parker said Renew are world leaders in dye-based contrast agents for image guided cancer surgery and an important strategic investor.

“This collaboration will help us to progress our trial program and ultimately deliver our products to the 80+ countries that Renew’s distribution network supports,” he said.

Renew managing director Declan Cassells said Ferronova’s novel approach to tackling the most challenging gastrointestinal and brain cancers attracted them to invest.

“Ferronova and Renew have a common mission to improve patient outcomes through image guided surgery,” he said.

“We believe that through this investment we will accelerate the clinical programs and approvals of Renew’s fluorescence dye combined with Ferronova’s magnetic nanoparticles for surgical use in the treatment of cancers which have some of the worst survival rates, so that we can make this unique solution available to patients through our global distribution network.”

Ferronova’s shareholders include Uniseed, the University of South Australia, the South Australian Venture Capital Fund (SAVCF), Powerhouse Ventures, New Zealand’s University of Wellington, the University of Sydney, PAN Ventures, and ex-Macquarie Bank executive Allan Moss.

CEO Stewart Bartlett said raising capital in a difficult climate, alongside the substantial grant, was testament to the strength of Ferronova’s technology.

“Surgery continues to be the only curative therapy for most solid tumour cancers, with the best outcomes when they are confined to a primary tumour and nearby lymph nodes,” he said.

“However, even in these early-stage patients, identifying and removing high-risk lymph nodes is a challenge, especially in upper gastrointestinal cancers which have high rates of cancer recurrence and poor survival.

“Ferronova’s proprietary iron-oxide nanoparticle platform and Renew’s Verdye (Indocyanine Green) infrared dye were successfully tested in first human trials at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Australia. The new funding will be applied to expanding the trial program to brain and gastric-esophageal cancers, which have among the poorest outcomes of all solid tumours.”