Irish-founded Ochre Bio raises $30m to develop liver disease treatments

19 Oct 2022

Ochre Bio co-founders Quin Wills and Jack O’Meara. Image: David Fisher/Fisher Studos

The biotech start-up is testing therapies that can regenerate poor quality donor livers, with the aim of giving more people access to quality organs for transplants.

Ochre Bio has raised $30m in a Series A funding round to find new treatments for chronic liver disease.

The Oxford-based start-up was founded by Quin Wills and Athlone native Jack O’Meara in 2019. The company is looking to improve the viability of donor livers, testing RNA treatments on donated human livers that can be kept alive for several days inside the lab.

The investor syndicate included EIT Health, which contributed €500,000 through its Gold Track accelerator programme. Other investors included Khosla Ventures, Hermes-Epitek, Backed VC, LifeForce Capital, Selvedge, AixThera and LifeLink.

Individual investors included Verge Genomics CEO Alice Zhang, BioAge CEO Kristen Fortney, and Recursion Pharmaceuticals chair Marty Chavez.

“Chronic liver disease is now the third leading cause of premature death in much of the developed world,” O’Meara said. “At Ochre Bio, we aim to use transplant research as a way to way to de-risk and develop therapies that will treat those affected.”

Ochre Bio has generated spatial-sequencing, single-cell sequencing and imaging data in more than 1,000 diseased human livers across three continents.

The start-up plans to use the latest funding to turn the insights from its initial research into RNA-based drug candidates.

These will be tested on donated livers at Ochre Bio’s recently launched ‘Liver ICUs’ across the US. These ICUs use livers that are considered too fatty for use in transplants.

“Our pipeline helps us rapidly converge on therapies that regenerate poor quality donor livers, so more people have access to better quality organs faster,” Wills said. “In the future, we have a goal to directly regenerate organs in patients, removing the need for organ transplants altogether.”

Ochre Bio plans to conduct human liver pre-clinical testing throughout 2023, helping determine which therapies should move into clinical development in 2024.

EIT Health’s Gold Track programme director Christina Hertel said start-ups such as Ochre Bio are developing “game-changing solutions” to solve rising unmet clinical needs.

“At EIT Health we recognised the remarkable innovation behind Ochre Bio’s idea and are proud to have joined the investment syndicate in this Series A round through our grant for options model,” Hertel added.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic