TOKYO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Cellusion Inc. (Head Office: Tokyo; CEO: Shin Hatou; hereinafter referred to as “Cellusion”) announced that it has raised 2.83 billion yen (21 million USD) in Series C Round financing.
New investors of the third-party allocation of shares in this Round are the investment limited partnerships operated by JIC Venture Growth Investments Co., Ltd., NISSAY CAPITAL Co., Ltd., SPARX Asset Management Co., Ltd. (Mirai Creation Fund III), Axil Capital Partners II LLP, Nikon-SBI Innovation Fund, and AIS CAPITAL LIMITED, while existing investors are the investment limited partnerships operated by The University of Tokyo Edge Capital Partners Co., Ltd., DBJ Capital Co., Ltd., SMBC Venture Capital Co., Ltd., and Gemseki Inc.
Cellusion has raised 4.5 billion yen (33 million USD) in total to date.
[Purpose and background of financing]
In line with its mission of “Regenerating Human Potential” and vision of “More Freedom and More Smiles to the World,” Cellusion is promoting as its lead program the development of iPS cell-derived corneal endothelial cell substitute (hereinafter referred to as “CLS001”) to resolve the challenge of corneal transplants, for which 13 million patients are reported to be on the waiting list worldwide, based on its proprietary patented technique of efficiently producing CLS001 from iPS cells. To date, Cellusion has reinforced its organizational structure for R&D, etc. and promoted overseas operations in the Greater China by executing a license agreement with Celregen, a subsidiary of Fosun Pharma, in September 2022. Furthermore, in March 2023, Dr. Shigeto Shimmura, a professor of Fujita Health University and Keio University as our joint research partners, announced the first transplant of CLS001 to a patient (First In Human Study), and Cellusion is also making significant progress in domestic R&D.
In addition to further reinforcing its organizational structure for R&D, etc., Cellusion will use the raised funds to advance preparations for commencing company-sponsored clinical trials of CLS001 in Japan, as well as promote preparations for global clinical trials. We will also promote the R&D of subsequent pipelines following CLS001.
[Comment from existing investor]
The University of Tokyo Edge Capital Partners Co., Ltd., Principal, Hiroaki Kobayashi
Continuing from our Series B investment, we have also steadfastly made an additional investment in this Round. Clinical efficacy as expected has been demonstrated in the clinical research being conducted in Keio University Hospital, and I am confident that domestic and overseas company-sponsored clinical trials will also produce excellent results. Cellusion is the global leader in the field of iPS cell-derived corneal endothelial regenerative medicine, and we will continue to offer our support so that Cellusion can market its products not only in Japan, but globally, and contribute to the QOL of patients around the world as soon as possible.
[Comments from new investor]
JIC Venture Growth Investments Co., Ltd., Principal, Yoshiharu Asai
Bullous keratopathy is one of the diseases that cannot be treated adequately due to the extreme shortage of corneal donors in Japan and other countries. Cellusion’s patented production method of CLS001 has the potential of dramatically improving the yield of the target cells (CLS001) in comparison to conventional production methods, and fundamentally resolving the supply constraints of this disease. We decided to invest in Cellusion because we appreciated the First in Human trial and subsequent pipelines related to CLS001, as well as their global business opportunities. We hope that this investment will further accelerate Cellusion’s business and realize the commercialization of iPS cell-derived regenerative medicine products not only in Japan, but also in foreign countries, as soon as possible.
NISSAY CAPITAL Co., Ltd., Chief Venture Capitalist, Junichi Imoto
The corneal endothelial cells substitute developed by Cellusion are the seeds with the potential of resolving the global challenges of corneal transplants, and we decided to invest in Cellusion with expectations of the further expansion of subsequent pipelines with the corneal endothelial cells substitute as the steppingstone. We are pleased to be a part of the further challenges of the expert group led by CEO Hatou, and hope that, going forward, Cellusion will contribute considerably to society by producing breakthrough regenerative medicine products.
CLS001 is alternative cell to corneal endothelial cells produced by efficiently differentiating iPS cells, which can be differentiated into various types of cells, based on Cellusion’s proprietary technique. Cellusion is promoting the development of CLS001 as a therapeutic regenerative medicine product for bullous keratopathy, which accounts for more than half of the corneal transplant cases, by combining “CECSi Cells* made from iPS cells with excellent proliferative properties” and “a simple injection cell delivery procedure without needs of human expertise.” Cellusion is also advancing preparations for company-sponsored clinical trials in Japan, as well as preparations for global clinical trials.
*CECSi Cells: Corneal Endothelial Cell Substitute from iPS Cells
Bullous keratopathy is a disease that occurs when corneal endothelial cells, which control the amount of fluid at the inner-most part of the cornea, decrease due to eye surgery of cataract or genetic factors, resulting in problems with their function, whereby the cornea becomes swollen and causes visual impairment due to opacity. This disease is progressive and may lead to blindness if left untreated. Today, this disease can only be treated by transplanting normally functioning corneal endothelial cells via corneal transplant. Nevertheless, as with other organ transplants, corneal transplants are also facing a serious problem of donor shortage. In Japan alone, it is estimated that there are more than 10,000 patients, and in the global survey conducted in 2013 it was reported that approximately 13 million patients are waiting for corneal transplants.
Company: Cellusion Inc.
CEO: Shin Hatou, M.D., Ph.D.
Headquarters: 8-6 Nihonbashi-Kobuna, Chuo, Tokyo 103-0024, JAPAN
Founded: January 2015
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