Investors back their belief in biotech company

THE chairman of Hull City football club has backed a biotech company's bid to develop ground-breaking new therapies for prostate cancer.

Businessman Paul Duffen is investing 250,000 in Pro-Cure Therapeutics with colleague Steven Smith through their investment company Reef Securities.

Mr Duffen told the Yorkshire Post: "I look at a lot of businesses as potential investment opportunities. I felt that this is a business which has a real potential to provide a solution to one of the most threatening male cancers.

"I believe they have a very good chance of making a real difference to the lives of people suffering from prostate cancer."

He said he was impressed by the quality of science at the company and has taken a place on Pro-Cure's board.

Pro-Cure, a University of York spin-out based at York Science Park, said it has now secured investment worth more than 2m, including 330,000 from YFM Venture Finance.

The company's board, led by chairman Brian Greenwood, said the balance comes from loans converted into equity from the University of York, the White Rose Technology Seedcorn Fund and Yorkshire Cancer Research.

Pro-Cure's expertise is in the culture, isolation, handling and gene profiling of human prostate cancer stem cells. It is working with a number of big pharmaceutical firms in this burgeoning area.

Its management team includes Professor Norman Maitland, director of Yorkshire Cancer Research and professor of molecular biology at the University of York, who is regarded as one of the world leaders in his field.

He told the Yorkshire Post: "We believe that the root of the cancer is the cancerous stem cell."

Prof Maitland said the company has the rights to develop therapies, with four patents and 30 pending.

He said he wanted to "make science count" and added: "I am not medically qualified but I have always believed that science is what will make a difference to cancer."

David Livesley, of YFM, said: "We were attracted by the obvious expertise of the company in an emerging area of science as well as the strength of the management team and their clear focus on value creation."

He said he expects Pro-Cure to make significant steps with its research in the next 12 months.

Brian Greenwood, a former operations director at BT, predicted the company would have developed a therapy with a compound or biological form against a target "within a year".

It would then go into the normal development cycle with a big pharmaceutical company.

He said: "We are extremely pleased to have gained the support of both YFM and Reef Securities and to now have them as shareholders.

"This investment round is an important milestone."

Chris Henshall, pro-vice chancellor for external relations at the University of York, said of the fundraising: "It is a major achievement. We are very proud of Pro-Cure."

Cancer stem cells are believed to be responsible for cancer re-growth and resistance to chemotherapies.

9,000 TOLL

Prostate cancer kills 9,000 men every year in England and Wales. It is the most common form of cancer in men and yet its causes are largely unknown.

Pro-Cure was founded in 2001 as a spin-out to develop the work of Professor Norman Maitland, Dr Anne Collins and their team in the Yorkshire Cancer Research unit. Pro-Cure scientists believe the high rate of recurrence of prostate can-cer suggests the existence of cancer stem cells which are not targeted by current therapies.