A Newcastle-based life sciences company has raised £1.5m worth of investment to help develop a ground-breaking treatment that could provide a treatment for patients suffering from early stage oral cancer.

LightOx has raised money to develop its lead candidate LXD191, an oral gel that is activated by a light device that targets a serious pre-cancerous condition called oral epithelial dysplasia (OED).

LightOx was founded by Carrie Ambler (CSO) and professor of Biosciences at Durham University and Dr Sam Whitehouse (CEO), with the aim of developing a treatment that will replace painful and highly invasive surgery or radiotherapy, which are commonly used on patients.

The round was led by the GMC Life Sciences Fund by Praetura – a collaborative fund managed by Praetura Ventures and made up of Bruntwood SciTech, Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership and Greater Manchester Combined Authority – with LightOx’s existing investors also contributing, including Newcastle’s Northstar Ventures.

According to LightOx, current treatments for OED include cutting tissue from the mouth, which can leave 95% of patients with life altering consequences, with 50% of patients never returning to work.

Commenting on this latest round of investment, Professor Carrie Ambler, Chief Scientific Officer at LightOx, said: “The new investment from the GMC Life Sciences Fund managed by Praetura and Northstar Ventures will enable us to finalise the pre-clinical data package over the next 12 months needed for us to advance our lead drug into clinical trials. We are thrilled to have new investment partners to support LightOx during this exciting phase of our drug programme.”

Sim Singh-Landa, Investment Director at Praetura Ventures and Head of the GMC Life Sciences by Praetura, said: “The research and clinical tests the LightOx team are doing now could save and improve countless lives in the future as well as alleviate pressure on the NHS by treating OED at a much earlier stage. The Praetura team are looking forward to supporting LightOx as it enters this next phase of growth and clinical testing. Likewise, we are delighted that the business will be increasing its presence in Manchester and the North West, where there is a wealth of life sciences expertise.”

Alex Buchan, Investment Director at Northstar Ventures, added: “With oral cancer currently being ranked as the sixth most common, we see this as a really exciting new therapeutic. Northstar are very pleased to support LightOx in the vital work they are doing.”

LightOx is committed to exploring other uses within healthcare, including bacterial infections and wound care. The business is also preparing to expand beyond its current headquarters in Newcastle with a new Manchester base and plans to launch the next phase of its clinical trials in the North West region.