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May 2021

Scientists based in Bristol working on leading edge medical treatments have secured new funding of over £1.4 million from a number of sources.

Argonaute RNA is working on creating medicines that harness the body’s natural cell mechanisms to silence specific genes and combat illness.

Lead investor in the round is The Fink Family Office, a prominent investor in exciting UK tech businesses.  It is led by Lord Stanley Fink, ex Conservative party treasurer and ex CEO of Man Group, who said: “Gene silencing can be a paradigm shift in healthcare.  It offers hope to millions suffering from diseases of genetic origin.  The UK needs to compete in the vanguard of this new field, which is why the government recently set up the Nucleic Acid Therapy Accelerator to assist in addressing technological challenges and speeding up clinical developments.  Argonaute RNA is exactly the sort of venture we need to see academic research turned into life-saving drugs.  We are excited to be involved.”

Further backing comes from the Bristol Private Equity Club, a network of Bristol-based entrepreneurs, and Cardiff-based CatSci Ltd, which specialises in leveraging its skills and knowledge of process research & development to make highly targeted investments in pharmaceutical innovation.

Jerry Barnes, founder of Bristol Private Equity Club, said: “The importance of developing new medical treatments has been brought home to all with the fast tracking of the Covid-19 vaccine.

“Often the only barrier slowing development of medicines is funding, so we are delighted to be supporting this Bristol-based science-led project.”

Anthony Parker, Executive Chairman of Argonaute RNA, said: “RNA interference is an entirely new class of medicines.  It has taken twenty years to get from test tube to pharmacy, but 2021 is the breakthrough year.  Our unique patented platform in this field has been built over the past five years but our team in aggregate has decades of RNAi drug development experience in industry.  We will be using these funds to demonstrate to potential partners in the pharmaceutical sector how we can solve some of the key challenges for RNAi drug development.  We are fortunate to benefit from the emergence of Bristol as a biotech hub and to have access to such a high quality talent pool and support of knowledgeable investors.  The next twelve months promise to be tremendously exciting.”

This funding round was led by Dr Johnathan Matlock, Non-Executive Director of Argonaute RNA, who said: “Funding for early-stage Biotech companies can be challenging, so I’m delighted to have brought together an exceptional group of investors who saw the potential for this technology. This funding will allow Argonaute RNA to advance our therapies towards the clinic and one step closer to patients.”

New digital employment training service for vulnerable people coming to Bristol
May 2021

In a bid to help vulnerable people participate in a post-COVID economic recovery, Bristol-based educational technology developer AutonoMe is rolling out new employability services, helping ensure that vulnerable people can learn the vital skills needed to secure and maintain employment and live more independently. Local investors City Funds and Bristol Private Equity Club contributed £150,000 of a total £406,000 raised to fund the expansion.  

AutonoMe combines technology with one-to-one support to improve outcomes for vulnerable people in Education and Social Care. The AutonoMe app gives vulnerable people access to personalised, instructional video programmes to develop and maintain their independence and prepare for employment while presenting Social Care and Education providers with real-time data to evaluate impact and progress towards independence.  

This challenge needs to be faced; in 2020 Public Health England reported just 6% of working age adults with Learning Disabilities in England were in paid or self-employment. [SOURCE] By applying its innovative instructional platform to employment training, AutonoMe hopes to support thousands of vulnerable people into employment over the next 3 years. The platform is hoping to be able to maximise its impact to support vulnerable people develop and maintain the skills needed to be included as part of the coming economic recovery.  

William Britton, Founder and CEO of AutonoMe, said: “As a company founded and based in Bristol, the importance of having investors from our community who understand what we want to achieve and are behind our mission to help vulnerable people is incredibly encouraging. We want to thank City Funds and all our investors for their support to help vulnerable people to live more freely, gain employment and develop and grow as people.”  

Working with City of Bristol College as a local partner, the platform is also being used by organisations across the UK including London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, Devon Council, Telford & Wrekin Council, Shropshire Council, Weston College and many more.   

The investment, which has been made by City Funds, South East Angels, Bristol Private Equity Club and current shareholders, will also help AutonoMe to expand its support for children and young people by providing further access to its services in schools and colleges, aiding their journey towards more independent living. Finding investors that understood both AutonoMe’s financial and impact goals was key to ensuring the long-term viability of their mission. 

Jari Moate, Investment Manager of City Funds at Bristol & Bath Regional Capital saidWhat’s impressive about AutonoMe is their commitment to use technology to increase independent living, rather than build a reliance on the tool itself. This ongoing effect is many times more impactful than a one-time intervention, and will positively change Bristol far beyond the lifetime of our investment—exactly the type of thing our impact fund seeks to support.”  

Kristina Pereckaite, MD at South East Angels, said: “The social care sector is ripe for innovation, and we were really impressed with the simple yet highly effective solution that AutonoMe provides. We believe AutonoMe will execute and move quickly and are thrilled to be supporting William on his mission to improve the lives of vulnerable people.” 

Jerry Barnes, founder of Bristol Private Equity Club said: “Our members first saw the potential of AutonoMe in 2018 when we invested in the company to support bringing in skilled staff and improving the technology. Our belief and commitment in the work of Will Britton and his team has grown further since then and we are delighted to be part of this funding round and join with others to further support this technology.” 

This is AutonoMe’s third funding round and the largest investment the company has received to date.   

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