A Brighton man who lost his mother to cancer has pioneered a breakthrough treatment and raised the money to make it widely available.
Alex Blyth, 40, turned to Brighton crowdfunding platform Shadow Foundr to raise more than £250,000.
The money will fund the world’s first “cell bank” of a type of cancer-killing white blood cells known as neutrophils – and they can be made in a lab, removing the need to match donors.
Mr Blyth was spurred to seek a cure for cancer when his mother had pancreatic cancer diagnosed five years ago.
He came across the work of tumour expert Zheng Cui in America which relied on matching cells from people who seemed to have an innate immunity to cancer with patients needing treatment.
Mr Blyth, a healthcare businessman, looked for a way to translate the small-scale results from the lab into a new treatment that would offer hope to thousands of cancer patients.
He said: “My mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2013 and I knew that there was very little hope.
“I was then looking for a potential therapy that hadn’t been tried before and I came across work that Professor Cui had done.
“It was real breakthrough work on solid tumours that had never been seen before but was still a long way from the clinic.
“Sadly, my mother passed away and I then set up the company LIfT BioSciences to find a curative therapy for pancreatic cancer – and other cancers which are currently considered untreatable.
“I left my job and used my savings for what normal people might use, to buy a house, on doing this.”
The first part of the LIfT BioSciences name derives from the description of the treatment – Leukocyte Infusion Therapy (LIfT).
Mr Blyth said: “We have all started to think of cancer as being incurable and yet every day most of us are successfully killing mutating cells in our body that could otherwise develop into cancers.
“LIfT is about taking the high innate immunity one person has and giving that to a patient. We are doing things differently.
“LIfT in its original form – devised by Dr Cui who, for me, is like the Alexander Fleming of cancer who accidentally discovered a cancer resistant ‘super mouse’ – was simply taking white blood cells from people who had high innate cancer-killing cells and putting them into patients who didn’t.
“While brilliant in its simplicity, it wasn’t very scalable and required too many rare donors which created a logistical issue and commercial challenge.
“I did originally take this to the NHS and Cancer Research UK but they felt it was too early stage and did not want to get involved in a medical procedure based therapy.
“Everyone wants a tried and tested product that is patented. So that is what we are doing.
“We have taken what was essentially a medical procedure and turned it into a scalable patented product that continues to now gain the backing it needs to work towards getting this very promising therapy to patients in the next few years.
“One of our recent breakthroughs that links to one of our pending patents was developing a way to produce these cancer-killing neutrophils in volume in a lab environment, outside the body, so that we didn’t need to have lots of rare donors on call.
“I’m pleased to say that we’ve now successfully demonstrated that this approach works, so we have produced the first neutrophils outside of the body that kill cancer cells.
“The breakthrough gives us the basic building blocks for a whole new type of innate cell therapy for solid tumours.”
LIfT BioSciences surpassed its £250,000 fundraising target with Shadow Foundr, attracting over a hundred investors within just days of going public with the breakthrough development.
Mr Blyth said: “We will use this money to iron out some research challenges and start building the world’s first cell bank of cancer-killing neutrophils for potentially curing a range of cancers.
“Sadly, we are not yet ready for treating patients but we will put out a public announcement when we are.
“People are welcome to subscribe to our newsletter on www.LIfTBioSciences.com to stay informed.”
Shadow Foundr’s chief operating officer, Jason Kluver, said he was delighted that two Brighton-based companies had combined to assist with what potentially could be a life-saving world-first.
“Alex’s story would resonate with most people and when we first met, we were particularly impressed with his commitment to this cause.
“Aside from that, his company has the potential to be highly scalable and disruptive, which is what we look for in any business we raise funds for.
“The value of the markets that LIfT is hoping to be active in, ranges from hundreds of millions to billions of pounds.
“Hopefully the funds raised through our platform will help him to kick on and make a real difference to many people in future, and if that happens, our investors will also be happy.
“It’s great to see the power of crowdfunding at work for worthwhile enterprises and causes.”
For more information about Shadow Foundr or to view other campaigns looking for investment, go to www.shadowfoundr.com.