A BIOTECH company has been launched to research and develop new gene therapies to target various forms of cancer.

Cellinta LTD – which was formed through an investment by SV Health Investors and Cancer Research UK – will be used to build a pipeline of highly selective gene therapies targeting cancer stem cells in various types of solid tumours.

The company draws on research conducted at the University of Edinburgh led by professor Steven Pollard across stem cell biology, synthetic biology and cancer genomics.

READ MORE: Boeing partners with Scots group for massive research project

Pollard is professor of stem cell and cancer biology at the university’s Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Edinburgh Cancer Research UK Centre and is the scientific founder and senior adviser to the new company.

He said: “It’s an extremely exciting time in the gene therapy field. With Cellinta, we can ensure that our discoveries and technologies can now be rapidly developed into new therapeutics that can be used to treat aggressive cancers with high unmet need.”

Cellinta LTD will be led by CEO Dr Soraya Bekkali, who has more than 20 years experience in drug development and business strategy, with a focus on gene therapy.

“I am delighted to be leading such an exciting company,” said Bekkali. “Cellinta’s approach offers the opportunity to deliver combinations of therapies selectively to cancer stem cells, bypassing the limitations of traditional treatments which often target single genes or redundant signalling pathways.”

READ MORE: Wait for licensing system for Airbnb-style lets in Scotland

Bekkali said gene therapy can potentially overcome some of the drug delivery challenges encountered by past drug candidates.

The company has entered a collaborative research agreement with the university and has an option to license intellectual property developed at the university.

Mike Ross, managing partner at SV Health Investors, has been appointed chairman of Cellinta.

He said: “Cellinta represents a unique opportunity to build a leading company based on exciting and innovative science, with the potential to develop first-in-class therapies.

“We are delighted with the progress the company has made and extremely pleased to appoint Soraya, who has deep experience in gene therapy across various therapeutic areas, as CEO.”