Press Releases

Imperial spinout NK:IO awarded £1.6m Innovate UK New Cancer Therapeutics grant for development of pioneering NK cell therapy

  • • Grant award of £1.6m supports programme of development work with Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult
  • • NK:IO’s platform, based on pioneering discoveries in NK cell biology, yields industry-leading tumour killing and cell production

11 July 2023 -- London, UK -- NK:IO, a leader in NK cell biology applied to the development of exceptionally potent, off-the-shelf cell therapies targeting solid tumours, today announced it has been awarded £1.6m in grant funding from Innovate UK’s New Cancer Therapeutics programme. The funding will support preclinical development, including development of a manufacturing process in collaboration with the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, whose mission is to support the UK’s cell and gene therapy industry.

NK:IO is based on pioneering discoveries in NK cell biology from Hugh J M Brady, professor of Immunology, and Matt Fuchter, professor of Chemistry, at Imperial College. NK:IO is exploiting these discoveries in its unique platform which activates blood stem cell progenitors to yield industry-leading NK cell tumour-killing potency and very high yield cell production, which it believes will be transformative in cancer cell therapy. In addition, this platform enables efficient engineering of progenitor cells to produce next-generation NK cells for further increases in potency or tumour targeting, which NK:IO is progressing for certain hard-to-treat tumour subtypes.

The company was founded in December 2020 by Hugh J M Brady, Matt Fuchter and Mike Romanos, an experienced industry executive and entrepreneur. The Board is chaired by Keith Thompson CBE, former CEO of the UK’s Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult. The company’s first indication targeted will be ovarian cancer, in collaboration with Prof Iain McNeish, professor of Oncology at Imperial College, director of the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre and a leading expert in the field.

Mike Romanos, co-founder and interim CEO at NK:IO, said: “We are very excited by the potential of NK:IO’s platform to address unmet needs in cancer therapy and delighted to receive grant funding from this highly competitive new Innovate UK programme. The funding will directly support our collaboration with the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult in a program of development work to scale our products and make them clinic-ready for our first clinical application in ovarian cancer.”

About NK:IO 
The company is developing ground-breaking NK cell therapies based on its platform built on pioneering research from professors Hugh Brady and Matthew Fuchter at Imperial College. This yields industry-leading NK cell tumour-killing potency and cell production, overcoming the fundamental barriers to therapeutic application of NK cell therapy and allowing the targeting of solid tumours. NK:IO is progressing its pipeline, initially in ovarian cancer, but is also open to collaboration in certain areas. The company was co-founded by Hugh JM Brady, Matthew Fuchter and Mike Romanos and its Board is chaired by Keith Thompson CBE, former CEO of the Cell & Gene Therapy Catapult. NK:IO’s seed investors include Imperial College Innovations, Start Codon, UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund and Meltwind. For further information about NK:IO, please visit:

About Innovate UK 
Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas, including those from the UK’s world-class research base. They connect businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn these ideas into commercially successful products and services, and business growth. For further information about Innovate UK please visit:

About the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult
The Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult is an independent innovation and technology organisation committed to the advancement of cell and gene therapies with a vision of a thriving industry delivering life changing advanced therapies to the world. Its aim is to create powerful collaborations which overcome challenges to the advancement of the sector. With over 400 experts covering all aspects of advanced therapies, it applies its unique capabilities and assets, collaborates with academia, industry and healthcare providers to develop new technology and innovation. The Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult works with Innovate UK. For further information about the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult please visit: