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4BIO Capital Participates in $130M Funding of New Gene and Cell Manufacturing Specialist Ascend

Expert transatlantic teams merge to establish Ascend as new facilitator for gene and cell therapy companies to translate product ideas into viable clinical programs

London, UK, 9 May 2023 – 4BIO Capital (“4BIO” or “the Group”), an international venture capital firm unlocking the treatments of the future by investing in advanced therapies and other emerging technologies, today announces that it has participated in the $132.5M Series A fundraise and launch of Ascend Gene & Cell Therapies (Ascend). Ascend is a specialist company innovating manufacturing processes to improve quality, potency, safety and cost enabling better reach for gene therapy technologies. Andrew Kozlov, Managing Partner of 4BIO Capital will join Ascend’s Board of Directors.

Ascend offers process development, clinical manufacturing, and analytical and regulatory support for biotech companies working in advanced modalities requiring flexible CMC services.

Originally founded by Monograph Capital, the Series A fundraise was led by Abingworth and Petrichor, supported by DCVC Bio, 4BIO Capital, Cathay Health, Deerfield Management, Digitalis Ventures and Ajinomoto Co., Inc.

This fundraising has enabled the acquisition of CMC capabilities and technologies from Freeline Therapeutics and provides operational runway to build the business.

Initially focused on high-quality Adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors, Ascend brings together a team of approximately 120 cross-functional experts who have already developed processes for a number of AAV products currently under clinical development.

Operating from an evolving technology base which uses a split two-plasmid transfection system for AAV manufacture and broad suite of assays, Ascend has an established global footprint created by acquiring and merging experienced teams across three countries and two continents.

Ascend’s operations are headquartered in the UK with GMP production in Potters Bar, North London, platform technology research in the San Francisco Bay Area, USA, and a specialist process development and analytics team in Munich, Germany.

Andrew Kozlov, Managing Partner of 4BIO Capital, commented, “The gene and cell therapy space is still in desperate need of highly sophisticated manufacturing companies that can be true partners in supporting these advanced therapies get to patients. Ascend answers this need and we are proud to support them achieve this vision and look forward to working with the management team as they continue to scale the business.”

The company is led by an experienced leadership team, headed by former Chief Operating Officer at Cognate Bioservices (now part of Charles River), Chief Executive Officer Mike Stella who brings 30 years of manufacturing expertise. Ascend’s team also includes Chief Financial Officer Wes McConnell who joined from Bavarian Nordic with 20 years in the life science and viral vector-based manufacturing field, Chief Scientific Officer Markus Hörer who began his career in AAV over 30 years ago and brings significant expertise in developing AAV products as well as other viral vector-based therapeutics, and Chief Operating Officer Arjan Roozen who has built and operated a number of ATMP facilities across multiple geographies.

Mike Stella, Chief Executive Officer of Ascend, said: “Ascend is a service provider for biotechnology companies, created by bringing together expert teams with regulatory sophistication who have ‘been-there-done-that’ and who understand that the quality and potency of product is just as important as yield. We believe that creating a therapy that changes lives means improving on what’s come before. We are excited to bring a new approach to the space and thank all our investors for their support. We will continue to refine and flex our model, staying adaptable to meet the needs of the market.”

Ascend will be attending The American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ASGCT) 26th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, CA, USA, May 16-20, 2023, presenting nine posters exemplifying its capabilities from AAV vector design to manufacturing platform process and integrated analytics platform.

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