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A dotted line connects Seoul, South Korea and Oxford, United Kingdom on a world map.

How has a company that was formed in Seoul in 2017, after gestation within contract manufacturer Samsung Biologics, come to be located in Oxford’s BioEscalator incubator? One of the drivers is the connectivity between University of Oxford post-doctoral researchers.

A catch-up with an ex-colleague

Chris was working at University of Oxford spin-out (and former BioEscalator tenant) Macrophox when he caught up with fellow Oxford alumnus Yuhoi Kang, Founder and Co-CEO of MediMabBio. Discussing the high level of immunology expertise associated with the University, they quickly realised that the BioEscalator was the perfect place for MediMabBio’s European subsidiary. In 2020 Chris became the company’s second European employee, after the UK CEO Dr Ji Eun Lee, starting with one year in the BioEscalator’s shared Innovation Lab, whose tissue culture resources were ‘essential’ until it moved into its own space in the facility.


With 10 scientists (six of whom are in Oxford) active across the company’s two sites, MediMabBio is focused on T cell modulation via protein therapeutics, for the treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases. The Seoul team focuses on protein engineering working with local experts, with the Oxford side providing immunology expertise and increasingly moving into target discovery.


An irreplaceable community

Chris believes that being located in the BioEscalator has been key to MediMabBio Oxford’s progress from the early days of just him and a FACS machine. He has been able to retain close links with the Paul Klenerman laboratory at the Nuffield Department of Medicine where he did his doctorate, and values the opportunity to discuss and exchange ideas with the people he ‘bumps into’ on the Old Road Campus. Access to the University’s research infrastructure with highly skilled and experienced technicians is a great bonus too.


Thinking about MediMabBio’s impending expansion and departure from the BioEscalator, Chris recognises the ‘irreplaceable’ community of companies and advisers that the incubator has created. ‘The people are the biggest thing’, he says. The location has enabled the company to work in a way that is quick, nimble and professional as it develops its pipeline of products.


In the future – licensing deals and fundraising

What are MediMabBio’s plans for the future, in addition to its UK expansion? Both business sites are doing well, with the Korean operations recently chosen as one of four biotech startups for Korean biopharmaceutical company Celltrion’s Open Innovation Program. This initiative, in partnership with Seoul Biohub, is part of Celltrion’s strategy to drive innovation.


There is the potential for outlicensing deals with plenty of interest being shown in the company’s pipelines – its lead product, an immune checkpoint inhibitor anti-TIGIT monoclonal antibody, is in IND-enabling studies. Backed so far by the South Korean Government and investors, including the founder of Smilegate, one of the country’s biggest video games companies, a Series B fundraising round is also a possibility.


This small but focused biotech company is making the most of its Oxford-Seoul identity to develop innovative new drugs for cancer and autoimmune diseases. The BioEscalator is delighted to be providing an environment to help make it happen.