"SETsquared's support and investor readiness programme had a tremendous impact on our ability to raise our investment in 2008. If we hadn't raised that money, the company would have disappeared."
Simon Kerry, CEO, Karus Therapeutics

Fast facts

  • Start date: 2005
  • Website: www.karustherapeutics.com
  • Market sector: pharmaceuticals
  • Location: Southampton
  • Investment raised: £9.6m
  • Number of employees: 15

SETsquared support

  • investor readiness
  • premises
  • Investment Showcase
  • Mentoring
  • US-UK programme

Company overview

Developer of new medicines that have breakthrough potential in treating inflammatory disease and cancer.

What was the vision for the company and what problem were you aiming to solve?

"A joint project at the University of Southampton between the Schools of Chemistry and Medicine resulted in the discovery of a potentially new class of drug called an HDAC inhibitor, which could lead to a new class of cancer treatment. This drug class, and the high-quality team of people, led to an investment of £750,000 in the company in 2005."

Company successes

  • Seed: £0.75m (June 2005).
  • First round post-seed: £0.85m (June 2007).
  • Second round post-seed: £1.08mm (Dec 2008).
  • Series of smaller rounds: £2.08m (April 2010 - October 2012).
  • Series B investment: First Tranche £4.85m (June 2012) – full amount not disclosed.
  • Total raised so far: £9.6m plus undisclosed tranches of the Series B.

SETsquared support

"We were based at SETsquared for several years. It was an excellent environment to develop the company, because it gave us access to a wide range of facilities, including having someone on reception, and meeting rooms. It was also very cost-effective – when you start a company you don't have much spare money."
"We took part in the SETsquared investor readiness programme, which involved a series of three one-day seminars on how to prepare ourselves as a company and how to pitch, principally to angel investors."
"It was primarily about how you can take a technology company and make yourself ready - in terms of how to approach investors, and how to manage those relationships to make sure you secure an investment. Bringing all these points together into a series of seminars was very helpful for us at the time."
"We raised two tranches of funding in 2007 and 2008, of £850,000 and £1.1 million respectively. A large part of being able to secure those investments was due to the investor readiness programme, and the way it prepared us to speak to investors. It also put us directly in contact with a number of angel investment groups."
"Through SETsquared, we took part in the Connect programme with University of California, San Diego. We presented there twice, and made good contacts with potential partner companies and service providers. SETsquared provided a mentor to help us prepare for those meetings, and to manage the relationships that we built with people in San Diego."
"SETsquared is a good sounding board, and being co-located with people who we could talk things through with has been helpful. If you compare it to setting up in a conventional office, having people around from SETsquared was a definite help."
"We also participated in the SETsquared Investment Showcase. This had value by bringing us into contact with potential investors, and helping us to understand what they are looking for. Even though we didn't directly get funding, just the process of preparing our message and talking to investors helped."
"All these things add up, and when we got our large Series B investment that wasn't out of the blue: building blocks had been created over many years, and a number of those blocks were due to the help of SETsquared."
"Starting a company from scratch is an intimidating prospect and a massive learning curve. Having people around from SETsquared to call on for advice and assistance was terrifically helpful, and was an important part of the early days of Karus."

Future plans

"For us, our focus is entirely on getting two programs into clinical development. We anticipate that, by the end of 2014, at least one of our programs will have started human testing."