" /> Gareth Overton, Author at Edinburgh Innovations
Cancer Research UK partners with Venture Builder Incubator to drive innovation

Cancer Research UK partners with Venture Builder Incubator to drive innovation

Cancer Research UK has partnered with a University of Edinburgh business-support programme to help build startup companies focused on tackling cancer.

The charity will fund up to 10 participants in the second round of the Data-Driven Entrepreneurship (DDE) Venture Builder Incubator, which supports postgraduate students, postdoctoral researchers and academic staff to develop their startup ideas for three months. Cancer-related projects are expected to make up around half the incubator’s second cohort.

Student and staff researchers

Applicants can be PhD students and postdocs at the University of Edinburgh or Heriot-Watt University, or research staff from anywhere in the UK. Researchers do not need to be currently funded by Cancer Research UK to participate.

The DDE Venture Builder Incubator provides each team with £2,000, workshops, networking events, mentoring, one-to-one support and access to the University of Edinburgh’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. For the second round, the Incubator has also formed a partnership with FinTech Scotland to leverage its network to support entrepreneurs.

Edinburgh Innovations will manage the incubator, which will be delivered by the Bayes Centre on behalf of the University’s five Data-Driven Innovation Hubs.

City Region Deal funding

The incubator forms part of the ambitious Data-Driven Entrepreneurship Beacon Programme at the University to support post-Covid recovery. It is funded through the Data Driven Innovation programme of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.

Iain Foulkes, Executive Director of Research and Innovation at Cancer Research UK, said:

“As funders of much of the world-class, cutting-edge cancer research in the UK, we know how important it is that these discoveries make it out of the lab and into the clinic.

 

“Encouraging entrepreneurship in our researchers is key to achieving this, which is why we are excited to be a part of the DDE Venture Builder Incubator.

 

“Through access to bespoke training, 1-2-1 support and new networks to help them navigate the translation process, this incubator will provide a conduit for our most enterprising researchers to accelerate their life-saving discoveries into the hands of patients.”

Nile and edventure support

Applications are open until 1 October for the second cohort of the DDE Venture Builder Incubator, which begins in late November. Businesses will have a chance to win £5,000 at the end-of-programme Demo Day in March, when they will pitch their business plans in front an expert judging panel.

The delivery of the programme is supported by Edinburgh-based strategic design consultancy Nile, and edventure, a pan-European university venture builder and accelerator launched in 2020 by three Edinburgh students.

Record of success

The DDE Venture Builder Incubator’s first cohort saw 27 startups supported between April and July, ranging from apps to save time for teachers and support elderly family members, to robotic systems for sorting waste and monitoring the environment.

During their participation in the incubator, entrepreneurs recruited 23 new team members, formally incorporated four companies, developed seven minimum viable products and raised more than £250,000 in grants, awards and investments.

Dr John Lonsdale, Head of Enterprise Services at Edinburgh Innovations, said:

“The Venture Builder Incubator has proven itself a powerful tool that sets innovators on a firm course to success as entrepreneurs.

 

“To partner with Cancer Research UK to support up to 10 of our teams adds a new dimension to the impact the Incubator will achieve.”

Cancer Research UK’s involvement in the DDE Venture Builder Incubator is part of the charity’s UK-wide programme of support for entrepreneurial activity.

Related links

CRUK Commercial Partnerships

Venture Builder Incubator

 

AI’s future stars join Edinburgh accelerator

AI’s future stars join Edinburgh accelerator

A body-sizing app to improve online shopping, 3D printed tumours to test cancer drugs, and a mental health early warning monitor are among the 12 innovations selected for the next University of Edinburgh AI Accelerator.

Twelve teams of artificial intelligence entrepreneurs will begin the six-month AI Accelerator – part of a wider Data Driven Entrepreneurship programme at the University – on 22 September. Its purpose is to help AI-driven startups with high growth potential to set foundations to become world-leading companies, creating jobs and economic and societal benefit.

International applicants

The Accelerator’s new cohort has been selected from 66 applicants worldwide. It follows previous successful AI Accelerators, the last of which ran from February to July 2021, during which the 15 companies taking part raised an impressive £6.3 million in investment and grants to develop their businesses.

Among the participants, Oxford-based Aistetic has developed a machine learning system that turns a phone camera into a body-sizing scanner to help online retailers sell clothes in the right sizes, reducing returns and improving customer satisfaction.

Edinburgh-based Carcinotech is reinventing cancer research by manufacturing 3D-printed tumours using cancer stem cells, primary cells and established cell lines, providing a new platform for pre-clinical and precision medicine testing.

EMoodie is addressing the mental health epidemic by providing an early warning system to improve outcomes and quality of life for individuals and reduce the burden for health care providers. The Edinburgh-based company is already working with the World Health Organisation and NHS24.

And an Italian company, Indigo.ai, has created an AI platform for companies to easily create bespoke, high quality conversational assistants to improve staff efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Collaborative delivery

The AI Accelerator is delivered by the University’s Bayes Centre and Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service, in partnership with Scale Space, the workspace dedicated to scale-ups, and supported by Edinburgh-based strategic design consultancy Nile.

Charlotte Waugh, Enterprise and Innovation Programme Lead at Edinburgh Innovations, said:

“I am delighted to welcome this new AI Accelerator cohort to the Bayes Centre and Edinburgh.

 

“Given the challenges our society faces in bouncing back from the impact of Covid-19, it has never been more important to support the best innovative companies to scale.

 

“Society needs more solutions based on AI and data-focused technologies and Industry needs to speed up digitisation and decarbonisation. The university’s expertise in data, technology and business development means we are perfectly positioned to help these businesses address key challenges and make an immediate difference.”

Entrepreneur-in-Residence

Mark Sanders, Executive Chairman of Scale Space, will serve as Entrepreneur-in-Residence to help company founders address challenges they encounter in building their businesses, and introduce them to mentors, academics and investors who can help accelerate their companies’ development.

Sanders said:

“Excited to be working with this second cohort of the AI Accelerator programme and the opportunity to help these amazingly talented innovators to further develop their businesses and to refine their propositions so that they can go for growth.

 

“Last time we saw significant progress across the group and this time we’re hoping to have an even bigger impact.”

Scotland’s thriving ecosystem

Nile draws on its experience of working with startups at its own Nile Co-Foundry and its service design and behavioural research expertise to support the Accelerator’s early-stage founders.

Nile Founder Sarah Ronald said:

“Scotland’s size is its strength. We are small enough to create a thriving and connected ecosystem with wide reaching benefits to be gained across academia, entrepreneurship and investment.

 

“Programmes like this are an essential part of the overall ecosystem we build. Nile is here to help ensure each company, and each entrepreneur, has the best possible chance to scale and benefit both the Scottish and wider economies.”

Each participating company will receive a £9,000 stipend from the Scottish Funding Council via the Data-Driven Innovation Programme of the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal.

Photograph: the Bayes Centre

More information

For more information on the AI Accelerator, contact Programme Manager Katy Guthrie.

Related links

AI Accelerator information, cohort and alumni

Data-Driven Entrepreneurship

Scale Space

Nile

 

US drug firm licenses breakthrough Edinburgh cancer discovery

US drug firm licenses breakthrough Edinburgh cancer discovery

The University of Edinburgh and US biopharmaceutical company Nuvectis Pharma, Inc., have signed a multi-million-dollar licensing deal to turn a research breakthrough into new medicines for hard-to-treat cancers.

Nuvectis has licensed exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialise treatments based on a new compound known as NXP900, in a deal facilitated by Edinburgh Innovations.

NXP900, a novel inhibitor of the proteins SRC and YES1, has shown the potential to reduce the growth of many types of cancer driven by SRC such as breast, colon, prostate, pancreatic and ovarian cancer, as well as many driven by YES1 such as tumours affecting the lungs, head and neck and oesophagus.

Decade of research

Its discovery follows 10 years of research led by Professors Neil Carragher and Asier Unciti-Broceta at the Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre within the University of Edinburgh’s Institute of Genetics and Cancer.

NXP900 is a “first-in-class” candidate drug which employs a newly discovered mechanism to safely inhibit the activity of SRC/YES1, a protein family that has been associated with cancer growth for several decades but has resisted previous attempts at attack in solid tumours.

Professor Margaret Frame, Director of the Institute of Genetics and Cancer and world expert on SRC, said:

“Every researcher working in this field hopes their discoveries can reach patients and save lives, and this agreement with Nuvectis promises just that, using a new way to attack cancer that has long evaded science.

 

“This unique drug is the result of combining advanced cell-based screening with innovative medicinal chemistry to select compounds with exciting biological activities, testament to the power of innovating academic cancer drug discovery pioneered in the Institute over many years.

 

“Congratulations to Asier and Neil, the Nuvectis team and Edinburgh Innovations on reaching this agreement.”

$3.5m plus milestone payments

The University of Edinburgh, through Edinburgh Innovations, will receive an upfront payment of $3.5 million (£2.5 million) under the licensing agreement, as well as additional upfront and milestone-dependent payments. In addition, the licence provides for royalties on sales.

Meanwhile, the researchers and the drug development company will continue to conduct research collaboratively.

Dr George Baxter, CEO of Edinburgh Innovations, said:

“As far as turning academic research into impact goes, you don’t get much more rewarding than finding new treatments for cancer. This partnership is very significant, and we’re very proud to have helped it reach this point.”

Nuvectis said NXP900’s unique mechanism and potent effect provide the potential for the treatment of solid tumours “never before achieved with existing SRC inhibitors”.

Ron Bentsur, Co-Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Nuvectis, said:

“We are thrilled to partner with the University of Edinburgh to advance the development of NXP900, which has demonstrated outstanding preclinical activity to date.”

The licensing agreement is based on research findings published in the journal Cancer Research in August (“A novel mode of inhibiting SRC improves drug efficacy and tolerability”, Cancer Research, 2021, 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-21-0613).

Dr Maria Lopalco, Technology Transfer Manager at Edinburgh Innovations, is named as an author of the Cancer Research paper, reflecting the key role she has played in the development of the technology being licensed to Nuvectis.

Related links

Nuvectis

Institute of Genetics and Cancer

EI services for staff

 

 

Edinburgh’s pitch-perfect young entrepreneurs

Edinburgh’s pitch-perfect young entrepreneurs

A robotic waste-sorter, a digital chemistry lab for school children and a mechanised planter to restore seagrass beds on the ocean floor have been named the stand-out business ideas following the University of Edinburgh’s 12-week Startup Summer Accelerator.

Twelve teams of Scotland’s brightest young entrepreneurs pitched their plans to expert judges and an audience of more than 60 at the online Demo Day, hosted by Edinburgh Innovations.

After a three-minute pitch, each team faced a four-minute grilling from the judges, who assessed the businesses against the question “would I invest?”.

The overall winner, receiving £4,000, was announced as Danu Robotics, founded by Xiaoyan Ma, an MSc student in High Performance Computing with Data Science. She and her team are developing a revolutionary robotic system for the waste management industry to significantly increase recycling efficiency.

Danu Robotics’ solution aims to reduce recycling contamination rates from the current 10% to below 1%, while saving on costs significantly.

Xiaoyan said:

“I just cannot believe it! This will help Danu greatly – the funding will help us to develop our prototype and the award will help us attract talent and further support, both financial and non-financial.

 

“The Accelerator has been such a big help in teaching me to become a successful entrepreneur.

 

“I learnt a lot from the rest of the cohort, and as a committed environmentalist, I am extremely happy that there are so many startups that will help us to create a greener and cleaner future.”   

Digital science lab 

The runner-up, receiving £3,000, was Whimsycraft, founded by PhD Physics student Joseph French. Whimsycraft is developing a digital simulation of a chemical laboratory, for teaching science.

Third prize, receiving £2,000, went to Robocean, founded by Mechanical Engineering undergraduates Joseph Ralphs, Niall McGrath and Hiro Onishi. Robocean aims to restore diminishing beds of seagrass on the ocean floor using a low-cost efficient robotic planter. Seagrass has the potential to absorb vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Robocean Co-Founder Niall McGrath said:

“The best part of the Start-up Summer Accelerator has been the freedom it has given my co-founders and me to develop our prototype. We’ve arrived at the end of the programme with a full prototype design and plans to kick off its manufacturing.”  

Career support in Africa

Finally, the judges made a “special mention” award of £1,000 to Sasha Network, a virtual early career accelerator to boost opportunities for young people across Africa, founded by Farai Munjoma, who is studying MSc Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

The Startup Summer Accelerator is run by Edinburgh Innovations for students and recent graduates providing grant funding, workshops and links to industry over three months of the summer.

Lorna Baird, Student Enterprise Manager at Edinburgh Innovations, said:

“Seeing the progress these entrepreneurs have made over the summer is truly inspiring. I’m sure many are destined to lead long-lasting businesses that tackle unmet needs and employ growing numbers of people.

 

“Congratulations to all the Startup Summer Accelerator participants, and of course especially today’s winners.”

Sought-after programme

More than 80 students and recent graduates applied for 12 spaces on the programme, where entrepreneurs learn how to communicate their vision and prepare to meet with investors, partners and other key stakeholders who can help build their future.

They also benefited from insights from guest speakers, including Henry Blanchard, founder of the Uganda Marathon, which has become the biggest international race in East Africa, and the brand strategy and storytelling coach Lesley Stonier.

The Accelerator is sponsored by Santander Universities and the Mastercard Foundation.  The programme offers £3,000 to each company, weekly workshops and weekly peer learning sessions.

Photograph: A winner from last year’s Demo Day, Yaldi Games founder Elena Höge, speaking at Demo Day 2021.

Full list of finalists

Business name

Description

Founders

Whimsycraft

Digital simulation of a chemical laboratory, for  teaching science.

Joseph French, PhD Physics.

Altra

 

Software applications mapped to the national curriculum, to save teachers time and assist in delivering more personalised education.

Jack Walker, PhD Personalising Education

Arthur Iban, BEng Mechanical Engineering

Aryan Shah, BSc Computer Science.

Wildsense

Wildsense uses satellite imagery to monitor and improve forest health.

 

Thibault Sorret,

MSc Biodiversity, Wildlife and

Ecosystem Health.

Empowering Local Energy Group

Three women engineers committed to ensuring that everyone has access to the renewable energy revolution, with no communities left behind.

Katherine Frangos,

MSc Sustainable Energy

Systems.

Ndeye Maty Tall,

MSc Sustainable Energy

Systems.

Michelle Stevens,

MSc Sustainable Energy

Systems.

FastMedCare

Software as a service, to enhance the reliability and efficiency of medical services in Rwanda’s hospitals and healthcare centres.

Pacifique Nsengiyumva,

BEng Electronics and Electrical

Engineering.

Bennu.ai

Developing the world’s smartest bin, which sorts waste automatically.

Jonathan Feldstein,

PhD Informatics.

Alec Diallo,

PhD Informatics.

Clastify

A platform where any student, from any country can easily find resources to support their learning.

Janek Kolaczyk

BSc Computer Science

and Physics.

Danu Robotics

Developing advanced technological solutions in waste recycling, for the benefit of the environment.

Xiaoyan Ma,

MSc High Performance

Computing with Data Science.

Nathan Western (Chief Technology Officer),

PhD Robotics.

Sasha Network

A virtual early career accelerator to bridge the career aspiration gap for young people across Africa.

Farai Munjoma,

MSc Entrepreneurship

and Innovation.

WhiteHaul

Internet for rural areas using TV white space (unused transmission frequencies).

Mohamed Kassem,

PhD Informatics.

Clara Funke,

MSc Environmental

Sustainability.

Robocean

A subsea robotics startup mechanising seagrass restoration.

Joseph Ralphs,

MEng Mechanical Engineering.

Niall McGrath,

MEng Mechanical Engineering

with Renewable Energy.

Hiro Onishi,

MEng Mechanical Engineering.

Smartlab

Automation system to monitor microbial cultures remotely, increasing lab efficiency and capability.

 

Asma Al-Murtadha,

Professro Ahmed Al-Dubai,

Dr Abdelfateh Kerrouche,

Hayder Al Mshelesh,

Ahmed Al-Murtadha.

Related links

Danu Robotics

EI services for students

 

Wobble Genomics launches with £1.2m investment to unlock RNA promise

Wobble Genomics launches with £1.2m investment to unlock RNA promise

A new company spun out from the University of Edinburgh could help boost the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of diseases by unlocking new potential from RNA sequencing.

Wobble Genomics has been launched with Edinburgh Innovations’ support and an investment of £1.2 million, led by St Andrews-based Eos Advisory alongside Old College Capital, the University’s in-house venture investment fund, which is managed by EI.

This investment will form part of a £2.15 million seed round including a deeptech venture capital firm, and a small number of private investors.

Roslin spinout

The company’s founder and CEO, Richard Kuo, a researcher at the University’s Roslin Institute, has developed biochemical and software technologies that greatly increase the efficiency and accuracy of RNA sequencing.

RNA sequencing has emerged in recent years as a key technique for studying gene expression, which can give scientists and clinicians unprecedented insights into disease.

Dr Barbara Blaney, Senior Enterprise Executive at EI, said:

“Wobble Genomics’ disruptive, next-generation platform dramatically reduces the time and cost of performing RNA sequencing, while also improving accuracy.

 

“Ultimately the technology could revolutionise how we understand, research, diagnose, treat and monitor a huge variety of diseases.”

Commercialisation support

Mr Kuo has been a client of EI since 2019. He has received a range of support to commercialise his research, including assistance with successful applications for funding, and support as he incorporated Wobble Genomics.

Wobble received a £100,000 grant from Scottish Enterprise’s High-Growth Spin-Out Programme in 2020, and recently secured a £300,000 grant from Innovate UK.

Mr Kuo said:

“There is a huge global market of scientists and clinicians who would buy our products as part of their sequencing work.

 

“On top of this, we plan to target a higher value market by leveraging our existing technologies with the overall aim of being the first global company to build a picture of disease states that are encoded in RNA.”

Improved clinical outcomes

Wobble is already conducting trials with some of the world’s largest RNA sequencing organisations. The investment is supporting the expansion of the Wobble team, strengthening its intellectual property, and will help to drive sales and demonstrate Wobble’s ability to improve clinical outcomes.

Andrew McNeill, Managing Partner at Eos Advisory, said:

“Richard is already a globally respected researcher in RNA sequencing and now has the ability to build a team to commercialise novel approaches that address the big issues and understanding of this exciting field of life science.

 

“The importance of RNA sequencing and its role in enabling clinicians to understand disease has only just been recognised over the last couple of years.

 

“This investment sits at the heart of what Eos works for – backing the very latest and most promising innovations that have the potential to have a positive impact globally.”

Leadership team

Nicola Broughton, formerly an Investment Director at Mercia Asset Management PLC and a specialist in university spin-outs, was appointed Wobble’s Chair in July.  John Duncan, founding director of Alba Equity, took up the role of Finance Director in April.

The name Wobble Genomics relates to a characteristic of how RNA is translated into proteins. The company is based at the Roslin Innovation Centre at the University’s Easter Bush Campus.

Photograph: from left, Andrew McNeill, Managing Partner at Eos Advisory; Nicola Broughton, Chair of Wobble Genomics; Richard Kuo, Founder and CEO of Wobble Genomics; and John Duncan, Finance Director at Wobble Genomics. Photograph by Stewart Attwood.

Related links

Wobble Genomics

Old College Capital

Eos Advisory

EI services for staff