Biotech company co-founded by Edinburgh scientists raises $42m

Biotech company co-founded by Edinburgh scientists raises $42m

Two Edinburgh researchers are co-founders of a new medical therapeutics company developing treatments for a common cause of blindness.

Biochemists Paul Barlow and Andy Herbert of the University of Edinburgh have joined forces with biotechnology entrepreneur James McLaughlin to launch Gemini Therapeutics, which has announced $42.5 million of venture capital investment.

The investment will be used to develop drugs to treat dry age-related macular degeneration, or dry AMD, which is currently incurable. AMD is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in old age across Europe and the US.

Scientific findings

Gemini Therapeutics builds on insights and technology related to the role of the body’s immune system in dry AMD.

Many sufferers of dry AMD have inherited a minor defect in immune regulation. This allows, over time, the immune system to damage cells in the eye, leading eventually to sight loss.

By developing drugs that restore the balance of immune regulation, Gemini Therapeutics aims to prevent sight loss caused by dry AMD.

Team effort

Paul Barlow, a professor in the University’s School of Chemistry, also heads a research institute in the neighbouring School of Biological Sciences. Dr Andy Herbert is the director of a Scottish Enterprise-funded High-Growth Spinout Programme within the School of Chemistry.

The pair worked closely with Dr Keith Finlayson and colleagues at Edinburgh Innovations during the commercialisation process and throughout the ongoing collaboration with Gemini Therapeutics that began in late 2015.

Race against time

Professor Barlow said: “By 2020 there will be 200 million people worldwide with AMD so this is a race against time.”

He emphasised the critical role played by previous funding received from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and biomedical research charity Wellcome.

Dr Herbert said: “I’m delighted that, based on a decade of our fundamental research, we are developing therapeutics that could help these patients. This new company is a brilliant example of the global reach of Scottish science.”

James McLaughlin, CEO of Gemini Therapeutics, said: “It has been great working with Andy and Paul over the last 20 months. Their advice, help and scientific problem-solving has been critical to the growth of Gemini, as has their work generating pilot data. There are exciting times ahead.”


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Novel fluorescent dyes licensed to Cambridge Research Biochemicals

Novel fluorescent dyes licensed to Cambridge Research Biochemicals

Edinburgh Innovations has signed a licence agreement with Cambridge Research Biochemicals (CRB).

CRB has more than 37 years of expertise in the custom supply of research reagents, namely peptides and antibodies for life science research and development.

Under the agreement, CRB will be permitted to label both custom made and catalogue peptides with novel dyes developed by a research team from Edinburgh Medical School, led by Principal Investigator Dr Marc Vendrell. Dr Vendrell worked in collaboration with academic partners at the University of Barcelona and IRB Barcelona, led by Professor Rodolfo Lavilla, and Professor Nick Read at the University of Manchester to co-invent the technology.

Synthesis and science benefits

These dynamic activatable fluorophores have been developed to enable fluorogenic labelling of peptides for enhanced live-cell imaging. They offer numerous advantages from both a synthesis perspective and for the end-user scientist.

The dye is pre-conjugated to an amino acid, tryptophan, facilitating direct inclusion into the peptide sequence rather than post purification labelling, minimising the number of reaction steps and therefore the time taken to prepare the labelled product. The technique also benefits from high signal-to-noise ratios with increased sensitivity, which enables use of the material in small concentrations, reducing potential adverse effects and facilitating clinical translation.

Strengthening relationship

This agreement is significant to CRB, a supplier to the University of Edinburgh for many years as a specialist CRO now aligned for a more collaborative approach. The agreement will enable CRB to expand its current dye portfolio, offering a greater selection of products and increased flexibility on the labelling strategy to its customers. It will also permit expansion of the DISCOVERY Peptides catalogue, launched this year, with the inclusion of a new range of pre-labelled antimicrobial peptides.

CRB’s Commercial Director, Emily Humphrys, said: “This is an important agreement for CRB, as it enables us to expand our product offering both for the custom side of our business and also for the new DISCOVERY Peptides catalogue. Our customers really value our technical expertise and also our flexibility and inclination to explore the chemistry methodologies available in order to fulfil their requirements, and this new labelling strategy offers substantial scope to our dye and labelling portfolio.”

Dr Angus Stewart-Liddon, EI’s Licensing Manager, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with Cambridge Research Biochemicals on the commercialisation of this fluorescent probe technology. The significant experience CRB brings to the table in terms of peptide synthesis and supplying the research market, in particular with labelling technologies, ideally complements the highly innovative science being undertaken by the Vendrell Group.”

Inspire Launch Grow Awards Winners Announced

Inspire Launch Grow Awards Winners Announced

The Inspire Launch Grow event showcases the exceptional entrepreneurial talent from students and academic staff at the University of Edinburgh.

This prestigious event took place on Monday 5th June in the Informatics Forum at The University of Edinburgh and marked an important milestone at the University and a special thank you presentation was given to the Principal, Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea, who is due to step down from his role as Principal of the University, and who has been a great supporter of enterprise during his 15-year tenure. To reflect his interest in robotics and as a thank you for his support the Principal was presented with his very own Marty the Robot from Robotical a previous ILG Innovation Cup winner.

In honour of the Principal’s support of enterprise a ‘Through the Years’ exhibition was held to throw the spotlight on 15 of the University’s most interesting spin outs and start-ups from the last 15 years. Those participating in the event included: Fanduel, an Edinburgh unicorn; Pufferfish a unique technology company with customers such as Coldplay; pureLiFi which is seeking to replace the current Wi-Fi system and Krotos an innovative audio tool which has been featured in the live-action remake of the Jungle Book and the Avengers: Age of Ulton.

Grant Wheeler, Head of Enterprise Development at ERI commented on the success of the night ‘The entrepreneurial talent here at The University of Edinburgh is amongst the best in the UK and this is reflected in the quality of this year’s entries to the ILG awards. The presence of so many successful companies that started here at the University, during the Principals term of office, highlights the first class support that we provide to the student and staff network.

This year, £20,000 worth of prize money has been made available across four key categories – The Innovation Cup, Emerging Innovation Award, the Social and Environment Award and The Enterprise Award. In addition to the main prizes, all finalists will receive a set of professional photos, a pop-up banner and a professional video.

Congratulations to this year’s 2017 winners!

Emerging Innovation Award

The Emerging Innovation Award is for research or technology based business ideas with future potential. The 2017 winner was Lissa Herron with Eggcellent Proteins who will receive £1,500. An innovative cost effective method of expressing recombinant proteins using transgenic chickens. The valuable proteins have both research and therapeutic use, with applications in cancer, chronic disease, and cell therapy.

The runner-up was Murray Collins with Sigma Tree who will receive £500. Sigma Tree is an automated mapping of deforestation for companies in the forestry sector.

Innovation Cup

One of the biggest awards of ILG is the Innovation Cup. An annual business competition for all academic staff, students and alumni of The University of Edinburgh, with research or technology-based business ideas that are particularly innovative. The winner receives £5000 cash towards their business and the runner up will receive £1000 towards developing their business.

This year’s winners with Invisius are Dr Andy Herbert, Richard Boyd, Dr Sunay Chankeshwara and Dr Elisavet Makou. Invisius is a next generation of coating with the potential to protect invasive medical devices, or organs for transplantation from damage by the immune system. Using Invisius on invasive medical devices will improve device performance and reduce additional healthcare costs.

The runner-up was Douglas Martin with MiAlgae. A new age microalgal production company that aims to revolutionize the £340 billion global livestock industry by producing products as supplements for fishmeal.

Enterprise Award

The Enterprise Award is a business competition for all academic staff, students and alumni (up to two years after graduation) of The University of Edinburgh, who have ideas or ventures with outstanding commercial potential. The winner will receive a £5000 prize and the runner-up will receive £1000.

This year the judges could not decide between two finalists and have announced a joint first place! Each will receive £3000.

Joint first place winners Sam Howarth and Jack Ryder with their innovative business – Bump. An eBay in reverse for sneakerheads and streetwear enthusiasts. List what you want to buy. Sellers can browse, find a buyer and quickly make a sale with zero fees.

Sharing the Joint first place is Cavid Nadirov with GetGuided. An online platform connecting travellers and travel businesses providing unique off-beat experiences by local guides.

Social and Environment Award

A new category was created for 2017 after a record-breaking number of social enterprises entered this year’s Inspire Launch Grow. This category recognises those who have potential to impact and benefit local communities, environment, specific groups or society. The winner will receive £5,000 and the runner-up will receive £1,000.

This year’s winner is James Turing of The Turing Trust with SolarBerry. The SolarBerry is a self-financing, community-owned offline and off-grid computer lab powered by solar energy with energy-efficient Rapsberry Pi computers. Their mission is to improve access to educational resources in off-grid Malawian communities like those found around Mzuzu, Northern Malawi.

This year’s runner-up is Alexandros Angelopoulos and Samuel Kellerhals with Elpis. A solar-powered charging station capable of powering 3,600 phones per month, while also enabling end-users to access educational digital services for free without a connection to the internet required. Already installed across eight refugee camps in Greece.

Finalist Photo ©Maverick Photos Agency Ltd

Industry meets academia to explore innovative technology in Energy

Industry meets academia to explore innovative technology in Energy

AIMday® Energy designed to bring organisations, who have a challenge relating to the energy theme, together with multi-disciplinary researchers in order to find possible solutions.

The University of Edinburgh is an important partner in innovation, supporting growth and competitiveness for industry around the world. Edinburgh Research and Innovation (ERI), the gateway to engaging with the University of Edinburgh’s world class research and expertise, has announced a new AIMday® (Academic Industry Meeting day). AIMday Energy at the University of Edinburgh is a one-day event designed to bring organisations, who have a challenge relating to the energy theme, together with multi-disciplinary researchers in order to find pathways to possible solutions.

The energy sector is undergoing a process of change driven by the acceleration of new technology and as it continues to reinvent itself, the need for innovative and disruptive technology continues to rise. The opportunities are infinite and at AIMday Energy researchers will tackle individual questions and challenges posed by companies looking to harness the latest research outputs and expertise.

This latest AIMday will allow companies to submit a question or commercial challenge around any aspect of Energy from Renewables, Oil & Gas, Energy storage, Decommissioning and Disruptive Technologies. Each participating company will meet with the academics in a one-hour face to face workshop, to discuss possible pathways and novel approaches to a solution, with the emphasis being on generating innovative ideas to meet today’s challenges using a multi-disciplinary approach.

Ian Sharp, ERI’s Head of Marketing and Engagement, said;

“AIMday provides an effective and focussed way for companies to meet with relevant, world leading experts from Edinburgh to discuss innovative approaches to the challenges faced today.This is the 10th AIMday that we have organised at the University of Edinburgh, and the initiative is proving to be successful for all parties involved.”

In 2014, The University of Edinburgh became the first higher academic institute outside Scandinavia to be approved as hosts for AIMday® – a unique collaborative knowledge exchange initiative that began life at Uppsala University in Sweden.