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Spinout BioCaptiva aims to unlock blood-based biopsies

Spinout BioCaptiva aims to unlock blood-based biopsies

A University of Edinburgh spinout company aims to revolutionise the early diagnosis of difficult-to-detect cancers with a new blood-based biopsy device.

With Edinburgh Innovations’ support, BioCaptiva has been launched with more than £1 million in seed investment from Edinburgh-based investment syndicate Archangels and Scottish Enterprise.

BioCollector device

It has developed a next-generation “liquid biopsy” technology that captures circulating free DNA (cfDNA) from patients’ blood in much greater quantities than is possible through the current standard of a single blood draw, overcoming a significant current limitation of cancer liquid biopsy testing.

Named BioCollector, the device works alongside a standard apheresis machine, filtering cfDNA from the patient’s blood system.

BioCollector is based on a decade of research led by Professor Tim Aitman, Director of the Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine, and Professor Mark Bradley of the University’s School of Chemistry.

“I’m delighted that after several years of work with colleagues in Edinburgh, we will now progress towards first-in-human trials. BioCollector will provide a step change in the capabilities of liquid biopsy for cancer detection and diagnosis.

 

“We are excited to be moving our device into this market with its huge potential for advances in the care of patients with cancer.”

 

– Professor Tim Aitman, Director of the Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine.

Prototype promise

Prototypes indicate the potential to detect early-stage cancers in patients without the need for surgical biopsy. The BioCollector also promises new approaches for monitoring minimal residual disease and detecting disease recurrence, resulting in better patient outcomes.

The seed investment will enable BioCaptiva to carry out its first trials to prove its safe use in humans. Should the technology prove successful, BioCaptiva plans to scale up its technology ahead of regulatory clinical trials, scheduled for completion during 2024.

Global market

A recent report shows the global liquid biopsy market growing by a compound annual rate of 33% and projected to be worth more than $6 billion by 2025.

BioCaptiva expects interest to come principally from companies that are developing novel cancer tests limited by current methods of extracting cfDNA, where the higher yield achieved by the BioCollector will increase the sensitivity of their detection methods.

“BioCaptiva has very exciting prospects in an important field, based on the leading research of Edinburgh scientists.

 

“The launch of this company, with such solid investment support, promises to improve many people’s lives.”

 

– Dr George Baxter, CEO, Edinburgh Innovations.

Expert team

BioCaptiva will be led by CEO Jeremy Wheeler, who has extensive experience the medical devices startup field. Frank Armstrong, who has a track record of developing healthcare products across a range of therapeutic areas, has been appointed Non-Executive Chairman of the company.

Photograph: BioCaptiva CEO Jeremy Wheeler with a prototype BioCollector device. Picture credit: Peter Devlin.

Related links

Archangels Investors

EI services for staff

 

£8.7m collaboration seeks better route to modern medicines

£8.7m collaboration seeks better route to modern medicines

An £8.7 million, five-year research collaboration led by the University of Edinburgh and FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies UK (FDB) will develop more cost-effective ways to make modern antibody-based medicines.

With the support of Edinburgh Innovations, the collaboration has won Prosperity Partnership funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), both of which are part of UK Research and Innovation.

The partnership will use state-of-the-art analytical tools and engineering biology approaches to enable cost-effective manufacturing of biological drugs.

Biological drugs based on recombinant DNA technology, which brings together genetic material from different sources, have transformed the treatment of life-limiting diseases including cancer, haemophilia and rheumatoid arthritis.

“Tapping in to the expertise of some our finest scientists and researchers, including at Teesside’s FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies and the University of Edinburgh, this state-of-the-art collaboration will seek to accelerate the development of biological drugs to help treat those with life-limiting diseases such as cancer.

 

“This is part of our efforts to put the funding and structures in place to ensure we build back better through innovation, drive local economic growth and cement the UK’s status as a science superpower.”

 

– Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.

Better, more cost-effective drugs

The University of Edinburgh has led a three-university partnership with FDB since 2018, supported by EI. FDB will work with the Universities of Edinburgh, Manchester and York to study and modify the commonly used Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell platform with the aim of making the manufacture of biological drugs easier and cheaper.

“This major funding award shows the leading position of Edinburgh and our partners Manchester and York as successful collaborators with businesses and other organisations.

 

“Only by working together can academic researchers and commercial businesses both maximise the impact of their work, for mutual benefit and common goals.”

 

– Dr George Baxter, CEO, Edinburgh Innovations.

As well as the major impact this could have in terms of new drugs to treat various conditions, it represents a major economic opportunity with an increasing portion of all medicines, currently estimated at 20%, being biopharmaceuticals and the global biologics market predicated to reach a value of $319 billion this year.

“The award of this grant unlocks the power of new technologies we have developed and applies them to this key industry challenge.

 

“The aim is to better understand and improve one of the key cell-based manufacturing platforms of biopharmaceuticals. Ultimately it will mean that treatments and vaccines used by many millions of people worldwide will be easier and cheaper to manufacture.”

 

Susan Rosser, Professor of Synthetic Biology, University of Edinburgh, and Royal Academy of Engineering Chair of Chair in Emerging Technologies.

Nine Prosperity Partnerships were announced on 2 April by the UK government, funded with investment of £75 million from business, academia and UK Research and Innovation.

They will build on existing UK strengths in industry and academia to develop new technologies, processes, and skills that will deliver economic growth and create jobs in areas across the UK.

“We are delighted with the partnership we have with the University of Edinburgh and it is aligned with our core purpose to advance tomorrow’s medicines. We are a supporter of great science in the United Kingdom.

 

“This is an exciting project that will allow us to understand, model and ultimately design CHO cells to be more efficient.”

 

– Andy Topping, Chief Scientific Officer, FDB.

Related links

Government announcement

FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies

Work with the University of Edinburgh

EI services for University staff

Cytochroma founder Cameron wins AccelerateHER award

Cytochroma founder Cameron wins AccelerateHER award

EI client Dr Kate Cameron has won the MedTech and Science prize in the AccelerateHER Awards 2021, for her startup company Cytochroma.

Cytochroma provides ethically sourced, ethnically diverse stem-cell-derived products and tests to accelerate drug discovery.

The AccelerateHER Awards, delivered by Investing Women Angels, are presented to inspiring Scotland-based businesswomen in the four categories of CleanTech and Climate; Disruptive Innovation; MedTech and Science; and FinTech, Data Science and Cyber Security.

The awards final, staged online, unveiled four winners from a shortlist of 12.

Global market-building

The winners receive a mentoring package from Investing Women Angels and Barclays Eagle Labs and a place on a market-building international trade mission to Europe, North America or the Middle East, planned for later in 2021, subject to travel restrictions.

Dr Cameron, who studied at Edinburgh both as an undergraduate and for her PhD in bone biology, launched her company with EI support in 2017 after working as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University’s Centre for Regenerative Medicine.

She is a previous winner of the prestigious Higgs Award at Scottish EDGE, and is currently a BBSRC Royal Society of Edinburgh Research Fellow, hosted by EI.

“I’m really looking forward to the mentoring package, as Investing Women have so much fantastic experience and expertise that I’m sure will be very useful to both me and the business.

 

“The potential to go on trade missions, even if virtual, is also a great opportunity to establish new partnerships and connections now that we are trading.

 

“The support from the start from Edinburgh Innovations really helped launch the business and connect me with the fantastic entrepreneurial network that exists in Edinburgh and Scotland.”

 

– Dr Kate Cameron, Founder and CEO, Cytochroma.

Support for growth

Now in their sixth year, the AccelerateHER Awards are sponsored by Barclays and global IT and business consulting services firm CGI. The awards are also supported by the Scottish Government, through its Women in Enterprise Framework and Action Plan to help female entrepreneurs prepare for investment and growth.

All AccelerateHER Awards entrants are UK-registered companies trading, or intending to trade, in Scotland.

“I warmly congratulate this year’s winners and look forward to further supporting the growth of their businesses as we embark on trade missions later this year to meet with investors and advisors from within our global network.

 

“The awards programme continues to support Scottish-linked female-founded companies. This year’s participants add to the growing AccelerateHER network which now includes over 5,000 female business founders within Scotland and beyond.”

 

– Jackie Waring, CEO of AccelerateHER and Investing Women Angels.

The CleanTech and Climate winner was Aslihan Penley of Aberdeen-based wave energy technology specialists ZOEX Power. St Andrews-based Rebecca Goss of pharmaceutical sector technology innovators, XGenix, was winner of the Disruptive Innovation category, while the FinTech, Data Science and Cyber Security award was won by Sarah Wernér of Husmus, a technology provider supporting tenants and landlords in the private rental market.

Photograph: AccelerateHER winners (from left) Aslihan Penley, Rebecca Goss, Kate Cameron and Sarah Wernér.

 

Related links

Investing Women: AccelerateHER

Cytochroma

EI services for staff

 

 

Lighting a Beacon for data-driven entrepreneurship

Lighting a Beacon for data-driven entrepreneurship

The University of Edinburgh is driving data-driven entrepreneurship as part of the fight back against Covid with a publicly funded programme of business-boosting activities.

The Data-Driven Entrepreneurship Beacon Programme, running to July 2021, is designed to engage existing businesses, support new ones to grow and drive entrepreneurship among staff and students at the University.

The programme is being run by a partnership of Data-Driven Innovation (DDI) Hubs across the University, and Edinburgh Innovations, allowing for a creative and multidisciplinary approach.

Comprising 12 initiatives and involving a range of business partners, the programme has received funding from the Scottish Funding Council, via the DDI programme of the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal.

“The DDE Beacon Programme is a fantastic opportunity for innovators and entrepreneurs to gain practical support, advice and skills to help their ideas become thriving businesses.

 

“Encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation is always essential but never more so than now as we emerge from the significant economic impact from the Covid pandemic.

 

“The benefits to society and our economy from the DDE Beacon Programme are immense: generating new and better services, meeting unmet needs and increasing employment.”

 

– Dr George Baxter, CEO, Edinburgh Innovations.

Support for staff and students

Initiatives include the Food and Agriculture Science Transformer (FAST), in partnership with the University’s world-famous Roslin Institute and venture capital firm Deep Science Ventures. The transformer will support academic researchers to turn their discoveries into business opportunities.

In addition, a Fast-Track Executive Director Programme funds directors’ time to provide guidance and mentoring to 10 University spinout companies.

A Venture Builder initiative, delivered in partnership with Edinburgh-based strategic design consultancy Nile and the University’s Bayes Centre, will help students develop their business ideas.

“If we want to reach a tipping point for entrepreneurship in Scotland, initiatives like this are an essential piece of the puzzle. We have a long-held ambition to support entrepreneurs and the wider ecosystem in Scotland, so are very excited to be appointed as Strategic Design Partner for the Data-Driven Entrepreneurship Beacon Programme.”

 

– Dag Lee, Chairman of Nile.

Placements and training

The DDE Beacon Programme also includes funded placements of PhD students into businesses, funded subscriptions to online business training, and support for entrepreneurial recent graduates who have been affected by the economic impact of Covid-19.

Fifteen startups have already been selected for the Post-Covid AI Accelerator, delivered by the Bayes Centre and Edinburgh Innovations and run in partnership with London-based Scale Space. The Accelerator will help AI-focused startups to grow and develop rapidly.

“It’s exciting to be able to open new channels for Edinburgh’s exceptional creativity and support entrepreneurship at such an important time.”

 

– Professor Chris Speed, Director of Innovation at the Edinburgh Futures Institute.

Related links

Startups selected for AI Accelerator

DDE Beacon Programme

Data-Driven Innovation

The Bayes Centre

Edinburgh Futures Institute

Nile

Scale Space

Pioneering startups selected for Post-Covid AI Accelerator

Pioneering startups selected for Post-Covid AI Accelerator

Startups creating AI-powered robotic gloves, personalised medicine and ‘X-ray vision’ software are among companies selected for a new Post-Covid AI Accelerator launched at the University of Edinburgh with support from Edinburgh Innovations.

Fifteen start-ups addressing a wide range of pressing business and health issues have been selected from applicants across the world to join the accelerator.

The Post-Covid AI Accelerator is being delivered by EI in conjunction with the Innovation Group at the Bayes Centre, University of Edinburgh, and in partnership with Scale Space, a new London-based, UK-wide community for scaling businesses.

Economic benefit

The six-month AI Accelerator Programme starts on 18 February and runs until 15 July 2021. It aims to help pioneering AI startups with high growth potential to scale globally so they can become world-leading companies, bringing jobs and economic benefit to Edinburgh and the region.

The cohort has been selected from 86 applicants based in 16 countries. Each of the successful applicants is addressing a global challenge, many responding to urgent needs in the health and climate change domains.

“A key enabler of Scotland’s recovery from Covid-19 is digital and technology, so it’s great to see the University of Edinburgh’s Post-Covid AI Accelerator support companies exploring how AI can be developed and used in many areas, such as health, and helping to tackle the climate emergency.

 

“With Scotland’s AI Strategy due to be launched on 22 March, this is an encouraging demonstration of some of the wealth of AI talent already in Scotland, budding international collaborations, and how AI can be used for good. I look forward to following the progress of the Accelerator going forward.”

 

– Scottish Government Finance Secretary Kate Forbes MSP.

SFC-funded Beacon Programme

The Post-Covid AI Accelerator is one of 12 initiatives launched under EI’s new Data-Driven Entrepreneurship Beacon Programme, supported by the Scottish Funding Council via the Data-Driven Innovation Programme of the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal.

Among the companies joining the accelerator is BioLiberty, which has designed an AI-powered robotic glove that strengthens the user’s grip.

Singapore-based Neeuro provides personalised digital therapeutics utilising Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) technology to help ADHD children improve their attention span.

Optic Earth, meanwhile, builds software that sees through solid rock, creating 3D images of what lies below the Earth’s surface.

EI clients among cohort

BioLiberty is an EI client founded by Engineering graduates Ross O’Hanlon and Rowan Armstrong. BioLiberty has designed an AI-powered robotic glove that strengthens the user’s grip. Grip strength declines with age and BioLiberty’s glove has the potential to restore independence for millions of people globally.

Fellow EI client Lenz Labs, founded by Engineering student Daniel Carbonell, and Maths student Hamish Geddes, is also joining the accelerator. Lenz aims to use novel technology to improve braking control for trains, ending the notorious problems caused by ‘leaves on the line’.

And two staff spinouts are also among the accelerator cohort. Net AI, led by EI client Dr Paul Patras, Associate Professor in the School of Informatics, uses cloud-based virtual network management to help telecom companies reduce costs. Space Intelligence, co-founded by Dr Murray Collins of the School of GeoSciences, is innovating in AI satellite data analytics to provide information to governments and large companies to help them implement nature-based solutions to climate change.

AI world-leader

The University of Edinburgh is a world leader in developing AI and data-driven innovation. The number and diversity of participants from around the world applying to the Post Covid AI Accelerator is a real endorsement.

 

“The chosen entrepreneurs have a fantastic opportunity to learn from scale up experts and leaders of other high growth businesses; helping them to grow their companies globally, contribute to our economic growth and make Scotland an even more attractive destination for inward investment.”

 

– Dr John Lonsdale, Head of Enterprise Services, Edinburgh Innovations.

Entrepreneur in Residence

A new Entrepreneur in Residence has been appointed to support the accelerator activity across the University’s DDI Hubs: the Usher Institute, Edinburgh Futures Institute, the Bayes Centre, the National Robotarium and the Easter Bush campus.

Mark Sanders, Executive Chairman of Scale Space, will work with the founders to address challenges they encounter in building their businesses, and introducing them to mentors, academics and investors who can help accelerate their companies’ development. His entrepreneurial experience includes leading the fintech company TDX to a £200 million exit to Equifax in 2014.

Funding, advice and networking

The AI Accelerator participants will benefit from business advice, group working sessions and conferences to help their businesses grow, as well as a £7,500 grant.

They will have the opportunity to work at Scale Space for the London residential element, Covid rules permitting. This will include the opportunity to meet Scale Space businesses and benefit from networking and insight events.

The Programme will also be supported by Nile, a strategic design company headquartered in Edinburgh.

“These successful companies are all bringing innovative thinking and technology to solve problems. The strength of the applicants is a testament to the burgeoning AI industry in Scotland and the University of Edinburgh’s role as a global leader in this area.

 

“Scale Space’s track record of helping businesses to scale complements the academic strengths at the University of Edinburgh and together we look forward to supporting the growth of the Accelerator participants. I look forward to helping them to get the most from the Accelerator programme and their engagement with Scale Space.”

 

– Mark Sanders, Executive Chairman, Scale Space.

 

Full cohort details

Company Name Overview
Actelligent (Scotland) Actelligent (Scotland) uses a differentiated Thematics + Factors hybrid approach to help investors ‘act intelligently’ in every stage of the investment process.
BioLiberty BioLiberty has designed an AI-powered robotic glove that strengthens the user’s grip. Hand weakness can be the result of MS, Stroke, Arthritis and many other conditions. BioLiberty’s glove has the potential to restore independence for millions of people and globally.
Data Innovation.AI Data Innovation.AI has created WorksafeAI to mitigate Covid and other workplace transmissible infections. WorkSafeAI is an AI-driven bio-safety assessment tool.
iLoF iLoF is working to enable a new era of personalised medicine, by using AI to build a cloud-based library of diseases, biomarkers and biological profiles. iLoF is providing screening and stratification tools in an affordable, fast, portable way.
Lenz Labs Lenz Labs has created technology that allows trains to grip the track better, providing predictable traction control to help trains run on time no matter the weather.
MyWay Digital Health MyWay Digital Health aims to transform chronic disease outcomes globally, through data-driven, cost-effective digital solutions; enabling tailored self-management, decision support and delivery of personalised precision medicine at scale.
Neeuro Neeuro provides personalised home-based digital therapeutics utilising Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) technology that incorporates machine learning, for applications in brain health conditions including helping ADHD children improve their attention span.
Net AI Net AI is revolutionising cloud-based virtual network management via real-time AI-driven analytics. Our cloud-native Microscope solution helps Telecom companies generate higher profit margins.
Nomad Energy Nomad Energy captures and uses data, AI and deep domain expertise to radically improve the energy, carbon and health performance of commercial and industrial buildings.
Optic Earth Optic Earth builds software that sees through solid rock, creating 3D images of what lies below the Earth’s surface. Its machine learning optimised technology processes robust images 5-10x faster than conventional approaches.
Reath Technology Reath uses analytics and Business Intelligence tools to enable businesses to find safe, compliant and scalable solutions for reusing single use items that have been typically been sent to landfill.
Sharktower Sharktower’s intelligent project delivery software helps spot problems before they occur, eliminates manual reporting and gives your business a clear view across all change projects – increasing the probability of successful outcomes.
Space Intelligence Space Intelligence is innovating in AI satellite data analytics to provide essential information to governments and large companies to help them implement and monitor Nature Based Solutions to climate change.
The Health Data Exchange The Health Data Exchange empowers population-sized pools of individuals to aggregate their medical, behavioural and genomic data. This single source, event based, longitudinal record can be shared with doctors, and enables researchers to build optimised cohorts for trials in near real time.
ZEG ZEG’s proprietary 3D AI tech allows eCommerce sellers to get stunning product photos at 1/10th the cost and in 1/100th the time of a traditional studio. No need to ship product/props to a studio. Create product photos virtually in 3D without leaving your desktop.

Related links

Transatlantic collaboration targets next-generation gene therapies

Transatlantic collaboration targets next-generation gene therapies

Researchers at the University’s Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences are collaborating with New York-based biotech company Neurogene to develop next-generation gene therapies.

Supported by EI, the team led by Dr Stuart Cobb has signed a multi-year agreement with Neurogene to advance development of multiple platform approaches to improve on existing gene therapy technologies.

Towards new products

Neurogene will provide funding to Dr Cobb’s laboratory in exchange for the right to license intellectual property on agreed economic terms. Neurogene will be responsible for late stage preclinical and all clinical development of any products generated under the collaboration.

Dr Cobb is Simons Fellow and Reader in in Neuroscience at the Patrick Wild Centre and Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh.

He has been working with Neurogene since 2018 and serves as the company’s Chief Scientific Officer.

“Neurogene is a science-driven company committed to investing in innovation and is the right partner for us to build upon the early successes in gene therapy technology.”

 

“Gene therapy is a very promising yet complex development area, and we are privileged to help address the unmet needs that exist within rare neurological diseases.”

 

– Dr Stuart Cobb, Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh.

‘Promising early data’

Neurogene, led by CEO Dr Rachel McMinn, said the agreement gives the company access to “pre-eminent neurological research expertise and capabilities”.

“Dr Cobb’s lab has contributed significant scientific expertise to improve the quality of our current rare disease pipeline and generated promising early data to allow us to tackle complex neurological diseases not addressable with conventional gene therapy.

 

“With this collaboration, I look forward to advancing our mission to provide safe and effective genetic therapies to patients and families as quickly as possible.”

Dr Rachel McMinn, Founder and CEO, Neurogene.

Photograph: Dr Stuart Cobb’s research team, with Dr Cobb farthest left.

Related links

Neurogene

Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences

Patrick Wild Centre

EI services for staff