Three Edinburgh Innovations clients are among the “30 under 30” list of Europe’s leading young entrepreneurs published by US business magazine Forbes.
Douglas Martin, founder of MiAlgae, which aims to revolutionise the acquaculture and agriculture feed markets with its microalgae-based product, and Jack Ryder and Sam Howarth, founders of Bump, the online marketplace for streetwear, are among 2020’s “young visionaries boldly redefining 10 industries across 32 European countries”, according to Forbes.
All three have been clients of EI’s Enterprise Services team since 2016 when Martin was studying MSc Synthetic Biology and Biotechnology and Howarth was a Business Management undergraduate student. They have been advised throughout by EI’s Liza Sutherland, Senior Enterprise Executive.
Sutherland’s support for MiAlgae has included helping value the business proposition, raising funding through grants and investments, building the business’s team, writing business plans and securing office space.
In the case of Bump, EI was instrumental in introducing the team to Fanduel founder Rob Jones, an encounter that radically changed their approach, and then to an Edinburgh graduate who advised them successfully on how to secure a place at the prestigious Y Combinator accelerator programme in California, after which Bump received a major investment.
“Douglas has always been a thinker, learner and experimenter who has wanted to make an environmental impact on the world while building a world leading ambitious business.
“Jack and Sam from Bump have been total grinders, working nonstop on building their marketplace. They are very ambitious, have a goal, set their eyes on it and take it. Plus they are very cool wearing all that streetwear.”
Around 80 researchers and representatives from the pharmaceutical and biotech industries came together to seek innovation opportunities at the University of Edinburgh’s Horizons in Neuroscience conference, hosted by EI.
The event aimed to ignite ideas in the fields of developmental, regenerative and degenerative neuroscience and to explore opportunities for translating research into commercial development.
The conference was opened by Professor Siddharthan Chandran, Director of Edinburgh Neuroscience, and Dr Andrea Taylor, EI’s Head of Business Development for the University’s College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine (CMVM).
‘It’s been amazing’
Thematic sessions were then presented by Edinburgh academics and colleagues from Amsterdam and Glasgow, plus industry leaders. Talks were on the themes of development, regeneration, degeneration and challenges in translational neuroscience.
“It’s been amazing. I’ve been taking plenty of notes because I’ve learned a lot.
“Roche as a company feels science has no borders, innovation happens everywhere, and a lot of it happens in academia. It’s really only by collaborating and finding opportunities to share knowledge that we can help one another make progress.”
– Paulo Fontoura, Head and Senior Vice-President, Neuroscience and Rare Diseases Clinical Development, Roche.
Industry partners at the event ranged from pharmaceutical giant Roche to SMEs and recent startups, as well as venture capital investors active in the neuroscience sector.
“We’ve got a very diverse audience. There have been a lot of questions from industry participants, asking about facilities, and lots of great discussions about the science.
“We’ve got that translational industry-to-academic bridging going on. Everyone’s very enthusiastic.”
– Neil Carragher, Professor of Drug Discovery and Director of Translation.
‘Great example of joint event’
The conference follows the recent establishment of the CMVM Translational and Commercialisation Board and associated Vision, to boost industrial relationships and the impact research is making to patients and society.
“It’s a very positive time. We’re trying to optimise the relationship between the business development function of EI with the strategy of the College’s institutes.
“This is a great example of a joint EI and CMVM event. Through events like this we are coming much closer together, so the College can help business development colleagues support us, by understanding what we’re doing, what our priorities are, what our challenges are.”
– Professor Neil Carragher.
Neuroscience has been identified as a focus for this new whole-College approach to translation and commercialisation, with Edinburgh a recognised centre of excellence in the neuroscience field.
“Edinburgh’s fantastically well positioned to capitalise on opportunities that new technologies bring to discovery innovation and translation for disorders of the brain across the life course.
“I hope today will spark ideas especially among early career researchers and give them confidence to be bold and imaginative.
“There are also influencers here who can take the reinforced message that Edinburgh is very serious in this area.”
Novel treatments that may reverse the effects of multiple sclerosis will be investigated by a new drug-discovery company spun out from the University of Edinburgh.
Backed by Series A funding of £5 million over its first three years, Pheno Therapeutics will search for new drugs that aim to repair damage to the nervous system and significantly improve patients’ debilitating symptoms.
Building on original research by Professors Siddharthan Chandran and Neil Carragher, the company aims to develop new therapies for MS by identifying novel molecules that cause the body to repair or replace the damaged myelin sheath surrounding nerve cells.
This so-called remyelination process has the potential to slow or arrest the progressive disability caused by MS.
Edinburgh Innovations helped deliver the formation of Pheno Therapeutics, bringing together the scientific and clinical expertise in partnership with Advent Life Sciences to launch the company.
Pheno Therapeutics is supported by Advent Life Sciences, the London-based venture capital firm; the Scottish Investment Bank, with backing from the Scottish Government through the Scottish Growth Scheme; and independent medical research charity LifeArc. Together they have committed to invest £5 million over three years, subject to the company meeting certain milestone conditions.
“I’m delighted to see this company launch with the support of such credible investors.
“Everyone involved is focused on driving the science forward, and we look forward to supporting the team as momentum continues to build, ultimately offering the promise of new treatments.”
– Dr George Baxter, CEO of Edinburgh Innovations.
Key to the company’s potential impact in MS treatments is the University’s advanced cell based technology platform, which enables the screening of large compound libraries on novel human cellular platforms, in addition to the founders’ and investors’ combination of clinical and drug discovery expertise.
Pheno Therapeutics intends to optimise the leads emerging from its cutting edge phenotypic screens via medicinal chemistry to deliver new candidate compounds that will progress through pre-clinical tests then proof-of-concept clinical trials.
Professor Siddharthan Chandran
Pheno Therapeutics co-founder Professor Siddharthan Chandran, who is Director of the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences at the University, said: “There are no interventions for people with later stage multiple sclerosis, which is a devastating and debilitating condition.
“The opportunity for this company is to bring new and repurposed therapeutics to clinical trials and, by doing so, meet an urgent and currently unmet need.”
MS affects more than 100,000 people in the UK and 2.5 million worldwide. Targeting the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord, the disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the protective layer surrounding nerve cells called the myelin sheath, slowing or disrupting the electrical signals travelling along the nerves.
It causes a wide range of symptoms including problems with movement, vision, sensation and balance.
Current treatments mainly focus on the immune system aspects of the disease and reduce the severity and frequency of relapses. There is a significant medical need for novel neuroprotective agents that halt the disease progression and prevent long-term disability.
Pheno Therapeutics is a spinout company from the University of Edinburgh founded by Professors Chandran and Carragher, Advent Life Sciences and Dr Jon Moore, Operating Partner at Advent Life Sciences.
“At the Seed Fund, we look to use our translational expertise to invest in enterprises with a sound scientific concept and the potential to lead to new interventions that address patient needs.
“In the founders of Pheno Therapeutics and their research to induce myelin repair, we saw an appealing opportunity, particularly given the existing clinical needs in progressive MS. We are delighted to have reached an agreement to support Pheno Therapeutics translate their discoveries.”
More than 60 multi-disciplinary academics have come together at Edinburgh Innovations to shape the work of the new £20m Advanced Care Research Centre.
The ACRC is part of a partnership between the University of Edinburgh and Legal & General, the UK’s largest pension fund investor. The agreement, announced in January 2020, follows 18 months of industry engagement work led by EI.
The Centre is a seven-year multi-disciplinary research programme that will combine research across fields including medicine and other care professions, life sciences, engineering, informatics, data and social sciences. It will enable data-driven, personalised and affordable care that delivers independence, dignity and a high quality of life for people living in their own homes or in supported care environments.
The funding of £20m from L&G marks the University’s largest industry investment to be confirmed as part of the £661m Data-Driven Innovation programme of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.
L&G’s Doug Munro addresses the large group of academics.
During 2019, Liz Casely, EI’s ACRC Programme Manager, brought together the participation of researchers from across the University, building the case that Edinburgh’s experts are uniquely placed to fulfil the mutually identified need for the ACRC.
On 7 February, following the conclusion of the agreement, the academics convened to develop the ACRC’s Work Programmes – the activities that will improve understanding of care in later life and revolutionise how it is delivered.
Dr Stella Chan discusses the impact of images on wellbeing.
EI Chief Executive Officer Dr George Baxter introduced the ACRC’s vision, after which Doug Munro, L&G Head of Structuring and Solutions, addressed the audience. A choice of workshops followed.
Alasdair MacLullich, Professor of Geriatric Medicine and former President of the European Delirium Association, said he was “immediately struck” by the wide range of interests represented at the workshops.
“In the very first workshop I learnt so much from what others were saying. Suddenly all sorts of new ideas came to my mind that could be achieved by working together.
“I think there’s great potential for interdisciplinary working. We’re all very keen to look for new ways of tackling these massive problems, and I think that only by bringing people together will those ideas lead to solutions.”
– Professor Alasdair MacLullich, Chair in Geriatric Medicine, University of Edinburgh.
More than 50 representatives from nearly 40 businesses and public sector bodies attended Edinburgh Innovations’ Bio-Solutions Showcase.
The event aims to build relationships between the University of Edinburgh and new and existing partners, and open up opportunities for world-leading researchers to work with external organisations innovate.
Academics showcased a range of technological applications based on biological systems to demonstrate how biotechnology can create useful products and improve processes across a range of sectors.
A fast-paced half-day of talks, breakout sessions and networking discussions brought together academics spanning the broad biotechnology field with businesses, government, public-sector agencies and funding bodies.
Organisations represented included the Scottish Government, BASF Global, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies and Marks & Spencer, as well as a range of startups and SMEs.
Researchers with interests in the biotech field were present from the Schools of Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Engineering, Geosciences, Informatics, Mathematics, and Physics & Astronomy.
‘Diverse and thought-provoking’
Clive Roper, Head of In Vitro Toxicology at drug development company Charles River, a US company with a research facility in East Lothian, said his sector has recently transformed from a “non innovative world into a very, very innovative world”.
“The presentations have been very good – diverse and thought-provoking.
“We’re a local employer, so we’re always looking to connect with our supply of talent and we’re always interested in innvations.”
– Clive Roper, Head of In Vitro Toxicology, Charles River.
The showcase began with plenary sessions by Dr Louise Horsfall on bio-based solutions for a circular economy; Professor Cait MacPhee on biofilms, biomaterials and nanoscale self-assembly; and Dr Diego Oyarzum on next-generation data modelling for biotechnology.
Breakout sessions focused on subjects ranging from “plastic as a substrate for the circular economy” to “bioinspired engineering”.
The closing talk was from Professor Andy Mount, Dean of Research from the College of Science & Engineering.
The University of Edinburgh and Legal & General have announced a major partnership to improve understanding of care in later life and to revolutionise how it is delivered.
The collaboration, development of which has been led by EI, will establish the Advanced Care Research Centre (ACRC), a seven-year multi-disciplinary research programme and the first of its kind in the UK.
Legal & General is the UK’s largest pension fund investor and a leading provider of retirement products.
ACRC will combine research across fields including medicine and other care professions, life sciences, engineering, informatics, data and social sciences.
The Centre will enable data-driven, personalised and affordable care that delivers independence, dignity and a high quality of life for people living in their own homes or in supported care environments.
“We are to host this ground-breaking collaboration with colleagues at Legal & General. This exceptional partnership will re-imagine care for the mid-21st century.
“As our population ages, so we need to develop innovative new approaches to provide individually tailored care. This is the big challenge that the partners will address, bringing to bear pioneering research from the brightest academic minds across multiple disciplines to deliver creative and trusted solutions to solving real world problems”.
– Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal, University of Edinburgh.
Edinburgh Innovations has led the development of the relationship between the University and L&G over the past 18 months, spearheaded by CEO Dr George Baxter since mid-2018 when Professor Charlie Jeffery, Senior Vice-Principal at the time, and the Board of L&G first proposed the idea.
For the past year, that support has been coordinated by Liz Casely, ACRC Programme Manager, who was appointed by EI to lead the project for the University.
EI pulled together participation by more than 50 academics from across the University’s three Colleges, making clear the University’s leading expertise in the ACRC’s focus areas.
“All involved should be proud of the work over the past 18 months that has led to this major agreement for the University and L&G.
“We’re pleased to support such a significant piece of industry engagement, which ultimately will bring about better outcomes for people in advanced years.”
– Dr George Baxter, CEO, Edinburgh Innovations.
Bruce Guthrie, Professor of General Practice at the University’s Usher Institute, has been named as ACRC Director and will lead a new cohort of researchers dedicated to the field of ageing and care.
The £20m agreement marks the University’s largest industry investment to be confirmed as part of the £661m Data-Driven Innovation (DDI) initiative, its key deliverable as a partner in the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.
The DDI initiative is accelerating the City Region’s capacity to deliver trusted data-driven innovation across ten sectors, including health and social care, in collaboration with industry and the public sector.
“Establishing the ACRC will revolutionise the UK’s commitment to understanding and addressing the huge issue of demographic change – part of a global challenge with significant social and economic impacts.
“Edinburgh’s open-sourced, data-based and cross-disciplinary approach will deliver vital positive change to ageing and care and we find this a compelling and practical vision.
“The partnerships we are forging with premier institutions up and down the country, from the University of Oxford to Bath University and now Edinburgh will help shift the dial in the delivery of science, technology and ageing care for many future generations to come.”