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£12.5m collaboration to help elderly stay healthy and independent

£12.5m collaboration to help elderly stay healthy and independent

With support from Edinburgh Innovations, Blackwood Homes and Care has won a major funding award from UK Research and Innovation for a collaboration with the University of Edinburgh and industry partners, as part of the ISCF Healthy Ageing Challenge to help older people live at home for longer and with greater independence.

The £12.5 million Blackwood Neighbourhoods for Independent Living project will combine age-friendly homes with innovative technology, products and services to support healthy, independent living and reduce social isolation. Funding of £6 million has been secured from UK Research and Innovation with matched funding from project partners.

New and retrofit homes across three sites in Dundee, Glasgow and Buckie will benefit from innovations including home devices connected via the Internet of Things to provide health and wellbeing data through an app, and a ‘virtual neighbourhood’ online community enabling residents to gamify their fitness goals and share progress with friends and family.

Research role

The University of Edinburgh will work with residents to co-design a ‘value exchange model’ allowing them to contribute to their communities by sharing and trading skills and expertise.

The University will also build on a previous collaboration with Blackwood, the Smart Meter for Independent Living (SMILE) project, using artificial intelligence to monitor energy use to identify changes in dweller behaviour that could be a cause for concern, allowing for rapid intervention if required.

“We are looking forward to working with Blackwood on this project. We will bring our service design and management expertise to lead both the co-design work with the elderly residents in all three localities and the stakeholder engagement with the key public services involved.


“Public service design in a virtual space, as the pandemic requires, is an innovative and exciting venture and we believe it will not only benefit Blackwood residents but also offer key lessons for the future as we emerge from the pandemic.”


– Stephen Osborne, Professor of International Public Management at the University of Edinburgh Business School, and Principal Investigator for the project.

Fanchea Kelly, Chief Executive at Blackwood, said the funding unlocks an exciting future where the company can support more older people and people with disabilities to live their life to the full.

“What we are proposing at our three neighbourhoods will effectively create communities of the future, providing what we hope is a blueprint for great places to be as people grow older.


“We want Scotland to be the best place to grow older and we believe the best way to do that is to listen to residents and design solutions with expert partners to respond to what they want.


“With the UKRI funding, we’ll be able to work with our partners on further predictive tools, for example, building on our existing Smart Metering project (SMILE) where people can use their data to flag any concerning changes in patterns and prevent further vulnerability.”


– Fanchea Kelly, Chief Executive, Blackwood.

EI support for funding

Edinburgh Innovations worked closely with Blackwood and partners to secure the ISCF funding. In addition to Blackwood, industry partners involved in the project are: Cisco International, Censis,  Canon Medical Research, MyDex Data Services, Carebuilder UK, Enterprise Rent-a-Car and architects Lewis & Hickey. 

“This funding unlocks the potential for wide-reaching benefits, as our ageing population seeks to live healthy and rewarding lives.


“Combining a range of University expertise with Blackwood Homes’ innovative approach to healthy ageing, we will create a suite of novel solutions to improve quality of life for older people, allowing them to enjoy their later lives in better health, in their own homes and embedded in their communities for longer.”


– Caroline Woodside, ISCF Project Manager, Edinburgh Innovations.

Five Trailblazer projects

The Blackwood Neighbourhoods for Independent Living project is one of five ‘Trailblazer’ projects that will share £23 million in UK Research and Innovation funding as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Healthy Ageing Challenge.

The project builds on a growing focus on healthy ageing at the University of Edinburgh. In March 2021 the University was awarded two grants totalling more than £3 million to work with industry and care providers undertaking healthy ageing social, behavioural and design research.

The University’s Business School will lead the ‘Beyond 10,000 Steps’ project to understand ways in which health needs can be addressed to enable productive later-life employment, while researchers in the School of Social and Political Science will address challenges in the recruitment, retention and wellbeing of older workers in the residential care sectors, complementing initiatives being pursued by the University’s Advanced Care Research Centre funded by Legal & General.

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Collaboration, Diversity and Impact from Bench to Bedside

Collaboration, Diversity and Impact from Bench to Bedside

Dr Emily Sena from the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh discusses her research and how collaborating with industry brings a diversity of perspectives.

I have been an academic for the past 15 or so years, and I really enjoy what I do. My research is about what makes studies using preclinical models of human diseases rigorous and valid, and understanding the critical facets of translating findings in these models to humans in a clinical setting.

The campaign ‘Bench to Bedside’ aims to demonstrate exactly this: the expertise, track record and facilities at the University of Edinburgh that enable us to translate our research into impact.

In addition to being a neuroscientist, I describe myself as a meta-research scientist and I use systematic review and other meta-approaches in my work.

Colleagues that know me well, know that I consider collaboration as key to both successful and interesting research projects. My first publication, in 2007 as a PhD student, was a study in collaboration with colleagues based in London, Argentina and Birmingham, and it landed me a paper in the BMJ. This was the type of research I liked to do: I had the opportunity to bring my skillset to the table but also learnt a lot from some very smart scientists.

I have been fortunate that in my relatively young career, although no longer an Early Career Researcher, some of my work has already had recognised impact. It has informed laboratory practice guidelines, reporting guidelines for animal research and also editorial policy. I suspect, for many of us, articulating, capturing and evaluating our research impact can feel a little gruelling but it is hugely satisfying and clearly important. I have to admit that these more “academic impacts” felt more within my wheelhouse; and I didn’t fully acknowledge how my research could be of interest to industry.

Inevitably, collaboration with industry colleagues came. This has been in different guises but it all speaks to the ongoing impact and the greater reach of my central aim to improve translational research. My most substantial industry collaboration has been my role in a European IMI project, European Quality In Preclinical Data (EQIPD), where I led the “historical data analysis” work package. The purpose of the project was to investigate the sources of variation on research findings, within and between partners, to guide how we may design robust experiments going forward.

This project opened my eyes to the different approaches to working and the different drivers, particularly between academics and industry, even when conducting the same experiment. But more importantly, we shattered some preconceived notions about the quality of research each type of partner conducted. It also allowed me to forge connections and exert some of my experience and expertise related to rigorous experimental design across the consortium.

One of our industry partners states that their work with us has changed their internal research procedures, that they have a greater focus on rigour and experimental design and that our collaboration not only alerted them to the issues but informed them of how best to address them. This for me was some tangible and novel impact. Even more excitingly, we are now scoping options to co-supervise a research fellow (read “get the project funded”) to take this work even further, make sure that what we do is applicable to multiple stakeholders and maximise our impact.

Ultimately we have similar goals, to ensure that laboratory models better inform us of human disease and lead to effective interventions. Diversity in the perspectives of those you bring to the table to include all key stakeholders and effective collaboration seems, to me at least, a pretty good strategy.


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Dr Emily Sena

Bench to bedside: from targets to treatments

Bench to bedside: from targets to treatments

The University of Edinburgh’s Professor Neil Henderson is leading research – in collaboration with two major pharmaceutical companies – to develop therapies that improve prognosis for people living with liver disease.

Drawn by his reputation, publication record and specialised areas of research, two major pharmaceutical companies approached the University of Edinburgh’s Professor Neil Henderson, Chair of Tissue Repair and Regeneration, to lead several research projects. These projects would identify better targets for liver disease therapies, and positively impact the health and livelihoods of people diagnosed with liver disease.

Developing therapies for liver disease

Both pharmaceutical companies are looking to find therapeutic, rather than surgical, treatments for liver diseases. Each beginning in early 2020, the first collaboration looks at using single-cell approaches to examine the prevalent liver diseases, Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC), and the second project focuses solely on NASH, for which there are no effective treatments.

The projects intend to identify relevant and novel anti-fibrotic targets and develop medications to stop, or even reverse, liver scarring. Achieving this would mean that clinicians could arrest, and potentially even reverse, liver disease before it becomes end-stage – greatly increasing the quality of life and lifespan of patients living with liver disease.

Two, true research and industry collaborations

These industry collaborations are a natural fit for Professor Henderson. They resonate with his own academic expertise and research ambitions. Both pharmaceutical companies are very pleased with progress, Neil’s team has maintained momentum and continued to meet milestones despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

The support from both companies is invaluable to the research, progress and development – enabling Neil’s team to double in size to 20, and establishing Neil as a leading expert in this area. These companies are also very keen to embrace technology, which, in such a fast moving industry and field, means Neil and his team are able to quickly integrate new technologies and optimise the outcomes of their research.

Pushing science forward from all sides

The research team, industry partners and Edinburgh Innovations (EI) are working hand in hand to push the science forward from all sides. EI have supported these projects from their inception – from negotiating and securing the agreements of over $2 million each, liaising with the industry partners and legal teams, and ensuring the research team has what they need to deliver the project.

Promising discoveries

So far, the research teams have seen several successes. Not only have they identified new subtypes of scar-forming cells in human liver disease, but they have also built up rich datasets to underpin these findings.

There will also be joint publications arising from each collaboration, further helping to raise the profile of this impactful and cutting-edge work within the liver community, and crucially, will form the foundation for future research projects that will benefit people living with liver disease across the world.

“Edinburgh Innovations’ support has been fundamental to the success of these collaborative projects with major pharmaceutical companies. They have been an excellent source of advice and support throughout this process, and have played a major part in helping set up these large scale collaborations with industrial partners.”

Professor Neil Henderson, University of Edinburgh

Related Links

Discover more about the University of Edinburgh’s therapeutic discovery capability at Bench to Bedside — Edinburgh Innovations

Dyneval and Waterwhelm take top awards at Scottish EDGE

Dyneval and Waterwhelm take top awards at Scottish EDGE

Edinburgh Innovations clients have taken the two biggest prizes in the Scottish EDGE awards, with Dyneval winning the top biotech award, sponsored by iBioIC, and Waterwhelm receiving the Higgs EDGE award for science, tech and engineering businesses. Both awards are worth £100,000.

Among other winners, EI client BioLiberty, which has designed an AI-powered robotic glove to strengthen the user’s grip, took £10,000 in the Wildcard EDGE category. In the Young EDGE competition, Lilypads, which produces environmentally friendly sanitary products, won £15,000 and Lenz Labs, developing novel technology to improve braking control for trains, was awarded £10,000.

Cattle conception rates

Dyneval provides portable technology for cattle semen analysis designed to help boost conception rates. It was founded by CEO Dr Tiffany Wood, Senior Knowledge Transfer Fellow at the University’s Soft Matter and Biological Physics Research Group, and Chief Technology Officer Dr Vincent Martinez, Research Fellow at the School of Physics & Astronomy.

Dyneval’s award is sponsored by the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (iBioIC), one of Scotland’s seven publicly funded Innovation Centres.

Dr Wood and Martinez established Dyneval, whose name is a contraction of dynamic evaluation, in April 2020.

The average UK dairy farmer loses £37K each year due to poor conception rates, and at present, there is no quality control standard accessible for vets, farmers and technicians to check semen quality before reproduction. Dyneval’s technology provides an easy-to-use, automated and portable instrument for semen analysis.

“The team at Dyneval is absolutely delighted to have won a Scottish EDGE award. This award will accelerate our market readiness and growth to build a Scottish business that will have a strong and positive impact on the profitability and sustainability of dairy farming, worldwide.”


– Dr Tiffany Wood, Co-founder and CEO, Dyneval

Clean water pioneer

HiggsEDGE winner Waterwhelm has developed a game-changing membrane technology to produce drinking water from almost any source using a self-powered device. It was founded by Dr Ali Abbassi Monjezi, former Research Associate at the University’s School of Engineering.

Twenty-nine businesses from a range of sectors across Scotland were awarded a total of £1.175 million at the Scottish EDGE Awards Round 17, the UK’s biggest funding competition for potential high growth businesses.

At the virtual event, keynote speakers were Sir Tom Hunter and Matt Moulding, CEO and chairman of global technology platform The Hut Group plc that was recently valued at $6.3 billion (£4.5bn).

This year, Scottish EDGE received a record 305 applications. The finalists pitched to judges on 11 May in front of a virtual audience.

As well as awarding businesses with funding, Scottish EDGE also provides a business support package that includes mentoring, support and signposting to alternative finance. Its funding is awarded as 50% grant and 50% loan which is paid back to help fellow entrepreneurs on their pathway to success.

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Lenz Labs

Scottish EDGE


Invizius raises £5.3m for human study of dialysis anti-inflammatory

Invizius raises £5.3m for human study of dialysis anti-inflammatory

Invizius, the Edinburgh spinout company developing treatments to suppress immune responses caused by dialysis, has raised £5.3 million from investors including Old College Capital. The biotech company will use the investment to complete a first-in-human safety study in 2022 of its H-Guard Priming Solution.

The Series A financing was led by existing investors Mercia, Downing Ventures, Old College Capital, Scottish Investment Bank and Solvay Ventures, and new investors Calculus Capital and Meltwind. Old College Capital is the University of Edinburgh’s in-house venture fund, managed by Edinburgh Innovations.

Invizius was founded with EI’s support in 2018, based on research by Dr Andy Herbert and his team in the University’s School of Chemistry.

“Invizius has been founded on world-class research carried out at the University of Edinburgh by the company’s CTO, Dr Andy Herbert, and backed by an excellent management team and high calibre investors.


“The H-Guard priming solution could revolutionize kidney dialysis – it has the potential to significantly reduce inflammation and its associated complications. I am very excited to see the company progress and bring this product to market.”


– Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal, University of Edinburgh, who has previously worked for 19 years as a consultant nephrologist in the NHS.

Global potential

There are currently three million dialysis patients worldwide who receive treatment multiple times a week. This number was set to increase by 6% year on year before the onset of COVID-19, and the increase in patients will now likely be higher given the long-term damage that the virus can wreak on patients’ kidneys.

For particularly ill patients with COVID-19, the virus can cause acute kidney failure which can eventually turn into chronic kidney failure – with the only treatment options being either lifelong dialysis or a kidney transplant.

The H-Guard Priming Solution comprises a novel protein that lines the inside of the dialysis filter and helps dialysis to take place undetected by the body’s immune system. This suppresses the blood’s foreign body response, preventing a repetitive, hostile inflammatory reaction that increases the risk of cardiovascular complications.

The technology may also be used with other devices or treatments such as continuous renal replacement therapy, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, cardiopulmonary bypass, organ transplants and immunomodulating therapeutics.

“We are very pleased with the continued support of our existing investors and delighted to attract two new high calibre investors.


“There is a global healthcare need and significant commercial opportunity for the proprietary H-Guard Priming Solution treatment which has the potential to improve quality of life and safety of patients on dialysis with kidney failure. Dialysis treatment can reduce life expectancy by two thirds and almost half of patients die from cardiovascular complications.


“The worldwide market for H-Guard Priming Solution is estimated to be worth in excess of £1.5 billion.”


– Richard Boyd, Chief Executive Officer of Invizius.

Human safety study

Preparations are under way to complete the first-in-human safety study. Invizius has developed the protein manufacturing process with high confidence in purity and yield targets, and has received promising preliminary results from ex-vivo testing in human blood at University Medical Centre Groningen, a leading European renal research centre. Invizius has established the regulatory pathway in North America and the potential for coincident approval in Europe.

The company’s Series A remains open to other investors until June 2021. It follows a fundraising of £2.75 million in October 2019.

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Old College Capital

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