The Native Antigen Company ,a life sciences company which is backed by Mercia Technologies PLC, has launched a new range of tests for the Zika virus which represent a major step forward in the fight against the disease.

The company’s new non-crossreactive Zika Virus immunoassays are not only more sensitive and accurate than current tests, but can also distinguish between Zika and similar viruses such as Dengue, which is vital in tracking the spread of infection. They offer researchers, health authorities and drug discovery teams more effective tools to control the disease and help develop a vaccine.

The new product range comes as the Oxford-based company reports a third consecutive year of growth, with turnover for the 12 months to the end of September 2018 up by 25% year on year. In response to increased demand, the 30-strong team has also taken over two additional units next to the existing headquarters, bringing its total laboratory and office space to 7,500 sq ft.

The Native Antigen Company was founded in 2010 as a spin-out from an existing Mercia-backed company, Psioxus. It is now one of the world’s leading suppliers of infectious disease reagents, supplying pharmaceutical vaccine manufacturers, diagnostic companies and academic groups internationally.

Dr Nick Roesen, COO of The Native Antigen Company, said: “The Zika virus poses a significant global risk and there is currently no vaccine or specific treatment available. Sensitive and specific assays are crucial to mapping the spread of Zika, developing new vaccines and ultimately to finding a way to stop the birth defects associated with the virus.”

Peter Dines, COO and Head of Life Sciences and Biosciences at Mercia, said: The Native Antigen Company provides products that help overcome the challenges presented by existing and emerging infectious diseases. The specialist team are leading the way in tackling the Zika virus and the launch of these new tests represents a major step forward in the fight against the disease.”

A County Durham based business which has developed a better and safer X-ray technology has completed a £1.0million funding round which will allow it to bring its systems to market.

IBEX Innovations has secured investment from the new North East Venture Fund (NEVF), supported by the European Regional Development Fund and managed by Mercia Fund Managers, and an existing investor, IP Group plc.

The funding, which will create 13 new jobs at its premises in Sedgefield, will help drive adoption of the IBEX technology in the global healthcare market.

IBEX’s systems, which fit to existing X-ray machines, improve the quality of images while reducing the dose of radiation which the patient receives. The technology, which will initially provide an important new test for the early detection of osteoporosis, has been proven in tests with major multinational medical imaging companies and in trials at both Newcastle‑upon‑Tyne Hospitals and South Tees NHS Trusts.

However, IBEX’s systems can also be deployed in other applications such as security scanners and in food testing, where studies have shown it can detect plastic in chocolate bars and glass particles in jars of baby food.

IBEX has raised over £3m in the past to help fund the research and development work. The latest investment marks a milestone for founder Dr Gary Gibson, who set up the company in 2010 to develop better screening techniques after losing two close relatives to cancer. The company has been led since 2013 by the current CEO Dr Neil Loxley.

Neil Loxley said:We are delighted to have secured the funding from Mercia and IP Group that will enable us to meet our goal of become a leading provider of X-ray imaging technology to the $15bn medical imaging market. The funds will be used to finalise and certify the IBEX Trueview® product and to secure deals with more than five of the top medical imaging suppliers in the next three years.”

Ian Wilson, who leads Mercia’s team in the North East, added: “X-ray technology has advanced very little since it was first invented in 1895 and the images are still very basic. IBEX is bringing X-ray systems into the 21st century with enhanced images and improved patient safety. The funding will allow it to roll out its systems into clinics and hospitals and as a result improve patient care considerably.”

Andrew Mitchell, Chief Executive of The North East Fund, said: “This is the first investment in the Durham area by the North East Fund, which is helping to bring new jobs and economic growth to the North East. We are proud to support the growth and development of this innovative technology from Ibex.”

Sarah Slaven, Operations Director of Business Durham, said: “IBEX Innovations is a prime example of an innovative, world-class technology company thriving at NETPark, the North East’s premier science park. As one of our longstanding tenants at NETPark, we are delighted to see IBEX Innovations secure funding from the North East Fund to support their latest phase of growth.”

The NEVF can invest up to £1.0million for firms in Northumberland, Durham and Tyne & Wear, particularly those which are engaged in innovation or developing disruptive business models.
Funding is available to all companies with high growth potential and also pre-start enterprises.

A Manchester business which has developed a digital screening platform that enables the rapid diagnosis of cancer has been awarded an £880,000 NHS development contract to bring the technology to market.

Chromition, a University of Manchester spin-out which is backed by Mercia Fund Managers and its EIS Funds, has developed light-emitting particles known as Luminspheres™ which can be attached to biomarkers that bind to cancer cells and give off light to indicate the presence of cancer. Tissue samples can be screened using existing equipment and the use of pattern recognition software helps speed up the process, rather than relying solely on inspection by clinicians. As different coloured Luminspheres™ can be attached to different biomarkers, multiple cancer screens can be done all at once, saving time, money and potentially lives.

The funding will allow Chromition to validate the platform for detecting endometrial cancer, although the company is already working to extend its use to detect other cancers including lymphoma and follicular cancer. It hopes to have the technology in use in hospitals by 2021.

The funding has come from SBRI Healthcare, an NHS England initiative to support technological innovations that tackle unmet needs within the NHS. The latest development contract is in addition to the £100,000 Chromition was awarded last year when it was named as one of the winners of the SBRI Healthcare national competition.

Chromition was founded in 2014 by Prof Mike Turner, the Professor of Materials Chemistry at Manchester University, and Dr Mark McCairn and is based on over a decade’s research. Its platform technology is being developed into a range of other applications including security, decorative, horticulture and lighting. Mercia Technologies first backed the company in 2016 and to date has invested almost £500,000 from its EIS funds.

Mark McCairn, Chromition’s CEO, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded a development contract from NHS England to bring our Digital Multiplex Histopathology Screening Platform to market. The Digital Platform will transform the way histopathology is conducted within the NHS and globally by enabling personalised, rapid and quantitative diagnosis of cancer at reduced cost.”

Bill Yost, Investment Manager with Mercia, said: “Chromition could transform the way biopsies are carried out, and allow tests for different types of cancer to be carried out at the same time without the need for new and costly equipment. Its innovative technology allows faster and cheaper screening which will increase the likelihood of early detection and provide better results for patients and the NHS.”

For more about Mercia’s EIS Funds please view our EIS Funds information here.

Inovus Medical, a leading designer and manufacturer of medical and surgical simulators, has announced the successful completion of a £500,000 investment from NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance, which is managed by Mercia Fund Managers and part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.

The investment is part of a £700,000 investment round alongside an angel investor and will help to create four new jobs, accelerating the growth of Inovus Medical’s commercial operations in the domestic and international markets.

The company also plans to utilise the funding to add a suite of new 3D printing technologies to its manufacturing processes and introduce new software additions to its existing product offering.

Inovus Medical has had an impressive year of growth as the company has more than doubled its head count, moved to new headquarters in St Helens, Merseyside, and won a number of awards, including the EIT Health Headstart Award and most recently the British Chamber of Commerce Regional Small Business of the Year Award.

This latest investment follows the launch of the company’s most recent innovation in healthcare simulation, the Bozziniä Hysteroscopy Trainer, a revolutionary, turnkey simulator for teaching the skill of hysteroscopy (operating on the womb). This injection of capital is set to help Inovus improve adoption of innovative products such as the Bozziniä in the UK and globally through its growing distribution network.

Inovus Medical’s CEO, Dr Elliot Street, said: “We are extremely excited to have Mercia as a partner on our journey of expansion in what is an evolving industry that presents a great deal of opportunity. Whilst it is gratifying to see how far we have come in the years since we launched, what is most exciting is the prospect of improving the care of patients across the globe through improved access to high quality, realistic and affordable healthcare simulation – this investment will allow us to do just that at a scale far beyond that which we were previously able.”

The investment was led by Mercia’s Fund Principal Will Clark and Investment Director Dr Mark Wyatt. Mark said: “This is a really exciting time for the Inovus team as they set their sights on expanding globally. This funding round will enable Inovus Medical to establish a significant presence in the simulation and training market place, which is an area we feel has substantial growth potential.”

Grant Peggie, Director at British Business Bank, said: “We’re pleased that NPIF is providing capital that will enable Inovus Medical to innovate, move into new markets and scale up its operations. We would encourage other forward thinking companies across the North to explore the growth funding available from NPIF.”

HRC Law of Manchester provided legal counsel for the company.

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

National investment group Mercia Technologies PLC, one of the UK’s most active technology investors, is pleased to announce that its direct investment Medherant, a developer of innovative transdermal drug delivery treatments for pain and CNS diseases, has successfully completed two Phase I studies with its novel Ibuprofen TEPI® Patch.

The TEPI Patch was shown to be well tolerated by all subjects in a study of skin irritation and sensitisation. This marks the first clinical safety evaluation of Medherant’s novel adhesive, facilitating the development of the next generation of drug-in-adhesive patches.

In the second study, concentrations of ibuprofen in the blood following repeated application of the Ibuprofen TEPI Patch and a single oral dose of ibuprofen were compared. As expected, blood levels were significantly lower after application of the patch reflecting its design as a local delivery mechanism. Local application provides site-specific pain relief and a lower blood concentration will help minimise side effects.

Nigel Davis, CEO of Medherant, commented: “These positive Phase I results signify a major milestone in the ongoing development of our TEPI Patch drug delivery technology and demonstrate that our novel adhesive can be used safely. The successful completion of these trials is a testament to our team’s hard work and dedication. We look forward to taking the Ibuprofen TEPI Patch into Phase III clinical testing.”

Dr Mark Payton, CEO of Mercia, said: “This is one of a portfolio of products under development and is a testament to a solid team with a robust proprietary platform technology.”

The company will be seeking Series A finance to support its Phase III Ibuprofen TEPI Patch study and to take its portfolio of TEPI Patch products, which includes a cannabinoid and patches for Alzheimer’s disease, into clinical development.

Invizius, a University of Edinburgh spinout whose technology promises to improve the lives of millions of dialysis patients, has been named Best Innovative MedTech company at the prestigious OBN Awards.

The company’s success in the awards, which have a high profile in the life sciences sector, follows on from a seed investment of £500,000 from Mercia Fund Managers in May 2018.

Invizius’ H-Guard™ product acts as a primer that ‘hides’ the blood filter used in dialysis from the body’s immune system. This has the potential to greatly cut the risks of cardiovascular disease, which severely reduces life expectancy among long-term dialysis patients.

Richard Boyd, Chief Executive Officer of Invizius, said: “The team is enormously proud that our innovation has been recognised with this prestigious award. The company is on an exciting journey and this adds to our momentum.”

While Invizius’s first product is aimed at kidney dialysis, there is also potential to use the technology with other devices or procedures such as cardiopulmonary bypass, catheters, stents, organ transplants and vascular grafts.

The company stems from years of research by Invizius’s Chief Technology Officer, biochemist Dr Andy Herbert, and his team while working at the University’s School of Chemistry.

With the support of Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service, the team secured translational funding from Scottish Enterprise’s High-Growth Spinout Programme and went on to launch the company in April 2018.

Dr George Baxter, Chief Executive Officer, Edinburgh Innovations, said: “Congratulations to the team for this well-deserved award. Invizius holds the promise of truly global impact, and we look forward to continuing to support the company as its technology and business develop.”

The funding from Mercia was the first deal to be announced since a partnership agreement was formed between Mercia and the University of Edinburgh to help identify investment opportunities in the Scottish region.

Dr Nicola Broughton, Head of Universities at Mercia, said: “It’s fantastic to see the Invizius team win this coveted award just six months after our investment through our partnership with the University of Edinburgh. We are proud to back the business as it goes from strength to strength and continues to develop a disruptive product that has the potential to make a real difference to the lives of dialysis patients.”

The OBN Awards, in their 10th year, were presented at a ceremony at the Examination Schools, University of Oxford.

John Harris, Chief Executive Officer of OBN, added: “We received an outstanding number of entries this year so competition has been really tough. All our winners and nominees this year are truly innovative and set a great example to the rest of the industry.”

Mercia Technologies PLC is pleased to announce a new direct investment of £0.5million into Locate Bio Limited (Locate).

Locate is a specialist regenerative medicine and medical device company based in Nottingham. As one of the leaders in its field, the Locate team has been working for over a decade on developing a novel drug delivery system (TAOS®) and associated gene editing technologies (IntraStem), with an initial focus on orthopaedic applications.

Its lead product is a treatment for osteomyelitis, for which Locate has partnered with a major European medical device developer. In addition, it is developing a product to precisely control bone growth, a significant clinical problem with a $7.0billion worldwide market. Mercia’s investment will be used to further expand Locate’s existing product portfolio as well as new product opportunities utilising its IntraStem technology. The global regenerative medicine market is estimated to be worth $20.0billion and is forecast to be growing at a CAGR of 26.0%.

Following this initial investment Mercia holds a 6.0% equity stake in Locate. This direct investment follows on from an initial investment by Mercia’s third-party managed funds.

Dr Ian Wilding, Chairman of Locate, said: “The investment from Mercia is a strong endorsement of Locate’s technology platform and pipeline of regenerative medicines. These funds will enable us to conduct key preclinical studies to help consolidate our position as a next generation cell and gene therapy company.”

Julian Viggars, Chief Investment Officer of Mercia Technologies PLC, said: “Locate demonstrates how Mercia can support the coupling of compelling, proprietary, university-derived technology with a strong team and clear market advantages developed within the Midlands, initially through our managed funds. The team at Locate has now successfully moved from the research and development phase to commercialisation. We have been impressed by this transition and foresee considerable potential for delivering shareholder value in the medium term.”

You can see the full RNS Reach announcement here.

To continue the updates that we are providing over the summer on some of our most successful companies in our portfolio, this blog is focused on OXGENE™ (the trading name of Oxford Genetics LTD), which is part of our Life Sciences and Biosciences sector.

OXGENE™ is a synthetic biology company focused on developing innovative and scalable manufacturing solutions in the gene, cell, and antibody therapeutics markets, which represent the company’s three core business divisions. By using the company’s underlying genomics Lego-like DNA construction platform each business unit provides a range of catalogue products, licensable technologies and custom service solutions. These are primarily delivered via automated high-throughput robotic work flows to maximise profitability. OXGENE™ aims to dominate the market place for CRISPR gene editing and gene therapy manufacturing systems worldwide.

The company commenced regular trading from January 2013 as an e-commerce DNA catalogue business. In October 2014, a strategic alliance was forged with an international leader in the provision of research biologics, for global distribution of these products under a joint-label. Following a strategic review in 2015 and a follow-on investment round, the business re-purposed its expertise in DNA engineering to develop technologies and production platforms to target the rapidly expanding markets for CRISPR and gene therapy. Since this transition, the business has signed a number of licensing agreements and been awarded multiple grants totalling over £2million to expediate its research.

Over the period from 2013-2015, the business received investment from five EIS funds, and the company minimised how much funding was required, by continuing to expand sales revenue. In recent years, the business has expanded its executive team and board with the addition of David Hames (founder of Science Warehouse) as chairman and Matt Baker (founder of Antitope and previously CSO of Abzena plc) as NED. Following the EIS funds investment, Mercia Asset Management PLC has invested on a number of occasions, and in August 2017 it invested an additional £2.0million alongside Invesco Asset Management, as part of a £7.5million investment. Overall, sales revenues are doubling year-on-year, and this growth rate is expected to accelerate in the next 12-18 months. The shares are valued at up to 6.8x the cost of investment.

Within the last few weeks, OXGENE™ has announced a multi-million pound contract with a very large global ecommerce provider of reagents, and there are various other large contracts in negotiation, so the future for OXGENE™, and therefore many of Mercia’s EIS investors, looks very promising.

OXGENE™ is one of our leading companies in both the EIS portfolio, and Mercia’s promising direct investment portfolio. As our CEO, Dr Mark Payton, states:

“OXGENE™ is a good example of our promising direct investment portfolio of companies, many of which are now in revenue growth. The company has an extensive intellectual property estate coupled tightly with its global access to CRISPR technology. The growing quality and number of its clients is testament to the fact that the team is at the leading edge of synthetic biology innovation. I expect more positive developments from OXGENE™ and a number of our other direct investments in the near to medium term.”

The developers of a technology that helps clinicians and healthcare professionals to treat people suffering from sleeping problems more effectively has received two high-profile accolades.

SleepCogni, which is backed by Mercia Fund Managers, has been named by Corporate Livewire as the winner of the Innovation in Preventative Healthcare Award at its annual Healthcare and Life Sciences event.

The Healthcare & Life Sciences Awards 2018 recognises and celebrates leading research firms and medical professionals who have made a difference in their field. The team at Corporate LiveWire closely monitor trends and developments in the health industry to highlight the most successful individuals for their breakthrough research and life-saving services. Nominations for this award came from contributors and readers of the Corporate Livewire and Medical Livewire magazines as well as the Corporate Livewire awards team and information on each nominee was scrutinised by an independent judging panel before the winners were announced.

This award comes in the same month that Braintrain2020 appears in the prestigious ‘Longevity Industry in UK Landscape Overview 2018’ report which has been created to outline the history, present state and future of the Longevity Industry in the United Kingdom. Profiling hundreds of companies, investors, and trends, the report offers guidance on the most optimal ways in which UK longevity industry stakeholders, as well as government officials, can work to strengthen the industry, and allow it to reach its full potential as a global longevity science and preventive medicine hub.

The report was created by The Global Longevity Consortium, consisting of the Biogerontology Research Foundation, Deep Knowledge Analytics, Aging Analytics Agency and the Longevity International platform. It uses comprehensive infographics to distil the report’s data and conclusions into easily understandable portions, and interested readers can get a quick understanding of the report’s main findings and conclusions in its 10-page executive summary.

Richard Mills, founder and CEO said: “SleepCogni is going from strength to strength and it’s fantastic that we’re receiving external recognition for our efforts. This month’s award win is a great addition to the list of accolades we’ve already received over the last three years and along with our appearance in the Longevity Report positions Braintrain2020 amongst some of the most exciting medtech organisations in the UK. The fact that the Longevity Report features us in both the Personalised Medicine and Regenerative Medicine sectors is reflective of the fact that truly personalised and bioactive feedback is at the heart of our exciting technology.

“Our success to date is just one of the reasons that the President of Aetna International joined us as Chairman last month ahead of us going out for a Series A fund raise of £4.8million.”

Mercia Technologies PLC is pleased to announce that Oxford Genetics (OG) has secured a multi-million pound contract with a leading multi-billion dollar global ecommerce provider of reagents and tools to the research and clinical community.

OG is a leader in innovative synthetic biology-based technologies for biologics discovery, development and delivery with operations in the UK and US. It has significant expertise in DNA design, virus and protein-based biologics and cell lines, and is working with leading research, diagnostic and therapeutic companies and research institutes. The company’s extensive use of hardware and software automation allows it to develop new and innovative solutions, the latest of which is its mammalian CRISPR cell line engineering platform.

Mercia, which holds a 40.6% equity stake in the business and has worked with OG since 2012, initially invested via its third-party managed funds before OG became a direct investment in December 2015. In the last 12 months the fast-growth biologics business has signed a number of out-licensing deals and agreements, and this deal is representative of a number of other high value third-party contracts currently under discussion and negotiation.

Ryan Cawood, Founder and CEO of Oxford Genetics, said: “The last year has been one of continued strong growth. This deal reflects our implementation of the solid foundations required to deliver scalable automated solutions in synthetic biology. Our ability to deliver hundreds of clonal cell lines at a cost-effective price, without sacrificing on quality, is clearly resonating with our customers. As we continue to scale we expect to capture a large part of this attractive and rapidly growing market.”

Dr Mark Payton, Chief Executive Officer of Mercia Technologies and a non-executive director of Oxford Genetics, said: “OG is a good example of our promising direct investment portfolio of companies, many of which are now in revenue growth. The company has an extensive intellectual property estate coupled tightly with its global access to CRISPR technology. The growing quality and number of its clients is testament to the fact that the team is at the leading edge of synthetic biology innovation. I expect more positive developments from OG and a number of our other direct investments in the near to medium term.”