Mercia Fund Management, one of the leading investors in UK technology and the wholly-owned subsidiary of Mercia Technologies PLC, has committed £300,000 of early stage development capital to Intelligent Health, a company dedicated to combatting inactivity through behavioural science and technology.

Mercia’s capital will be used to continue scaling the business nationally and internationally, as well as building on the company’s strong relationships with local government authorities and NHS clinical commissioning groups.

Formed in 2006 by Dr William Bird, a GP and advisor to the World Health Organisation, Intelligent Health encourages communities to adopt more active lifestyles through a combination of community-wide initiatives, personal fitness trackers, and key partners.

Since formation, Intelligent Health’s services have been taken up successfully across England and Scotland, as well as in Europe and the US.

Included in Intelligent Health’s core services is the community based activity challenge, ‘Beat the Street’, which creates a physical game within an entire town to engage the community in an interactive walking competition. The initiative has seen a great deal of success – in 2015 alone, 14 locations and 115,000 residents in England, Scotland, Italy and Poland have played the challenge. The technology turns a local area into a real life walking game through the use of RFID Smart Card Readers (or ‘Beat Boxes’) and RFID cards.

Only 20 minutes of moderate activity a day is recommended for adults (60 minutes for children) and yet one in four of us do not manage this. Physical inactivity is responsible for one in six deaths in the UK a year, making it more of a serious health issue than smoking. It is also a prime cause of 23 long-term health conditions, including diabetes and cardio-vascular disease.

The cost of inactivity-related illnesses is staggering, with treatment for the side effects of type 2 diabetes alone costing the NHS £8bn a year.

To combat the costs of treating and managing such long-term illnesses, authorities are increasingly turning to technology influenced by behavioural science due to their cost effectiveness and proven success rate. The addressable market for Intelligent Health in the UK alone is believed to be valued at £500 million.

Peter Dines, Investment Director and Head of Life Science at Mercia, said:

“This is an area that Mercia has been seeking to get involved in for some time now and I am truly pleased to identify Intelligent Health as what we believe to be a leading early stage player in this field. The company represents an exciting opportunity to support a scientifically proven technology that is capable of tackling one of the most pressing global issues.

“Intelligent Health also benefits from a renowned clinical champion as its CEO, a strong management team and a good sales pipeline, which will allow it to expand both nationally and internationally, not to mention make a positive change to the lives of millions.”

Dr William Bird, CEO of Intelligent Health, said:

“Intelligent Health is at an exciting stage in its development and I am delighted that Mercia Fund Management has come on board to support our growth. They have an unparalleled expertise in the advancement of pioneering businesses, understand our vision and can help us build active communities on a greater scale. We look forward to a dynamic, productive relationship.”

Mercia Fund Management, one of the leading investors in UK technology and the wholly-owned subsidiary of Mercia Technologies PLC, has committed £300,000 of early stage development capital to Intelligent Health, a company dedicated to combatting inactivity through behavioural science and technology.

Mercia’s capital will be used to continue scaling the business nationally and internationally, as well as building on the company’s strong relationships with local government authorities and NHS clinical commissioning groups.

Formed in 2006 by Dr William Bird, a GP and advisor to the World Health Organisation, Intelligent Health encourages communities to adopt more active lifestyles through a combination of community-wide initiatives, personal fitness trackers, and key partners.

Since formation, Intelligent Health’s services have been taken up successfully across England and Scotland, as well as in Europe and the US.

Included in Intelligent Health’s core services is the community based activity challenge, ‘Beat the Street’, which creates a physical game within an entire town to engage the community in an interactive walking competition. The initiative has seen a great deal of success – in 2015 alone, 14 locations and 115,000 residents in England, Scotland, Italy and Poland have played the challenge. The technology turns a local area into a real life walking game through the use of RFID Smart Card Readers (or ‘Beat Boxes’) and RFID cards.

Only 20 minutes of moderate activity a day is recommended for adults (60 minutes for children) and yet one in four of us do not manage this. Physical inactivity is responsible for one in six deaths in the UK a year, making it more of a serious health issue than smoking. It is also a prime cause of 23 long-term health conditions, including diabetes and cardio-vascular disease.

The cost of inactivity-related illnesses is staggering, with treatment for the side effects of type 2 diabetes alone costing the NHS £8bn a year.

To combat the costs of treating and managing such long-term illnesses, authorities are increasingly turning to technology influenced by behavioural science due to their cost effectiveness and proven success rate. The addressable market for Intelligent Health in the UK alone is believed to be valued at £500 million.

Peter Dines, Investment Director and Head of Life Sciences at Mercia, said:

“This is an area that Mercia has been seeking to get involved in for some time now and I am truly pleased to identify Intelligent Health as what we believe to be a leading early stage player in this field. The company represents an exciting opportunity to support a scientifically proven technology that is capable of tackling one of the most pressing global issues.

“Intelligent Health also benefits from a renowned clinical champion as its CEO, a strong management team and a good sales pipeline, which will allow it to expand both nationally and internationally, not to mention make a positive change to the lives of millions.”

Dr William Bird, CEO of Intelligent Health, said:

“Intelligent Health is at an exciting stage in its development and I am delighted that Mercia Fund Management has come on board to support our growth. They have an unparalleled expertise in the advancement of pioneering businesses, understand our vision and can help us build active communities on a greater scale. We look forward to a dynamic, productive relationship.”

Strategic acquisition of GMP bio pharmaceutical manufacturing capability in the USA extends service and technology offering, enables the capture of more value from projects, and provides wider cross-selling opportunities across the Group.

Abzena plc (AIM: ABZA), the life sciences company providing services and technologies to enable better biopharmaceutical products, has acquired PacificGMP, a privately held contract biopharmaceutical development and manufacturing company (CDMO) based in San Diego, CA, USA.

The acquisition of PacificGMP is in line with Abzena’s strategy to expand its offering and provides the opportunity to capture more value through broader support for its partners’ development projects and enables cross-selling of its services and technologies. The acquisition is expected to immediately enhance the earnings of the Group, before amortisation of acquired intangible assets. In the 12 months to July 2015, PacificGMP generated revenues in accordance with the IFRS principles of $3.0 million (£1.9 million).

Abzena is acquiring the entire issued share capital of PacificGMP, including settlement of the non-trading liabilities of PacificGMP at completion, for a cash consideration of $7.7 million (£4.98 million), from existing cash resources, and warrants over 564,762 Abzena shares with an aggregate value of $0.7 million (approx £0.5 million) based on the average price of Abzena shares over the 60 trading days prior to closing. The warrants represent 0.58% of the current issued share capital of Abzena and are exercisable for up to three years from issue at an exercise price of £0.80 per share.

A performance-based incentive scheme, which could provide up to a maximum of 5,129,939 Abzena ordinary shares (5.3% of the current issued share capital) to PacificGMP’s executives and key managers, depending on the performance of the business over the next two years, has been established.

PacificGMP provides contract process development and manufacture of biopharmaceuticals, including monoclonal antibodies, recombinant proteins, vaccines, and gene therapy and cell therapy products, for a growing international customer base. PacificGMP was founded in 2005 and is a pioneer in the adoption of single-use manufacturing technology, which is increasingly being used to manufacture biopharmaceuticals. Its service offering includes process and analytical development, non-GMP and cGMP manufacturing, and regulatory support.

Rationale for the acquisition:

Enables Abzena to pursue opportunities to take its clients’ projects further along the development pathway so it can capture more economic value;
Adds a further significant line of service revenue with a positive effect on Group earnings;
Provides additional opportunities for Abzena to increase revenue through cross-selling its services and technologies;
Increases Abzena’s penetration beyond its existing manufacturing cell line development offering into the growing contract biopharmaceutical manufacturing market, which is forecast to reach $3.1bn in 2016;
Enables Abzena to provide additional support for the development of products based on Abzena’s proprietary Composite Human Antibody™ protein engineering and ThioBridge™ ADC bioconjugation technologies, therefore driving further adoption of these technologies;
Provides an operational base in the US, within the major San Diego area biotech hub, to build and support Abzena’s international business. PacificGMP will allow Abzena to develop stronger links with its customers in North America and the Asia-Pacific area and to access a network of US West Coast biopharmaceutical companies and academic institutions;
Adds an experienced management team and skilled workforce with industry experience across process development, single-use technology for GMP manufacture and regulatory compliance;
Provides an opportunity to offer PacificGMP’s manufacturing services for later stage clinical programmes and niche commercial-scale manufacturing through investment in the expansion of PacificGMP’s facility;
Provides a platform for further expansion of the Abzena group through acquisition of additional complementary services and technologies.
On completion of the acquisition, PacificGMP will operate as an integrated member of the Abzena group of companies, which includes Antitope and PolyTherics. Gary Pierce, CEO and General Counsel of PacificGMP, has become President, PacificGMP and Leigh Pierce, PacificGMP’s President and CSO, has become Chief Technology Officer (Biomanufacturing), both reporting directly to John Burt, CEO of Abzena.

Gary Pierce, President of PacificGMP, commented:

“Over the 10 years since founding PacificGMP, we have been fortunate to work on a broad array of exciting and complex projects with some of the leading physicians and researchers in the biotechnology arena. We’ve been able to bring our expertise in development and manufacturing to challenging large molecules and to support efforts against many life-threatening and debilitating diseases. We believe that joining Abzena will allow us to build on that capability, helping our partners to reach larger and more diverse populations and enable the development of new therapies, cures and vaccines. We’re very excited by Abzena’s vision of enabling better biopharmaceutical products by creating an international business with a broad, integrated service and technology offering that can support product development all the way from lead selection through to manufacturing for clinical trials. I believe that the incorporation of PacificGMP’s biomanufacturing capability will prove highly attractive to a range of R&D organisations and we look forward to a promising future as part of the Abzena group.”

John Burt, CEO of Abzena, added:

“PacificGMP provides us with an ideal opportunity to expand our service offering into the high growth biopharmaceutical manufacturing arena and to establish an operational footprint in the US. This acquisition allows us to capture more customer value, provides significant cross-selling opportunities, and is expected to enhance the pace of adoption of Abzena’s technologies. We are delighted to welcome PacificGMP and its staff into the Abzena family.”

Further details of the acquisition:

The Share Purchase Agreement for the acquisition of the issued share capital of PacificGMP was executed between PacificGMP’s shareholders and Abzena Inc. (a wholly owned subsidiary of Abzena plc) on 11 September 2015. The acquisition completed on the same day;
PacificGMP’s revenue was $3.0 million (£1.9 million) and the net loss for PacificGMP was $0.1 million (approx £0.1 million) in the year to 31 July 2015 (unaudited results prepared in accordance with IFRS principles);
PacificGMP had net liabilities of $1.2 million (£0.8 million) as at 31 July 2015 (unaudited results prepared in accordance with IFRS principles);
The sum of $1.8 million of the total cash consideration of $7.7 million was used to settle shareholder loans and contingent liabilities crystallised by the sale of the share capital;
PacificGMP has 37 employees, all based at PacificGMP’s facility in San Diego;
On completion of the acquisition, the non-executive directors of PacificGMP have resigned from the board and John Burt (CEO), Julian Smith (CFO) and Jim Mills (Vice President, Technical Operations) have been appointed as directors of PacificGMP alongside Leigh Pierce and Gary Pierce. There are no changes to the board of directors of Abzena plc arising from this transaction;
PacificGMP has executed a new lease agreement to expand the facility in San Diego from 14,000 to 23,400 sq. ft. to provide a total of five manufacturing clean room suites, as well as additional analytical and process development laboratories.

A Birmingham-based professor and founder of Celentyx Ltd has been announced as the principal author of the most highly cited research paper in history from any research institution in Birmingham. The paper has now achieved over 2000 citations.

Professor Nicholas Barnes, the principal founder of the Birmingham-based pharmaceutical company Celentyx Ltd, is First Author of the research paper, which is the most highly cited from any academic or industrial research institution in Birmingham (which includes academic institutions such as the University of Birmingham, Aston University, Birmingham City University).

The research paper, entitled ‘A review of central 5-HT receptors and their function’ was published in the international journal Neuropharmacology. The paper is also the most highly cited research paper in the history of the journal. It describes the functions of the so-called ‘Happy Hormone’ neurotransmitter seratonin (or 5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT]) in the brain and the mechanism of action of drugs such as: blockbuster antidepressants (e.g. Prozac); drugs that offer symptomatic relief to patients with schizophrenia; drugs used to treat migraine; and drugs that reduce the severe nausea and vomiting associated with aggressive anti-cancer treatment.

Professor Barnes said:

“It is very rewarding to see the value placed on this work by the research community. We have continued to build on the foundations constructed in the paper and our interest in neurotrauma over the last few years is now bearing fruit.”

Professor Ann Logan, Head of Neurobiology at the University of Birmingham, said:

“This is a fantastic achievement for Nick Barnes and emphasises his world-leading standing in the research community.

“Neuroscience research at Birmingham attracts prestigious multi-million pound grants due to the breadth and depth of neuroscience expertise, which has generated many exciting breakthroughs in potential treatments for clinical conditions of unmet need arising from neurotrauma and spinal cord injury.”

Professor Tony Bell, Consultant Neurosurgeon and Director of the National Institute for Health, Surgical Reconstriction and Microbiology Research Centre based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, added:

“We are proud and delighted for Professor Nick Barnes to achieve this outstanding milestone. Along with Ann Logan and myself, Nick is a founding member of the Translational Neurotrauma Reasearch Group here in Birmingham, which benefits hugely from his involvement, allowing use to identify and progress novel therapeutic strategies to benefit patients following neurotrauma.”

Professor John Gordon, Chief Scientific Officer at Celentyx Ltd, said:

“This is a momentous accomplishment emphasised further by the very high quality research outputs from the various research institutes in Birmingham.

“Celentyx’s research is at the cutting edge of new knowledge and it is a well-earned tribute to Nick that his world leading expertise is recognised in such a convincing way.”

Professor Asif Ahmed, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Health & Executive Dean, Aston Medical School, Aston University, commented:

“When I first joined the University of Birmingham in 1993, Nick Barnes was one of the first people to offer his laboratory facilities, know-how and resources.

“His in-depth understanding of angiotension-II pharmacology contributed considerably to our two JCI publications in the 90s. He also champions commercialisation of research activities and start-up businesses for academic colleagues, which is desperately needed to create a culture of discovery-based biomedical entreprises in Birmingham.”

Professor Bruno Frenguelli, Editor-in-Chief of Neuropharmacology, added:

“It is with great pleasure that I acknowledge Nick’s terrific achievement. The fact that this review is still being cited by experts in the field indicates the thorough and comprehensive treatment that Nick and his co-author Trevor Sharp gave to this important topic. Such high quality papers have contributed to Neuropharmacology becoming one of the top journals in the fields of neuroscience and pharmacology.

“Having known Nick since his appointment at Birmingham in the early 90s when I was a PhD student in the then-Department of Pharmacology, I am especially pleased at Nick’s achievement and, as Editor-in-Chief, I look forward to publishing an updated version of his review that will no doubt be as influential and heavily cited as the original.”

[Pictured: Alan Fletcher from PerkinElmer presenting the prize to CEO of MIP Diagnostics, Dr Adrian Kinkaid.]

A technology developed at the University of Leicester, and the prime focus of Leicester spinout company MIP Diagnostics, has been recognised as ‘most commercially viable’ at Europe’s flagship Drug Discovery event.

The annual ELRIG Drug Discovery conference, held at the Telford International Centre in September, is the largest Drug Discovery conference in Europe and featured a ‘Dragons’ Den’ competition. The coveted trophy is awarded to the product or service considered to be the most commercially viable and with the best prospects for generating significant revenues.

The ‘Dragons’: Alan Fletcher, VP Reagents & New Markets at PerkinElmer; Ann Kramer, CEO of the Electrospinning Company; and Gary Allenby, CSO at Aurelia Bioscience – believed that the nanoMIP technology was “potentially disruptive” in the affinity reagent field due to the speed of delivery and robustness of the nanoMIPs (molecular imprinted polymers), sometimes called ‘plastic antibodies’.

The MIP technology is the result of extensive research led by Sergey Piletsky, Professor in Bioanalytical Chemistry at Leicester.

Commenting on the accolade, Dr Adrian Kinkaid, CEO of MIP Diagnostics Ltd, said:

“This is a great endorsement of this cutting-edge technology. The Dragons clearly recognised the potential of the product and its possible application in a variety of sectors, from drug discovery applications to monitoring food contaminants or protecting the population from the growing danger of so-called ‘legal highs’.”

Dr Kinkaid was recently appointed CEO of the company following an investment of £182,000 by Mercia Fund Management.

MIP Diagnostics, a University of Leicester spinout that develops molecularly imprinted polymers for research purposes, diagnostics and drug discovery, has begun the initial expansion of its business operations with the appointment of Adrian Kinkaid as CEO. This follows a recent investment of £182,000 made by Mercia Fund Management.

Adrian will begin driving the technology into commercialisation, aiming to expand its uses into several exciting and disruptive research areas, including law enforcement, national security and food safety. He will also work towards building a successful global marketing strategy with the development of a new website, including the creation of a portfolio of successful products.

Adrian has extensive experience in the life sciences sector, with particular expertise in affinity reagents, including antibodies, affirmers and aptamers. He therefore has an in-depth understanding of the market and its competition, which will enable him to effectively market MIPS as a cost effective and high quality alternative to existing agents because of their robustness and speed of development.

Prior to joining MIP Diagnostics, Adrian worked as Chief Commercial Officer for Promexus, a protein biotherapeutics company based on affirmer technology exclusively licensed from Avacta Life Sciences. Before that he was Strategic Market Development Leader for Abcam, the leading provider of research antibodies.

Adrian is also a Founding Member of ELRIG (European Laboratory Research and Innovation Group), a not-for-profit organisation that holds conferences and events for thought leadership in the life science and drug discovery communities. Adrian served two terms as Chairman, during which time he established the flagship Drug Discovery event, which is now the leading conference of its kind in Europe.

Adrian Kinkaid said:

“As the new CEO of MIP Diagnostics, I have the opportunity to bring an exciting cutting edge technology into the market. Furthermore, this technology has the potential to expand into different sectors, from monitoring food for contaminants, to protecting the population from the growing dangers of ‘legal highs’. The technology has a number of advantages, not least of which are robustness, speed of development and the lack of ‘cold chain’ storage requirements.

“It is a privilege to begin working with MIP Diagnostics, and I look forward to building a successful, dedicated team as we start expanding our impressive portfolio of products and services.”

Nicola Broughton, Investment Director of Technology Transfer at Mercia, said:

“Adrian’s breadth of experience and exposure to different affinity reagents makes him more than capable of not only fully commercialising this disruptive technology, but also of moving it into exciting new sectors that cannot be explored by other agents on the market due to their complexity, slower speed of development and storage requirements.”

Following the recent appointment of Steve Powell as CEO and in response to the current underprovision of pure antigens for researchers in vaccine development, diagnostics and academia, The Native Antigen Company (NAC) has developed a convenient e-commerce platform that will facilitate access to its high quality catalogue of native and recombinant antigens.

NAC, divested from the University of Birmingham spinout company Hybrid Systems (now part of Psioxus), an Oxfordshire-based contract service provider specialising in the research, development and scale up manufacturing of high purity viral and bacterial antigens, has launched a sleek and secure e-shop to provide access to its industry-standard antigens to academics and researchers worldwide.

The modern facility provides easy online payment by debit or credit card, as well as detailed information on each product, such as downloadable Safety Data Sheets, and example Certificates of Analysis. This comprehensive offering complements NAC’s traditional distribution method, where products are sold unlabelled to wholesale manufacturers.

The new platform, launched alongside a website and social media channels, complements the company’s sustained growth since it received its first investment from leading technology investor Mercia Fund Management five years ago. During that time, the NAC has managed to build a strong team of scientific talent to provide a vital product line of bacterial, protozoal and viral antigens to what is a largely underserved industry.

In September 2013, NAC announced that it had successfully produced all four Dengue Virus NS1 serotypes from human cell lines. A commercial world first for the industry, this allowed research to be carried out for diagnosis and vaccine development worldwide.

Dengue is a life-threatening virus transmitted by mosquitoes. It is the leading cause of death in the tropics and subtropics, where it is most prevalent, with more than one third of the world’s population at risk. 100 million people are infected with Dengue every year, and there is currently no vaccine. However, the antigens supplied by NAC could expedite the discovery of a vaccination against Dengue, and will greatly improve Dengue diagnostic accuracy.

Nick Roesen, CSO of The Native Antigen Company, said:

“We are excited to launch our new e-commerce platform, which will open up our products to a much wider market, aiding researchers by providing high quality products straight from our manufacturing laboratories.

“Since Mercia first invested five years ago, we have increased turnover and staffing levels five-fold, drawing the best scientific talent as we continue to provide a much needed product line to an underserved industry.”

Mark Payton, CEO at Mercia Technologies, said:

“It is great to see one of the ’emerging stars’ from our Mercia Fund Management portfolio achieve such impressive results over the past five years, and we look forward to supporting the business with its expansion plans.”

Mercia Fund Management (MFM), a national fund management business with a focus on the Midlands, North and Scotland, has committed £379,000 in seed funding to NuVision Biotherapies Ltd, a University of Nottingham spinout developing effective and affordable eye care medical solutions for humans and animals.

The funding will support the commercialisation of NuVision’s ground-breaking product, Omnigen™, an easy to use, dry, amniotic membrane-derived biological bandage that can be used to treat ocular wounds caused by scratches, blisters and burns, as soon as they occur, as well as more long-term, non-healing persistent defects. Omnigen is produced using a pioneering manufacturing process called Tereo™, which was developed by the extensive research and expertise of the ophthalmic team at The University of Nottingham.

Founded by Professor Harminder Dua, a world-renowned ophthalmologist with over 43 years of clinical experience, and Dr Andrew Hopkinson, Principle Research Fellow in Academic Ophthalmology, NuVision has successfully harnessed the restorative and protective potential of amniotic membrane, the sac surrounding the baby during pregnancy, which is usually discarded at birth. Market demand for amnion products in the EU alone is valued at €48m per annum.

Omnigen, which is the result of 13 years of research, also supported by the British Ministry of Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, has the potential to be widely used on a global scale, to save millions from blindness caused by injury to the cornea. A dry, sterile Omnigen disc can be glued directly onto the ocular surface during reconstructive surgery, and permanently sutured in position. Most uniquely, it can also now be used immediately after injury, applied in the emergency room and held in place by a conformer contact lens. Rapid in vivo rehydration from eye moisture then initiates the release of beneficial amnion constituents, acting quickly to help relieve pain and stabilise the eye injuries of anyone, from a beloved pet, to soldiers on the battlefield.

NuVision’s innovative product also eliminates the problems inherent in using frozen amniotic membrane, which is unsuitable for emergency dispatch, loses its potency during the thawing process, and must be used within 48 hours. The flexible, dry and stable design means that Omnigen can be uniquely stored on the shelf at every hospital, or carried in the field in ambulances and first aid kits and used whenever it is needed. It is also of a consistently high quality, helping to quickly and effectively treat the 120,000 corneal injuries that occur each year in the UK alone.

NuVison is now based in Medicity, the UK’s rapidly-expanding hub for consumer healthcare, medical technology, diagnostics and beauty products on the Boots UK site in Nottingham.

Peter Dines, Investment Director and Head of Life Sciences at Mercia Fund Management, said:

“NuVision is the perfect example of the potential that university spinouts have in the UK – a great team, innovating research and a product set to revolutionise ophthalmic care worldwide are just a few of the reasons why we chose to back NuVision with seed funding. We look forward to supporting them as they begin to commercialise Omnigen and the Tereo process.”

Dr Andrew Hopkinson, Chief Executive of NuVision Biotherapies, said:

“We are grateful to Mercia for this investment, and we look forward especially to working with Peter Dines, who has extensive experience working with businesses in the life sciences sector.

“With a strong, experienced team, plus a pipeline of innovative products coming from The University of Nottingham, NuVision has endless potential for growth!”

Dr George Baxter, Director of Business Engagement and Innovation Services at The University of Nottingham, added:

“I am very pleased that Mercia has invested in NuVision and will help to take the company to the next stage of its development. NuVision’s ground-breaking Omnigen product, which is based on technology developed at the University of Nottingham, has huge potential in the treatment of ocular injuries. There has already been a significant amount of interest in the product around the world from both veterinary and human ophthalmologists who can see the tremendous potential of Omnigen.”

Mercia Fund Management (MFM), one of the leading technology investors in the UK, has invested a funding package of up to £500,000 into Oxford Genetics, a synthetic biology company with world-leading expertise in DNA design.

Mercia has worked closely with Oxford Genetics for over four years, which has already developed the world’s largest library of DNA plasmid “building blocks” for simplified genetic engineering via their main technology, SnapFast™, offered under an intellectual property free policy to help enable efficient research for their customers.

This latest investment will allow Oxford Genetics to propel the commercialisation of its ground-breaking DNA design and algorithm technologies which can enable biopharma and biotech companies to overcome poor protein yield, a key barrier in terms of high unit cost and/or failure to bring drugs to market.

Founded in 2011 by genetic engineer Dr Ryan Cawood and Len Seymour, Professor of gene therapies at the University of Oxford, the company’s in-depth knowledge and expertise provides a wealth of improvements and optimisations for the complex creation of recombinant proteins, which will be used to help combat many life-threatening illnesses, including Hepatitis B, HIV and Diabetes.

Commenting on the investment, CEO Mark Payton at Mercia said:

“We are pleased to further our support of Oxford Genetics as they continue to commercialise their innovative services, which have far-reaching benefits for the industry. Oxford Genetics’ successful track record for DNA design and optimisation will soon establish it as a market leader in the improvement of protein manufacture.”

Ryan Cawood, CEO and Founder of Oxford Genetics, said:

“Mercia’s investment will allow us to accelerate our research, leverage public funding and roll out our commercial programe. Over the last four years, Mercia has not only provided investment, it has also been a supportive presence on our Board, providing guidance to a rapidly evolving business.”


About Oxford Genetics

Oxford Genetics is a synthetic biology company with world leading expertise in DNA design. We transform the use of DNA by optimising every step of its activity. Key to our focus is an understanding of hor protein expression can be enhanced to provide our customers with the opportunity to overcome factors which would otherwise inhibit protein yield in their manufacturing processes, in particular, when using mammalian cells.

For the complete solution, through our bespoke DNA design service we provide both optimised gene coding sequences and plasmid expression. This is supported by a range of proprietary media and reagents designed specifically to maximise the expression of recombinant DNA in versatile cell culture systems.

We also offer the world’s largest and most versatile collection of inter-compatible DNA plasmids to make complex cloning procedures routine.

www.oxfordgenetics.com

Mercia Fund Management (MFM), a national fund management business with a focus on the Midlands, North and Scotland, has expanded its Life Sciences portfolio with investments into two university spin-outs. These include a Warwick-based business developing an innovative patch delivery system to enhance the efficacy of a variety of market ready drugs, and a Leicester-based highly disruptive biotech company with an innovation targeting improved efficiencies across key research areas.

Medherant Ltd, which was founded by Warwick Ventures Ltd, the University of Warwick’s technology commercialisation company, received a capital injection of £300,000, which will be used to enhance the development of its transdermal drug delivery systems.

MIP Diagnostic Ltd, MFM’s first investment into a spin-out from the University of Leicester, manufactures chemical substitutes for antibodies required for research purposes, and received £182,000.

Medherant has been developing a technology to provide market ready drugs, such as painkillers, anti-infectives or hormone therapies, in the form of comfortable and easy-to-use patches. The company’s capabilities have been enhanced through an exciting new deal that will permit Medherant to use Bostik’s patented heat and moisture curable press sensitive adhesive (PSA) in the field of transdermal drug delivery.

Medherant’s innovative patch technology promises faster released drugs in higher concentrations from a single layer patch that is more comfortable, durable and easier to remove. Importantly, the simplicity of the patch construction allows for the development of patches for drugs previously unsuited for this type of delivery.

Andrew Lee, Business Development Manager at Warwick Ventures Ltd, said:

“The hard work and commitment of the Medherant management team and the Mercia Fund has meant that we were able to get the company, set up, funded and ready to go in record time. We are all very optimistic about Medherant’s future!”

MIP Diagnostic Ltd, a spin-out from the Leicester Biotechnology Group, Department of Chemistry, has developed technology to provide Molecular Imprinted Polymers (MIPS) to the pharmaceutical, diagnostic and chemical research industries. Unlike their counterparts – antibodies, affirmers and aptamers – MIPS are not biologically derived, which means that they are more stable and also cost effective for the research industry, as they take a week to make rather than months.

MIPS are chemically formulated to mimic the lock and key mechanism of biological antibodies, affirmers and aptamers, but, unlike antibodies, which can only fit to a pre-designated lock, MIPS can be designed to fit to a potentially vast amount of locks, removing the potential for error and simplifying the research process. For this reason, they are increasingly being considered as an alternative to antibodies, affirmers and aptamers, and have the potential to compete in many similar markets on a global scale.

Dr Sharon Spencer, Director of Technology Commercialisation at the University of Leicester said:

“The investment by Mercia Fund Management into the MIP technology is testament to its potential as an innovative research tool. MIP Diagnostics Ltd has evolved from work initiated at Cranfield University and has been supported by funding from the Wellcome Trust. Our work with Mercia will enable the company to provide a range of custom-made MIPs and support the integration of MIPs into a new range of diagnostic applications.”

Commenting on the investments, Dr Nicola Broughton, who was recently appointed Investment Director of Technology Transfer, said:

“MFM is pleased to provide early stage investment to two Life Sciences business, both of which offer disruptive technologies with huge benefits to the sector.
“These investments also further strengthen our partnerships with the Universities of Warwick and Leicester. Mercia has an enviable pipeline of exciting technology and research from our strong ties to universities in the Midlands. North and Scotland, and we are excited to work alongside them as they start to build a commercially viable product from their research.”