Mercia Asset Management’s direct investment portfolio company, The Native Antigen Company, has announced that it has made a key breakthrough in reproducing the antigen for the Coronavirus.

Mercia first backed The Native Antigen Company through its managed funds in 2010 before making a direct investment in 2014. Since then the company has grown by 400% and now exports to public and private research centres in 25 countries.

The company announced just yesterday that its scientists had succeeded in less than five weeks to reproduce the key antigen components of the Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). These reagents will enable scientists worldwide to accelerate development of both early tests for asymptomatic patients and vaccines. The company is widely known its expertise in this field having used its proprietary VirtuE expression system to rapidly develop antigens for other major health threats, including the recent Zika and Dengue outbreaks.

Dr Andy Lane, Commercial Director, The Native Antigen Company, said: “Responding to the World Health Organisation’s R&D Blueprint, we have worked hard to build rapid response manufacturing capabilities to become “first responders” to public health emergencies such as this latest outbreak. These new antigens have been derived specifically from Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), using our highly advanced VirtuE expression system to faithfully reproduce all their complexities. We have already been approached by several groups leading the development of rapid tests and vaccines, and will soon begin shipping through our global supplier network.”

Professor Richard Tedder, Department of Infectious Disease, Imperial College London, welcomed the breakthrough: “Modern genomics techniques enabled the virus to be sequenced in a matter of days, but actually replicating the antigens with high fidelity is a key step towards developing accurate screening assays and effective vaccines.”

Peter Dines – Chief Operating Officer & Head of Life Sciences & Biosciences, said: “The Native Antigen Company is now one of the world’s leading suppliers of infectious disease reagents and is credited for its rapid response capabilities to overcome the complexities and challenges of international health threats such as the Zika virus and Dengue. This recent breakthrough is testament to the team’s expertise and proprietary systems to accelerate development of antigens to  viruses that pose a significant global risk and there is currently no vaccine and specific treatment available”.

For more information about The Native Antigen Company’s Novel Coronavirus antigens, please visit:

Invizius, the Mercia-backed company which is developing potentially lifesaving products for dialysis patients, has made four high-profile appointments as it prepares to enter the next stage of its development.

The new directors all have international experience in leading pharma and life sciences businesses. Their arrival follows the recent £2.75m investment in Invizius by a consortium of investors including Mercia, Downing Ventures, the University of Edinburgh’s Old College Capital fund and the Scottish Investment Bank, the investment arm of Scottish Enterprise.

Eric Beard, who joins as Chairman, spent most of his career at Baxter Healthcare as a corporate Vice President and was also President of its global renal dialysis business. He has held senior positions at Sorin Group and Gish Biomedical, both active in the renal and oxygenation markets, and as Executive Chairman at Cellnovo until its flotation on the Paris stock market.

Dr Sandra Neumann, who joins as Non-Executive Director, is a former General Manager of Baxter’s renal business. Based in Zurich, she is founder and CEO of Peripal, which is developing a patient aid for dialysis, and a board member at Solvias, and a former senior associate at McKinsey & Company.

Dr Magnus Nicolson, the new Chief Operating Officer, has led public and private companies including Viragen, CytoKine PharmaSciences and EctoPharma, and was general manager of the BASF Pharma plant on Lewis. Magnus is also Chair of SRSL at the Scottish Association for Marine Science.

James Robson, who joins as Chief Financial Officer, has spent almost 30 years leading life science companies, initially working within the Boots and Reckitt Benckiser groups and, more recently, heading the European arm of Japanese pharma company Shionogi. James is currently also CFO of University of Warwick spin-out Medherant.

Invizius’s H-Guard™ product is a powerful anti-inflammatory that could reduce the huge death toll from cardiovascular disease among long-term dialysis patients. The company is currently preparing to enter clinical trials and aims to raise Series A funding within 18 months.

Richard Boyd, co-founder and CEO of Invizius, said: “We are delighted to welcome such high-calibre individuals to our team. Their experience will be invaluable in guiding the business through the next stage of its development as we move closer towards our goal to improve the lives of three million dialysis patients.”

Dr Nicola Broughton of Mercia said: “Invizius’ success in attracting these internationally renowned industry figures demonstrates the respect in which it is held and their confidence in its technology. The new line-up makes the company well placed to become a global success story.”



PHOTO: Pictured back from left to right are co-founders Dr Andy Herbert and Richard Boyd and front, from left, James Robson, Dr Sandra Neumann, Eric Beard and Dr Magnus Nicolson.

A contract research business is planning to double in size following a £750,000 investment from the Northern Venture Capital Trust Funds (VCTs), which are managed by Mercia.

Gentronix Ltd provides toxicology testing services  for pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, cosmetics, personal care and consumer products. The company helps clients including major global brands to perform hazard and safety assessments, from early stage discovery through to regulatory submission and approval. Services are delivered by an expert scientific team, with a keen focus on minimal use of test substances and responsive timeframes.

Gentronix, which currently employs 30 staff at its premises at Cheshire’s Alderley Park, grew turnover by 15 per cent last year and is on course to achieve a 20 per cent rise in the current year. The investment will allow it to expand its capabilities and services, creating around 30 new jobs for scientists within the next two years. It is the third round of funding from the Northern VCTs and brings their total investment in the business to £2.75m.

Matt Tate, who  took over as CEO in 2017, said the company now planned to increase its capacity  for genetic and skin toxicology services, and add in new bioanalytical, gene mutation, 3D in vitro skin models and phototoxicity services.

He added: “This further investment from the Northern VCTs gives us the financial platform to accelerate the growth we have achieved in the past 12 months. It will enable us to increase our specialist toxicology capabilities, target gaps in the market and strengthen our offering across our key sectors. I look forward to leading the team in this exciting period of growth.”

Carmine Circelli of Mercia said: “Gentronix has built a reputation within the industry for its scientific expertise and its ability to deliver reliable data to clients within the agreed timeframe. Under the direction of Matt and his team, the business has gone from strength to strength, secured some major new contract wins and achieved its best ever financial results. This funding will allow it to continue to expand its toxicology service in line with market demand and create new skilled jobs in the North West.”

The Northern VCTs, which provide series A venture investment of up to £5million for high growth SMEs, are amongst the longest-established funds of their type in the UK. They are now managed by Mercia following its acquisition of the VCT fund management business of NVM Private Equity in December 2019.


A company which has developed a new eco-friendly wastewater treatment system that could reduce pollution in rivers and seas has raised £700,000 to help it launch its technology to the market.

Industrial Phycology (I-Phyc) has secured the funding from the MEIF Proof of Concept & Early Stage Fund, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund, and the University of Bristol Enterprise Fund, which is managed by Parkwalk. The company, which has laboratories in Bristol, has now set up new headquarters in Birmingham and is creating 19 jobs in the city.

I-Phyc’s system uses the natural power of algae to remove nutrients from sewage and wastewater. Not only can it reduce pollutants such as phosphorous and nitrogen, but the biomass that is recovered can be used to generate biogas or fertiliser. The system also helps operators to reduce their carbon footprint as the algae captures and retains carbon emissions.

Unlike other systems which rely on light being shone on the surface of the algal mixture, I-Phycs uses lighting to penetrate the depth of the mix, which improves its effectiveness and drastically reduces the size of tank required, making it ideal even for smaller treatment plants.

The company was founded in 2012 by CEO Dr Dan Murray, a former academic and algae expert who was awarded grants totaling £3.5m to help develop the technology. The firm has already carried out one successful trial with Wessex Water at Avonmouth sewage works and is currently demonstrating the technology at a plant in Weston-super-Mare. The latest funding will support the building of its team in Birmingham as the firm prepares to make its first commercial sales.

Russell Bright, the company’s Chairman, said: “UK rivers drastically need improvement, with only 14 per cent meeting the minimum ‘good’ standard. Although new regulations aim to impose a major reduction in the level of phosphorus in wastewater, many sewage plants cannot achieve this with their existing technology and some smaller ones cannot remove phosphorus at all. I-Phyc’s technology offers a chemical-free and natural solution that could help clean up our polluted coasts and rivers.”

Jo Slota-Newson, Investment Manager at Mercia, added: “I-Phyc’s team are amongst the world’s leading experts in the use of algae for water treatment and are working to solve the twin global issues of phosphorus pollution in water and shortage of phosphorus for other purposes. We believe the technology has huge potential, not only for sewage treatment but also for use in fishing, farming and industry, in the UK and worldwide.”

Grant Peggie, Director at the British Business Bank, said: “It is great to see another innovative, growing business secure investment, as this is a key priority for the Midlands Engine Investment Fund and our LEP partners. We would encourage other expanding businesses in the Midlands to consider the funding available through the MEIF.”

Pat Hanlon, Director for Access to Finance at Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP), said: “This is yet another example of an ambitious and innovative business which has chosen to base its operations in Birmingham. The environment is one of the key global issues of this generation, so to welcome leading experts from a key sector to the city will undoubtedly prove to be a huge boost to the already extensive skillset we can offer in the region.”

The Midlands Engine 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.

Sense Biodetection, the Cambridge-based diagnostics company which is backed by Mercia, has raised £12.3m to develop a new range of tests, initially targeting infectious diseases like flu.

The company has secured a £10.5m Series A investment from a consortium including Cambridge Innovation Capital (CIC), Earlybird, founder Jonathan Milner and Mercia. It has also received a grant of £1.8m from Innovate UK. 

Sense is focused on the development of instrument-free molecular diagnostics, which represent the ultimate flexible test format and are aimed at transforming the industry by delivering for the first time, true point-of-care molecular testing.  The company’s products will allow rapid tests for viral and bacterial pathogens, such as those causing respiratory infections or sexually transmitted diseases, to be performed within minutes in doctors’ offices, pharmacies or community facilities, ensuring more timely treatment and management of infections.

Mercia first invested in 2016 and has taken an active role in helping to shape the business Peter Dines, Mercia’s Head of Lifesciences and Biosciences who has significant experience in building lifescience companies, has worked closely with Sense, helping to shape the strategy and build the board and management team. In 2018 it appointed Heiner Dreismann, the President and CEO of Roche Molecular Systems, as Chair.  

Sense CEO Harry Lamble said: “With the support of an exceptional new investment syndicate and continued support from Mercia, Sense is positioned to become first-in-class and best-in-class in the exciting new field of instrument-free molecular diagnostics and to realise its vision to transform healthcare through decentralisation.” 

Peter Dines of Mercia said: “We believe that Sense has created a truly disruptive platform for real point-of-care molecular diagnostics. We have worked closely with the company from the early stages. Mercia remains a highly supportive investor and we look forward to watching the company disrupt the market and create significant shareholder value.”






Invizius, the University of Edinburgh spin-out whose technology could help reduce the high death rates amongst dialysis patients, has raised £2.75m from a consortium of investors.

The funding round was led by Mercia and included Downing Ventures, the University’s Old College Capital fund and the Scottish Investment Bank. The latest investment will support the company as it conducts pre-clinical testing and manufacturing, and prepares to enter clinical trials and to raise Series A funding within 18 months.

Invizius’s technology stems from research by the company’s co-founder and CTO, Dr Andy Herbert, and his team who believe it could reduce the huge death toll from cardiovascular disease among long-term dialysis patients. Currently life expectancy on dialysis is just one-third of normal, and half of patients die from cardiovascular complications. The problem is that the immune system sees the dialysis filter as a foreign body, creating inflammation that damages the cardiovascular system over time, and multiple treatments.

Invizius’s H-Guard™ product is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can be used to coat the filter surface to ‘hide’ it and prevent an immune response. The technology also has potential for use with devices such as heart and lung machines, stents and grafts or in organ and cell transplants. Invizius has won awards including OBN Best Innovative Medtech and was named as one of the Fierce 15 Medtech companies to watch.

Richard Boyd, co-founder and CEO of Invizius, said: “Our goal is to bring much-needed improvement to the lives of three million dialysis patients. This investment allows us to take a big step towards this, and we are delighted to have won the backing of a consortium of smart, well-funded investors.”

Invizius was Mercia’s first investment following its partnership with the University of Edinburgh. Since its initial £500,000 investment in April last year, it has worked with the company to develop its offering and attract other investors.

The Mercia team was led by Dr Nicola Broughton, Head of Universities, and Marcus Henderson, Investment Director. Nicola said: “Invizius is a great example of how Mercia can ‘seed’ a university spin-out and build it to attract the attention of high-quality investors. With our sector knowledge, experience with early-stage businesses and local presence in the market, Mercia is ideally placed to work with Invizius, and others like it, to create new Scottish success stories.”

The Invizius team is supported by Edinburgh Innovations (EI), the University’s commercialisation service. EI has also helped develop the partnership between Mercia and the University, and manages Old College Capital.

Dr George Baxter, Chief Executive Officer of Edinburgh Innovations, said: “This substantial investment reflects the great promise we’ve seen in Invizius from the initial identification of novel science, and the University is pleased to join the consortium in backing this technology, which holds so much potential for so many people.”

Invizius received early-stage funding from Scottish Enterprise’s High-Growth Spinout Programme, with the agency now following this up with support from its investment arm, the Scottish Investment Bank (SIB).

SIB Director Kerry Sharp said: “Invizius has built a reputation, both domestically and internationally, as one of the world’s most promising MedTech companies in a very short space of time. The investment the company has attracted is testament to the momentum gained in developing its potentially life-saving technology. We look forward to supporting Invizius through the next stage of its growth journey.”

Mercia Asset Management PLC is pleased to confirm that its portfolio company OXGENE, formally known as Oxford Genetics, has augmented its relationship with one of the world’s leading global life science companies, Abcam plc. 

Dr Mark Payton, CEO of Mercia Asset Management PLC and non-executive director of OXGENE said, “OXGENE epitomises a truly disruptive approach and is building an impressive reputation with numerous commercial partnerships such as the one with Abcam. We have backed the company since the very start and are delighted to be involved in their journey as they continue to grow their position in the global multi-billion-dollar life sciences market.”

You can read the full RNS Reach here.

A Midlands regenerative medicine company has secured a £1.4m investment to fund clinical trials on its new cutting-edge treatment for dry eye disease.

The funding for NuVision Biotherapies Ltd comes in part from the MEIF Proof of Concept & Early Stage Fund, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund; Mercia’s own funds; and investment from the University of Nottingham and BioCity. It will also allow the company to fund additional research and development and expand its sales and marketing team, creating six new jobs.

NuVision’s therapy, Omnigen, is based on research carried out at the University of Nottingham by Dr Andrew Hopkinson. It harnesses the regenerative properties of amniotic membrane which surrounds babies in the womb and is normally discarded at birth. The company, which was founded in 2015 with funding from Mercia and the University, has also developed a bespoke contact lens product, OmniLenz®, that allows Omnigen to be applied in a simple five-minute procedure in outpatient clinics, eliminating the need for surgery and sutures.

NuVision has established fully licensed clinical grade manufacturing facilities at its premises in Nottingham’s MediCity, where it currently employs 16 people. The company, which initially focused on treating eye conditions, is now also expanding into wound treatment and has made sales to the NHS and internationally.

Dr Andrew Hopkinson, the CEO, said: ‘We are delighted to have the support of Mercia and the Midlands Engine Investment Fund. This exciting stage of growth will be transformative for NuVision, helping to deliver our product Omnigen as a routine therapy for ‘in clinic’ treatment of eye conditions such as dry eye disease, whilst establishing the company as an international regenerative medicine specialist.“

Isabel Dodd, Investment Manager at Mercia, said: “NuVision has made significant progress since its inception. This new investment will help to demonstrate the benefits of its product for eye conditions, while the investment in research and development will help it to develop treatments for other conditions such as diabetic foot ulcers, allowing millions of other people worldwide to benefit from this new therapy.”

Dr Susan Huxtable, Director of Technology Transfer at the University of Nottingham, said: “It is really pleasing to see the continued growth and development of University of Nottingham spin-out, NuVision. We are delighted to make this investment, alongside MEIF, Mercia and BioCity, which will help realise the benefits of Omnigen® for many more patients.”

Ken Cooper, Managing Director at the British Business Bank, said: “This deal is a great example of how finance from the Midlands Engine Investment Fund can be used alongside other investors, allowing NuVision to launch clinical trials, create jobs and also continue researching new treatments.”

Sajeeda Rose, CEO for the D2N2 LEP, said: “We’re delighted to see innovative companies like NuVision continue to attract funding in order to refine and produce products that will have a real impact on the lives of people far beyond our region.

“NuVision has benefited from substantial government investment in recent years, including £2 million from the ERDF via the INSTILLS project, and £740,000 from the Local Growth Fund used to develop MediCity where the company is based.

“It’s this joined-up approach to sustained funding that results in the best outcomes for businesses both in terms of productivity and innovation.”

The Midlands Engine 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.

Dr Isabel Dodd talks exclusively to Investment Week about developments in healthcare provision and technology.  In this article Isabel looks at the key themes investors should look out for in the life sciences arena and the significant progress in the life sciences industry.

You can read the full article here.

Mercia has today announced an additional £2.0million direct investment as part of a circa
£2.4million syndicated investment round into Medherant the clinical-stage company developing innovative products for pain and CNS diseases using a unique transdermal delivery technology, TEPI Patch®.

Mark Payton, Chief Executive Officer at Mercia Technologies PLC, said: “Medherant represents Mercia’s second largest investment within our direct investment portfolio of Life Science & Biosciences companies, which combined account for circa 25% of our direct investment portfolio by value. We are encouraged by the progress the team is making and this latest round of syndicated investment will support the continued development of Medherant’s suite of unique transdermal patches, targeted at attractive high-growth markets with significant unmet medical needs.”

You can read the full RNS here.