Innovation news in brief: Drug discovery; sharing economy; biotherapeutics

Inspiralis – at the forefront of drug discovery

Global role for drug discovery firm Inspiralis

A business that grew out of research laboratories at Norwich’s John Innes Centre has become a global force in the battle against infectious diseases and cancer.

Inspiralis supplies products and services to businesses and academics working at the forefront of drug discovery and antibiotic development and one of a number of innovative new businesses that have prospered at Norwich Research Park.

Founded in 2008 to service the needs of professionals working in specialist areas of biochemistry, Inspiralis’ customer base spans the globe – and it is widely recognised as the number one topoisomerase company in the world.

“A key element of our business is to supply the necessary tools and materials to develop and screen novel anti-infective and anti-cancer compounds,” said founder director Dr Nicolas Burton.

“The overseas demand for our services from research groups working in the pharmaceutical industry and academia around the world is so great that today 90% of our products are exported.”

Inspiralis has continued to go from strength to strength, recently expanding into new premises at the Innovation Centre.

The sharing economy: apply for business funding for new ideas

Innovate UK’s IC tomorrow programme is seeking innovative ideas to grow trust in the sharing economy and support it in the fields of tourism, travel, home improvements, construction and data.

The sharing economy is a growing phenomenon. It involves the use of Internet technologies to connect people and organisations so they can make better use of goods, skills, services, capital and spaces, allowing them to share access and reduce the need for ownership.

Examples include Airbnb, which connects a host with a spare room with a traveller looking for somewhere to stay, and Lyft, a ride-sharing service.

Up to six businesses could win £30,000 each to encourage innovation in the sharing economy. Successful businesses will have the opportunity to work alongside partners including Sharing Economy UK, Airbnb, Nesta, Kingfisher (owner of B&Q and Castorama), Crossrail, Peterborough City Council and Cranfield University.

The competition opens on 7 March 2016, and applications must be submitted by noon on 12 April 2016.

Find out more here.

A celebration of innovation

A celebration of innovation in the East of England region has been launched by the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership (LEP)

#100InnovativeDays draws together some of the greatest innovations from the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough area from historic discoveries that have changed the way we live today to the latest innovations that will change the way we live in the future

Neil Darwin, Chief Executive of the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough LEP, said: “Our area is internationally renowned for our innovation credentials, so we wanted to celebrate these many and varied achievements that have defined the future through this new campaign. From the discovery of DNA through to the cutting edge composite technology, our area is a hive of innovation activity. Every day for the next 100 days we will be showcasing an innovation via @YourLEP on Twitter using the hashtag #100InnovativeDays.”

To apply, companies need to complete a short application form that can be downloaded from

The five shortlisted companies will have the chance to showcase their products or services for free at Venturefest East on 24th May 2016 at Newmarket Racecourse, with the winner being entered into the Fast and Furious Pitch Off, where they will compete with other companies to win the crown of the greatest innovation of the East.

New Radicals 2016: search on for UK’s pioneering people and projects

Run by The Observer and innovation foundation Nesta, the public are being invited to nominate those making a difference in their communities or further afield. This might include supporting vulnerable groups such as the elderly or disadvantaged, transforming the delivery of public services or developing new, groundbreaking technologies.

New Radicals first launched in 2012 and was repeated in 2014 when more than 1,000 entries were submitted and whittled down to just 50 by an expert judging panel. These included:

· StreetBnk: A neighbourhood sharing website which provides people with a platform to swap and lend items.

· Bio Bean: Recycling used coffee into sustainable, low-carbon biofuels.

· Cocktails in Care Homes: Tackling isolation amongst care home residents by hosting monthly evening cocktail parties.

· Peek Vision: An easy-to-use, affordable and portable system for testing eyes anywhere in the world.

Visit for more details.

Sphere Fluidics: biotherapeutics device attracts $7 million investment

A Cambridge life sciences company that has developed a revolutionary system for single-cell analysis in the biopharmaceutical market has secured private investment totalling $7 million.

Sphere Fluidics Ltd’s Cyto-Mine device promises to transform the discovery and development of biotherapeutics for treatment of cancer and inflammatory diseases and vaccine generation.

The company, based at the Babraham Research Campus in Cambridge, plans to launch a commercial version of Cyto-Mine later this year.

The funding round was led by an Asian corporate investor but included existing angel investors and funds such as 24Haymarket, Parkwalk Advisors and London Business Angels. A number of leading biopharmaceutical companies are also helping to fund development of the device.

Sphere Fluidics benefited in 2015 from Innovate UK funding for a feasibility study and a follow-on collaborative R&D project, together totalling £310,000.