Innovation news in brief: Drug discovery; synthetic biology; Exeter Science Park; biotechnology

Reef-dwelling marine organisms could spearhead a fresh fight against cancer

Marine organisms used to fight cancer

Drugs developed by enzymes from reef-dwelling marine organisms could spearhead a fresh fight against cancer.

The new therapeutic drugs, called macrocycles, are being developed by a Ripptide Pharma Ltd, a company spun out of research conducted by the universities of Aberdeen and St Andrews.

Macrocycles are valuable as they can act against targets in a similar way to biologics, which are proteins that have been genetically engineered from human genes. They promise both oral administration and a lower cost to manufacture.

Ripptide co-founder Prof Marcel Jaspars of the University of Aberdeen explained further: “The new technology is based on a set of enzymes, isolated from marine organisms – blue green algae living inside sea squirts - which can create and modify macrocycles. Using a knowledge of the structures and mechanisms of these enzymes, we have engineered them for higher activity so that they can be used in a chemoenzymatic manufacturing process. We are now able to produce complex molecules in two weeks, compared to six months previously.

“These will be particularly effective in treating conditions where the therapy relies on the disruption of protein-protein interactions. This type of drug target is often difficult to pursue with conventional ‘small molecule’ drugs.”

BioCity and Waters open new laboratory at Alderley Park

Waters Corporation and BioCity have opened a new open access analytical laboratory in the BioHub at Alderley Park.

The new laboratory offers Waters’ state-of-the-art liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry and informatics technologies, within a suite of analytical modules for scientists working in the pharmaceutical and life science industries.

Rohit Khanna, Waters’ senior vice president, said: “The companies located at BioHub are engaged in breakthrough research and development. Close engagement with these companies provides Waters with a deeper insight into their needs and challenges.”

Dr Glenn Crocker CEO, BioCity Group, said: “At Alderley Park, and indeed across the BioCity group, we are working with a growth formula that provides emerging and growing companies with access to everything they need to succeed - be it people, facilities, finance or technology.”

Developing novel materials with synthetic biology

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) is committing up to £18 million over the next four years exploring the potential impact of synthetic biology on the UK’s defence and security capabilities.

The government has identified synthetic biology as a key high-growth emerging technology. Synthetic biology has been described as the design and engineering of biologically based components, novel devices and systems as well as the redesign of existing, natural biological systems. It has the potential to deliver important new applications and improve existing industrial processes.

Dstl’s Prof Neil Stansfield said: “It is important that Dstl keeps abreast of such emerging technologies, ensuring that our armed forces can benefit from cutting-edge capability. Our programme champions innovation; and works with partners to explore and deliver exciting new technology opportunities for the security and prosperity of the UK.”

Dashboard joins Exeter Science Park

Dashboard, a provider of remote monitoring services to companies in the oil and gas industry, has become the latest tenant to sign up at Exeter Science Park Centre, reports Insider.

Dashboard, founded early in 2015, has developed a platform which provides continuous monitoring to oil and gas operators of their infrastructure, to support the prevention of environmental damage due to leaks, sabotage, and theft.

Founder Piers Corfield said: "Since discovering the Centre, building new partnerships and extending our commercial engagement with some of the world's largest oil and gas companies, we have doubled in size, necessitating our taking twice as much office space in the Centre as originally intended."

Arcis Biotechnology secures £2.5 million investment

Sci-Tech Daresbury-based biotech Arcis Biotechnology has raised £2.5 million in an oversubscribed fundraise, supported by existing shareholders and new investors.

Now valued at circa £15million, the company will continue to commercialise its ground-breaking R&D-led portfolio of products, including bringing its novel malaria diagnostic test to market to help detect this globally significant disease quickly, in its very early stages, and crucially, at a low cost.

Peter Whitehurst, chief executive of Arcis Biotechnology, commented: “It’s testament to the success of Arcis Biotechnology to date and our future pipeline of technology platforms and products that this latest funding round was oversubscribed by both existing and new investors.”

He added: “With strong research and commercialisation teams already in place and a great pipeline of products, we’re in a unique position to capitalise on both current and future market opportunities in the molecular diagnostics sector.‎”