Innovation news in brief: X-ray microscopes; pharmaceutical; medical technology

Dr Kenneth Fahy, co-founder (left) and Tony McEnroe, CEO, SiriusXT

Award-winning spin-out creates world’s first soft x-ray microscope

A University College Dublin (UCD) spin-out has created a soft x-ray microscope, the first of its kind in the world, which allows researchers to produce highly detailed 3D images in their own labs.

SiriusXT, co-founded by Dr Kenneth Fahy, Dr Fergal O’Reilly and Dr Paul Sheridan, is a spin-out from the UCD School of Physics.

The company, which was recently named Best Early Stage Company in Ireland at the final of the 2015 InterTradeIreland All-Island Seedcorn Investor Readiness Competition, has spent eight years developing the technology for its soft x-ray microscope called SXT.

SXT is a benchtop system that allows researchers to produce images in their own labs. Their product takes a powerful laser to make a little fireball as hot as the centre of the sun and about a tenth of the width of a human hair in diameter.

This fireball produces a kind of light that allows them to illuminate single cells or tissue samples and produce beautiful 3D images of cells that cannot be produced any other way.

The images reveal in unprecedented detail the inner workings of life, drugs and disease on a cellular scale. The light sources that have been used to pioneer the technique are the size of a football stadium and cost over €250 million. Their light source will fit on a small table, and will let disease and drug researchers see changes in cells with a tool they can easily fit into their microscopy labs.

Tony McEnroe, CEO, SiriusXT said: “We are delighted to win the best Early Stage Company award. Entering the competition has been very rewarding for us. The investors on the judging panel acknowledge that they ‘got’ the value proposition when this was presented and we have learned that it is not just the best technology that makes the best business proposition, but the best complete solution for the target customer’s problem.”

In addition to the Best Early Stage Company Award, SiriusXT won a cash prize of €50,000.

Almac announces £16m expansion plans

Craigavon-based pharmaceutical firm Almac is expanding its operations to the 70-acre Charnwood Campus in Loughborough.

The existing Charnwood facilities were originally designed and built by AstraZeneca as part of its in-house manufacturing and analytical testing capabilities.

Almac has already began recommissioning the facilities with operations focusing initially on expanding both non-potent and potent solid oral dose processing.

The £16m investment is expected to create 180 new jobs over the next 5 years. An operational start date is targeted for Q1 2017.

Graeme McBurney, managing director, Almac Pharma Services, said: “As we experience increased client demand for our pharmaceutical development and niche commercial manufacturing services, this latest expansion will significantly enhance Almac’s offering, increasing capacity and capability and further demonstrating our continued commitment to support our global clients in the development and manufacturing of their drug products.”

Gosia Khrais, commercial and marketing director for Charnwood Campus, said: “The decision by Almac Group to expand its UK operations into Loughborough demonstrates the confidence such global companies have in locating in the East Midlands. Charnwood Campus is a major contributor to the region’s life sciences cluster and will continue its expansion as more of our facilities come on-stream.”

Swedish card game scoops European innovation award

More than One Story – a Swedish card game to promote integration and inclusion – has won The Council of Europe’s Democracy Innovation Award.

More Than One Story  is a card game building bridges between people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures, and has proved to be a valuable tool for teachers, social workers, religious leaders, event co-ordinators and youth leaders.

The award was presented by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland.

Global recognition for Surrey Research Park’s Evolving Knowledge Transfer programme

Surrey Research Park’s Evolving Knowledge Transfer (EKT) programme, a knowledge sharing initiative which gives visibility to innovative ideas and seeks to inspire others, has won first place in the International Association of Science Park’s Inspiring Solutions Programme 2015.

The Icompetition attracted entries from across the world, nine of which were shortlisted by an expert committee to go forward to the members voting round.

Main features of Surrey's EKT programme include:

  • Creating annual links between companies on the Surrey Research Park and students on the MBA programme at the University of Surrey to support the development of a business model for commercialisation of new technology.
  • MBA students from the University of Surrey’s Business School are invited to run an Action Consultancy Module for MBA students that undertake a consultancy on a real live business problem for companies on the Surrey Research Park.
  •  The University is now starting to use staff from companies on the Park to co-teach on technology and business courses in the University.
  • The University of Surrey is now encouraging all PhD students to increase the economic impact of their research.
  • Links are being developed with companies on the Surrey Research Park that move university-business relationships up the ‘value chain’ by shifting from a transactional engagement with the companies to a model based on strategic partnerships to provide a more supportive long term working relationship with companies and help influence the innovation process.

Stent Tek wins funding to develop medical technology

Medtech company Stent-Tek has won £1m in funding from the NHS National Institute for Health Research to develop its revolutionary medical device.

Stent-Tek’s innovative Electronic Percutaneous Anastomosis Technology for Haemodialysis (ePATH) device will ensure minimally invasive vascular access for patients with kidney disease.

The MedBIC-based company have developed a fully functioning prototype and they are planning to move to the next phase of testing. The company aims to carry out clinical trials with patients by 2017.  Stent Tek expect to get the technology approved for market release in Europe and the US and into the European market by late 2018.

The company predict that their technology could have other uses including improving coronary bypass procedures in patients with heart conditions and opening up arteries that are blocked.