The University of Manchester I3 Ltd (UMI3), the University’s Innovation Group, and The UMIP Premier Fund (UPF), managed by MTI Partners, are pleased to announce today the launch of a £1M Graphene and innovative materials technology development funding call. This is for proof-of-principle and feasibility work, beyond the research grant stage. The UPF will also be able to supply follow-on funding to those projects which are successful at the proof-of-principle stage and which continue to show good potential for commercialisation. There is already a number of academics at the University working on various existing University proprietary graphene developments, which have been part-funded by UPF.
Clive Rowland, UMI3 CEO, said: “with the positive news of the Government’s invitation for the University to be the sole bidder for the National Graphene Institute, we are keen to complement the amazing range of fundamental research and experimental activity carried out here by making additional funding available for those colleagues across the campus who are interested in technology transfer and keen to take the next steps beyond their research results. For example by scale-up of lab work, making devices, exploring routes to manufacture, applications, and market opportunities, registering intellectual property rights and ultimately commercialising their outcomes. Personal commitment to entrepreneurship is very much integral to this process and we will include enterprise training and mentoring as part of those projects which are successful submissions. We look forward to receiving innovative, thought-provoking proposals from all categories of staff and PhD students.” Richard Henderson, Managing Partner of MTI, the UPF’s manager, said: ”MTI is delighted to continue to support the ground-breaking and innovative work in the commercialisation of graphene with The University of Manchester at the leading edge.” Note: The details of the call for proposals will be issued in early September with a short closing date. There will be a quick evaluation process with a view to successful proposals starting in Dec 2012/Jan 2013. Please check the UMIP website (www.umip.com ) for further details at the end of August.
Impression of a corrugated graphene sheet. Jannick Meyer
UMIP start-up, STORM® Suicide Prevention (www.stormskillstraining.co.uk) has announced a partnership with bereavement specialist John Peters, to create a trailblazing postvention training program for staff in the healthcare, social and criminal justice sectors.
The collaboration is aimed at enabling STORM® to create and roll-out a new component to the training programme for front-line staff working with the people most affected by the suicide of a loved one, for example partners, family members and colleagues.
John has first-hand experience of suicide having lost his son, Dale, twenty years ago. Since Dale’s death, John has studied for a Masters degree in Suicidology and become a volunteer for the Survivors of Bereavement (www.uk-sobs.org.uk) by Suicide telephone helpline. He and his wife Jean also run two support groups for the charity.
Postvention is an important discipline in the field of suicide prevention and can help to prevent further suicides as loved ones try to deal with their loss; it can help to alleviate distress and provide coping strategies for those affected by a suicide.
STORM® co-founder, Dr. Gill Green commented: “STORM® was set-up as a not-for-profit organisation to provide training to workers with day-to-day interaction with potentially vulnerable people. Our existing training is focused upon recognising the signs and building a safety plan for people displaying suicidal and/or self-harming tendencies.”
Gill continued: “It made perfect sense for us to look into creating a component to the training package to enable those same front-line workers to support people in the aftermath of a suicide; some of whom may also be at risk of self-harm.”
“I have known John for quite a while now and respect the important work he has done in the field of postvention. As such, he was the first person I considered approaching to assist STORM® with creating such necessary and sensitive training courses.”
John Peters added “I am very pleased to be able to endorse the work that Storm is doing at the moment. I am looking forward to collaborating further with the team and putting together a postvention training package to provide relevant staff with the tools that they need to support those going through what is a highly emotive and unsettling experience.”
UMIP is The University of Manchester’s agent for intellectual property commercialisation and has been working with Gill and the STORM® team to start up what began as a not-for-profit venture in 2003 into a Social Enterprise Community Interest Company.
Arvia Technology Ltd secures £3.8m investment to develop its nuclear and water business using its organics destruction technology.
Arvia’s existing investor MTI Partners, investing out of its UMIP Premier Fund (UPF), two new investors Sustainable Technology Investors Limited (STIL), Park Walk Advisors and a number of smaller existing shareholders have invested £3.8m in an all-equity deal.
Arvia Technology is a University of Manchester spin-out company that has commercialised its technology to destroy organic substances that are either dissolved or dispersed in water. The company has made great strides developing its application to destroy radioactive oils, in collaboration with Magnox at Trawsfynnyd Power Station. Radioactive oils are difficult and often impossible to treat and at present are often simply stored, which is not a sustainable solution.
Arvia Technology is also performing a number of field trials in the municipal, industrial and swimming pool water markets, with its partners. In these water markets Arvia’s technology offers a low energy, chemical free and waste-stream free organics destruction solution.
This investment enables Arvia to grow its business in both of these activities, each representing a substantial commercial opportunity. Jim Totty and Gordon Lawson will join Mark Rahn as investor directors on the Arvia board.
MTI’s Managing Partner, David Ward, commented “Arvia was the first spin-out investment from the University of Manchester that MTI invested in from the UPF. The company has been a fantastic role model, using MTI’s initial series of investment monies to expand and professionalise its management team and to gain revenue traction by delivering commercial solutions to market. A more substantial funding round to support and accelerate growth was the next logical step and we are delighted to welcome the new investors that have joined us in putting together this new investment and share our view of both the substantial progress the company has made and its future potential”.
Jim Totty of STIL said “One of the biggest challenges of industrial energy efficiency and waste management is to find an alternative solution to energy intensive, high cost, high temperature, and environmentally unfriendly waste incineration processes. Arvia offers an ambient temperature and energy efficient disposal solution for toxic organic wastes in many industrial sectors, and in particular solves a key unmet market need globally for the disposal of radioactive oils. We are delighted to be backing Martin Keighley and his team as they continue to build Arvia’s business in its target industrial markets.”
Alastair Kilgour of Parkwalk said “We believe Arvia is developing a unique breakthrough technology which will help speed up the destruction of difficult to treat oily wastes from nuclear plants and could have significant benefits in eliminating certain wastes in the Water Industry. Arvia Technology Ltd will enhance the portfolio of companies Parkwalk Advisors is building in the UK University Technology Spin-out companies through its series of specialist venture funds with EIS tax benefits.”
The legal advisors on the deal were 3volution LLP, based in Leeds UK, and Laytons Solicitors LLP in ManchesterUK.
First collaborative deal for Conformetrix
University of Manchester spin out, Conformetrix Ltd, a leader in optimising drug discovery and design, and AstraZeneca announced today that they have signed a research collaboration agreement under which Conformetrix’s proprietary NMR-based technology will be applied across AstraZeneca’s pre-clinical therapeutic pipeline to enhance lead discovery and hit identification.
Conformetrix’s technology determines accurate three-dimensional structures – or conformations- of drug molecules in their bioactive states. This is achieved without the need for traditional structural information regarding the protein target of each drug and provides researchers with valuable information on how development-stage compounds are likely to interact with their targets. This new information should improve the efficiency and quality of the lead identification, lead optimisation and candidate selection stages of drug discovery programmes. Under the terms of the two-year collaboration, the technology will also be used to determine the bioactive conformations of naturally occurring ligands as templates for drug library enhancement and hit identification.
Commenting on today’s news, Conformetrix’s CEO, Dr Sam Williams, said: “Conformetrix is delighted that its first collaborative deal is with AstraZeneca, a company with a strong reputation in innovative science-led R&D. We believe that this deal provides important validation of our technology, which improves the quality and efficiency of drug discovery, reducing the number of molecules needed to find a drug and enhancing the likelihood of clinical success. The Conformetrix team is looking forward to working with our new partner on this exciting programme.”
Mike Snowden, Vice President and Head of Discovery Sciences, AstraZeneca, said: “We are excited to be working with Conformetrix. We believe their technology will provide a powerful addition to our hit identification and lead optimisation approaches, supporting our strategic objectives to improve the quality and choice of candidate compounds for our early pipeline.”
In addition to an undisclosed upfront payment, Conformetrix will receive research funding and be eligible for milestones as certain targets are met. The discovery programme will be managed by a joint AstraZeneca-Conformetrix research team.
Dr Mark Ashe from the Faculty of Life Sciences at The University of Manchester was nominated as one of four finalists, and the only University academic, for the Innovator of the Year category at the annual New Energy Awards 2012 held at the Science Museum in London on the 29th March. Now in their fifth year, the New Energy Awards recognise and reward only the best individuals and companies committed to alternative sources of energy. Winner of the category was Nujira, a company which delivers power efficient 3G/4G wireless transmitters.
Dr Ashe is currently carrying out UMIP funded Proof-of-Principle research towards the development of genetically modified yeast which are optimised for the production of butanol. Increasing concerns over the future supply of fossil fuels, together with an increased awareness of environmental issues associated with the use of these non-renewable fuels has led to growing interest in to the development of biofuels. Biobutanol is similar to gasoline and so has a number of advantages over currently used renewable fuels such as bioethanol and biodiesel.
Dr Ashe comments: “ I am delighted to have been nominated as one of the runners-up in this prestigious award amongst some very stiff competition from established and highly respected companies in the new energy sector. Butanol biofuels are an exciting alternative green fuel; through my research I am hoping to provide a low cost solution to improving the production process such that on an industrial scale biobutanol can become a viable and economical alternative to traditional gasoline.”