Award winners and judges
SkinBioTherapeutics Ltd, a life science company focused on skin health, landed Leading Spin-Out while Ian and Lynne Hampson, both molecular virologists, came out on top in the Commercial Licence category for their work on novel uses of lopinavir and ritonavir in HPV related cancers.
The Digital Innovation prize went to John Morley of PhraseBank which offers a downloadable phraseology resource to help researchers of all abilities improve their academic writing and Cable Coatings was named as the most Successful Start-up. Application of spectrally optimised coatings to the outside of aerial cables to boost grid capacity in a durable, easy to apply, cost-effective way.
Professor Cath O’Neill, the chief executive of skin health company SkinBioTherapeutics, was also revealed as Innovation Champion during the awards ceremony which took place at The University of Manchester’s Innovation Centre, UMIC. Cath has found new ways of promoting and maintaining skin health and combating chronic skin diseases. Her second spinout SkinBioTherapeutics PLC was admitted the AIM market in 2017 and the placing raised £4.7m (gross). Cath acts as a champion for business engagement in FBMH and was named as one of the top 50 female leaders in healthcare business in the UK.
UMIP Director of Operations Dr Rich Ferrie paid tribute to all the innovators shortlisted.
He said: “In the past we’ve always nominated our innovators for regional awards. This year we wanted to recognise their hard work and excellence internally so created the UMIP Innovation Awards 2018.
“And we’re delighted that we held this inaugural event as it was a very positive endorsement and a real opportunity to showcase the breadth of science that we have in this University.”
He added: “Each who made the shortlist deserved their place and I know from speaking with the judges just how hard it was to pick overall winners in the five categories.
“Commercialising science isn’t an easy process. The commitment that these individuals who to fit commercialising their science around research, teaching, administration roles and clinical duties is quite something.
“They should be commended for their hard work and I hope their journeys are successful ones from here on in.”
Please see video interviews with the winners here
Over 100 entrepreneurs, colleagues from The University of Manchester and wider support partners gathered at the Showcase to hear how the UMIP Innovation Optimiser (IO) has supported and nurtured new businesses coming out of the University.
2018 sees another eight IO supported University of Manchester Start-Ups begin their journey including- Dataviewer Ltd, Sleeping Lions Adventures Ltd, The Pentone Family Ltd, Neurolytics Ltd, IMPACT CIC, Macawly Ltd, Third Floor Systems Ltd and PABBS Ltd. This brings the total to have graduated through the UMIP Innovation Optimiser programme to over 20 within three years.
IO Director, Tony Walker revealed that over £265,000 worth of support and awards have been provided by the IO in less than three years while 164 entrepreneurs from across The University of Manchester campus have engaged in the programme.
Professor Luke Georghiou, Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at The University of Manchester, emphasised the importance of supporting staff, academics and research students who may have an idea for a commercial start-up or social enterprise.
Speaking after IO Showcase –Tony said: “IO was launched just over two-and-a-half years ago and is proving to be a huge success boosting the Manchester start-up scene”
“It provides a vibrant and supportive environment for individuals or teams with an idea, innovation or venture in which they are empowered to develop and build their business.”
He added: “The IO Showcase 2018 very much highlighted some of the fantastic businesses and innovations being developed by staff, academics and research students at The University of Manchester.
“It’s now about IO going from strength to strength and building on the partnerships we have created including with Business Growth Hub, dwf, Manchester Enterprise Centre, TiE Global and many more, and continuing to engage with active entrepreneurs across the campus who we may be able to support through our Ignition, Roadmap, Momentum and Spotlight programmes.”
Dr Laura Etchells, UMIP Enterprise Development Manager said: “We were delighted to showcase a range of new and established entrepreneurs today including ESOL Stepping Stones, Bundlee Ltd and UrbanChain Ltd, all eager to inspire and motivate tomorrow’s innovators.”
IO, which provides support for aspiring entrepreneurs wishing to develop start-up businesses, social ventures and research student enterprises, through educational resources and agile mentoring, was developed by UMIP to complement its renowned Intellectual Property (IP) commercialisation activity.
Since its inception IO has held 62 events and engaged with more than 1,300 people in outreach activities across the University campus.
Ellie Buckley, UMIP Enterprise Development Executive and event organiser said: “Our second Showcase was attended by more than 100 people and the feedback has been incredible.
“This event is a fantastic opportunity for our entrepreneurs to share their stories, connect across campus and network with the wider enterprise community in Greater Manchester. We’re looking forward to the next 12 months at IO.”
The IO Showcase 2018 was held on Thursday 26th July at The University of Manchester Innovation Centre on Grafton Street.
To find out more, contact one of the Innovation Optimiser team:
Ellie Buckley, Enterprise Development Executive firstname.lastname@example.org or 0161 606 7265
Laura Etchells, Enterprise Development Manager email@example.com or 0161 606 7264
Tony Walker, Director of Innovation Optimiser, firstname.lastname@example.org or 0161 603 7780
Russell and Catherine Miller
Husband and wife team Russell and Catherine Miller are hoping to change the way children play freely with the launch of playscapes company Sleeping Lions Adventures.
Through the creation of temporary destinations (playscapes) Sleeping Lions Adventures allows children to take charge of the way they play while giving parents peace of mind.
The pair have received significant funds from both an angel investor and The University of Manchester’s Innovation Company, UMI3 Ltd, through the UMIP Innovation Optimiser Programme as they bid to grow their offering.
Co-founders Russell and Catherine, believe children are turning to i-pads for entertainment rather than playing alongside other youngsters in immersive environments that bolster creativity and sociability.
He said: “Our playscapes are like mini theatre sets and are a starting point to an adventure. Our latest indoor playscape is Pirates and Sea Monsters – a giant octopus, shipwreck that children can play in – that was recently hired for a wedding in Cheshire.
“The playscapes encourage children’s curiosity, playfulness and sociability while allowing children’s families to have fun elsewhere – just like they did at the wedding.”
Russell, 45, who works at The University of Manchester, and Catherine, founded the idea after having two children of their own.
“Our children are both under the age of four,” said Russell. “Two years ago Catherine and I talked about how we played in fields, dens and in the street when we were younger.
“Sadly, children don’t tend to play like that anymore. There’s a restricted nature to play now and more and more children are using i-pads which we feel is detrimental, particularly when it comes to social interaction.
“Following lots of research we realised that we could create something that could make play possible almost anywhere and that’s what Sleeping Lions Adventures is.”
One of the company’s aims is to make it easier for children to attend weddings. The other is creating mini immersive experiences for use in cafes, car showrooms and other retail environments.
“The average transaction time to buy a car is three hours,” said Russell, “so we are talking to dealerships about the potential of setting up playscapes so parents can focus on the car they might want while children play freely but with a sense of creativity too.
“With weddings, it can often be a case of children not being invited, which can alienate some family members. We are planning to change that.”
He added: “It’s also important to thank UMIP’s Innovation Optimiser team for helping us shape our business idea – they’ve been incredibly supportive.”
Kate Park, Director of Kate Park Events, worked alongside Sleeping Lions Adventures during the recent wedding in Cheshire.
She said: “Inviting children to weddings has just been made a whole lot more fun with Sleeping Lions Adventures. Their playscape made a huge and positive impact on the wedding party. It looked great in the venue and importantly it kept all the children entertained – leaving their parents able to enjoy the celebration.
“Children used to find weddings long and dull – not anymore.”
The founder of EnviroSAR, whose expertise was used to learn more about two wildfires that devastated vast moorland areas this summer in the northwest of England, is aiming to expand further the research and development of her company to better monitor wildfires and the moorland restoration at a national level.
Dr Gail Millin-Chalabi launched EnviroSAR – a targeted solution for peat moorland and heathland restoration in the UK – last year and recently appeared on BBC’s The One Show and BBC Breakfast to discuss the company’s involvement in tackling the Tameside and Winter Hill wildfires.
EnviroSAR, funded by the University’s Innovation Company, UMI3 Ltd, analyses satellite radar data to mitigate wildfire risks, supports planning and execution of land restoration activities to reduce water discolouration and associated costs.
EnviroSAR has previously collaborated with fire services and is looking to build stronger relationships with both utility and insurance companies to support wildfire recovery and restoration efforts.
Dr Millin-Chalabi said the moorland wildfires this summer has highlighted the need for further funding to support research and development work in this area. EnviroSAR are currently exploring opportunities for European Space Agency (ESA) funding to expand the business.
The original idea for EnviroSAR came out of Dr Millin-Chalabi’s PhD back in spring of 2016.
“I’d been using radar data for characterising and monitoring burnt areas after wildfires,” said Dr Millin-Chalabi, who is a GIS and Remote Sensing Officer in the School of Environment, Education and Development at The University of Manchester.
“Not long after coming up with the idea of EnviroSAR we won the European Copernicus Masters Sustainable Living Challenge and are receiving support from UMI3 through the UMIP Innovation Optimiser Programme which empowers innovators from across the University to create start-up businesses.
Dr Millin-Chalabi said there’s a whole education programme needed when it comes to UK moorland fires.
“If we keep getting these very dry conditions there is more risk of wildfires unfortunately as large amounts of moorland and heathland areas in the UK are degraded and not particularly healthy.
“This year we are seeing a much longer wildfire season in the UK. Usually we are over them by mid-May. Some are still burning and it’s July.
“If we keep experiencing these drier and hotter weather conditions year after year, our wildfire season could start transitioning into the summer, more like, dare I say it, Mediterranean areas and expanding into the months of June and July.”
On what can be done to understand patterns of wildfire occurrence and mitigate against wildfire risks she said: “Nationally things need to be more integrated when it comes to what is collected on the ground and what is available through satellite data.
“Information has to be shared and managed well and marry together better, rather than piece-meal which it seems to be at the moment. EnviroSAR could really help with that.”
She added: “A healthy moorland environment should have a high water table and plants such as sphagnum moss, which holds around 20 times its own weight in water. It’s like a sponge. When you have these kinds of plants, even if a wildfire happens it slows the burn down as the landscape is more resilient and so the burn will be less severe.
“We also need to connect more socially with local communities in moorland areas.”
Utility and insurance companies are vital when it comes to wildfires, according to Dr Millin-Chalabi.
“No matter how much hosing down or how many helicopters drop water on an area affected by wildfire, it’s not going to go out until mother nature intervenes with a heavy downpour due to the highly organic nature of the underlying peat,” she said.
“We are keen to start building stronger relationships with utility and insurance companies as once we get a heavy downpour of rain all that ash and char on the surface is going to potentially run into our watercourse and cause discolouration and sedimentation issues of our drinking water”.
“The north west of England is a post-industrial revolution area so there is also potential for heavy metals in some of these peaty soils to erode into the wider environment if restoration of the peat moorland does not take place”.
“EnviroSAR is keen to assist utility companies in where is best to target restoration efforts using satellite technology to try and mitigate downstream environmental issues as much as possible.
For further information, please see http://www.envirosar.com/
Filming for The One Show
University of Manchester scientists have developed a new gene therapy they hope will treat children with a rare but devastating brain disease, and plan to take it to clinical trial in the near future.
US-based biotech Phoenix Nest Inc. have signed a licence deal with The University of Manchester, though its IP commercialisation company UMI3 Ltd, to take the treatment to the next stage, which will involve a clinical trial on patients with Sanfilippo disease type C.
Sanfilippo disease type C is a rare inherited neurodegenerative lysosomal storage disease caused by mutations in HGSNAT.
The technology is developed by Professor Brian Bigger’s laboratory in collaboration with Dr. Els Henckaerts’ laboratory at King’s College London, and recently published in the journal Brain.
It involves the use of a specially modified virus called adeno-associated viral vector (AAV), which has been specifically altered to efficiently deliver the missing HGSNAT gene to the brain to treat the disease.
Working with an international group of scientists, the team was able to demonstrate complete behavioural and brain correction of Sanfilippo disease type C in mice.
The King’s College London technology is based on the discovery of a novel AAV vector with an altered protein coat, which makes the virus work better within the brain. This new vector is called AAV-TT (AAV-true type).
The technology works better than the AAV9 vector, currently the gold standard for gene delivery to the brain.
Sanfilippo C disease affects children as early as 3 years of age, resulting in severe and rapidly progressive brain disease and neurological symptoms.
There is currently no effective treatment option for Sanfilippo disease type C as the protein is transmembrane and cannot move between cells.
This means that maximal vector distribution within the brain is critical for treatment success.
Prof Brian Bigger, Professor of Cell and Gene Therapy at The University of Manchester, said “This gene therapy technology recently published in the journal Brain, will be used by Phoenix Nest to treat Sanfilippo syndrome Type C.
“Sanfilippo is an incredible challenge as you have to be able to treat so many cells in the brain for complete success.
“In this work, the combination of the true type vector with improved brain distribution and the method of delivery were both critical for success.
“We were really impressed that we were able to completely correct working memory and hyperactivity in the mouse model – traits shared by children with the disease.
“Working together with Phoenix Nest Inc we hope this therapy will be successful in treating children with MPSIIIC in the next few years.”
“The study was funded by MRC, King’s College Commercialisation Institute, Jonah’s Just Begun, Sanfilippo Sud, Sanfilippo Barcelona, Sanfilipo Portugal, Sanfilippo Brasil, Le Combat de Haitem-Contre Sanfilippo, JLK- Sanfilippo Research Foundation, Sanfilippo Children’s Foundation, and VML charities and it has been great working with them towards a cure for this horrible disease.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS
About MPSIIIC (Mucopolysaccharidosis type IIIC or Sanfilippo syndrome type C)
MPSIIIC is a rare neurodegenerative lysosomal storage disease caused by mutations in the Heparan-Alpha-Glucosaminide N-Acetyltransferase (HGSNAT) gene. Children are affected early in life, with progressive cognitive and behavioural decline and a subsequent decline in motor function to early death, usually in the late twenties. MPSIIIC has no effective treatments as the protein is transmembrane and cannot move between cells. Enzyme replacement therapies are therefore ineffectual.
The technology, developed in Professor Brian Bigger’s laboratory involves the use of an adeno-associated viral vector (AAV) to drive the expression of a codon-optimized Heparan-Alpha-Glucosaminide N-Acetyltransferase (HGSNAT) gene.
Working with scientists from King’s College London, who developed a novel viral capsid dubbed “AAV true type”, with better distribution within the brain than other AAV vectors, the team were able to demonstrate complete behavioural and brain correction of the mouse model of MPSIIIC against the gold standard AAV9 vector.
AAV gene therapy for MPSIIIC was awarded Orphan Drug Designation by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and is the subject of patent GB1612104.