University of Manchester technology set to reduce the cost of environmentally friendly biochemicals

Ben DolmanA PhD student has created a technology which could enable multi-national companies to reduce the cost of replacing petroleum based surfactants, fuels and other chemicals with environmentally friendly biosurfactants and biologically produced fuels and chemicals.

Ben Dolman studies biochemical engineering at The University of Manchester under the supervision of Dr James Winterburn, and his technology, which separates biochemicals as they are produced by fermentation, has so far been demonstrated with sophorolipid biosurfactants.


It could also be applied to other insoluble biochemicals produced for use as fuels, as industrial chemicals and in personal care, such as terponoids and MELs.

At present, sophorolipids are used in laundry detergents, dishwasher detergents and personal care products, while production costs still limit production for bulk applications such as bioremediation (the clean-up of oil spills and other pollutants).

Ben commented: “By facilitating around double the production of sophorolipids per batch, as well as reducing energy and separation costs, this technology has the potential to dramatically reduce production costs and so expand the use of these environmentally friendly chemicals.”

The 26-year-old has been working closely with The University of Manchester’s agent for intellectual property commercialisation UMIP over the past 12 months, and says he always knew his idea had commercial potential.

“With a rapidly expanding market for biochemicals and sophorolipids in particular, this separation technology provides a promising opportunity to reduce costs and expand into the bulk chemicals sector,” said Ben.

“The simplicity of the design, combined with the possibility to easily retrofit the separator to existing processes, means the technology can be quickly implemented with minimal costs.”

Ben now plans to demonstrate this technology with other bioproducts and at scale.

“Now that we have demonstrated the capacity of this technology to recover sophorolipids, having filed a patent and published a paper on the work, we are looking to expand the scope of this project,” he said.

“This technology should be applicable to most insoluble or partially soluble bioproducts, and we have planned to develop this aspect in the coming months as well as scale up the separator and develop automated control systems.”

Ben would love to hear from any interested parties, and can be contacted through UMIP or his university profile. Further information can also be found at the following links;

Stroke Association Priority Programme Award in Haemorrhagic Stroke

Priority Programme Award:

  • Award amount: up to £450,000 for a period of 3 to 5 years.
  • Deadline for Expression of Interest forms: 5PM on 1 March 2017.
  • After this date,  prospective applicants will be emailed with the full application forms for completion by 1st June 2017.
  • Please Note: applications from those who did not register an Expression of Interest for this call will not be accepted.

For further information please see Stroke Association Haemorrhagic Stroke Priority Programme Award

MRC Confidence in Concept (CiC) scheme now open: Information event 15th February 2017

The University has secured funding from the fifth round of the MRC Confidence in Concept (CiC) scheme. An information event for CiC 2017 has been scheduled for 15th February to share experience from the previous rounds of the programme and provide guidance to potential applicants on how to prepare a competitive CiC proposal. The event will include an overview of the scheme, an industry perspective on the programme and details about the process for applications this year. The meeting will end with a networking session and the opportunity to get advice on your CiC proposal ideas from FBMH Strategic Funding Team colleagues and an industry perspective from Dr John Stageman, BioNow.

Information event registration

Via Eventbrite:

Indicative agenda

11.00am Introduction: Dr Graham Cadwallader, Strategic Funding Team

11.10am Process, timelines and guidance for the CiC 2015 Programme: Anu Suokas, UoM/CiC Programme Manager, Strategic Funding Team

11.25am CiC and DPFS Schemes: MRC representative (TBC)

11.45am Industry perspective on the CiC programme: Dr. John Stageman, Bionow

12noon-2pm Lunch, networking and advice session (15 minute advice slots will be available)

MRC Confidence in Concept (CiC) scheme 2017: Call details The call is now open, EoI deadline: 10am Friday 24th February 2017.

Full guidance about the call and the application process.

Manchester Molecular Pathology Innovation Centre – Annual Symposium 9th March 2017 (12.30 – 17.00 )

Manchester Molecular Pathology Innovation Centre is one of six molecular pathology nodes funded by MRC and EPSRC to facilitate the translation of stratified medicine discovery to biomarker-based tests in the clinic for patient benefit.

You are warmly invited to the MMPathIC Annual Symposium 2017 which will provide an update on current activities, future strategy, and the opportunities available to researchers, clinicians and industry-

  • WHERE:  Citylabs, Nelson Street, M13 9NQ
  • WHEN:    Thursday 9th March (Starting with lunch from ~12:30pm, until ~17:00, finishing with a networking wine reception
  • WHAT:   An update on MMPathIC’s activities over the past year and how the molecular pathology node fits with the local innovation infrastructure and industry needs.

There will be the opportunity to find out how you might benefit from the flexible funding and industry ecosystem which has been generated through the MMPathIC infrastructure

The agenda is still in development but will include (amongst others) speakers from the Stoller Biomarker Discovery Centre and Singulex, one of MMPathIC’s strategic industrial partners.

Please register here if you would like to attend-

Please feel free to circulate to interested colleagues in your respective areas.

University of Manchester-based WideCells ready for commercialisation after ground-breaking IPO on London Stock Exchange

WideCells Group PLC, which makes stem cell treatment accessible and affordable for families, is on the brink of launching its products into the market after raising £2 million by floating on the London Stock Exchange.

Based at The University of Manchester Innovation Centre (UMIC), WideCells Group has created the first global stem cell insurance policy which is anticipated to finally make stem cell storage services mainstream, and treatment, which is currently very expensive, affordable.

Stem cell storage enables parents to bank their babies’ umbilical cord blood so that in the future, should a member of their family become ill with a stem cell disease such as leukaemia, they can be treated using a stem cell transplant.

WideCells Chief Executive Joao Andrade, who co-founded the WideCells Group with Chief Operating Officer Lopes Gil, said: “We are a mission driven company and want to make stem cell treatment accessible and affordable.

“The problem in the stem cell industry today is that around three million people all over the world have paid around £2,000 to store their babies’ stem cells in private stem cell banks to protect family members against future illness and life-threatening diseases such as leukaemia.

“What most people are unaware of though, is that stem cell transplants can cost up to £300,000.

“Private health insurance today in national health care services worldwide is mainly focused on bone marrow transplant because it generally costs less than cord blood, and there’s no private health insurance that provides cover for umbilical cord blood stem cells on a global scale.”

Joao, 35, added: “Some families are facing the challenge of paying £2,000 to store their babies stem cells, plus a potential £300,000 bill.

“Now though, after four years spent building the first global stem cell insurance policy, CellPlan, it will cost families £2,000 to collect, process and store cord blood, plus an insurance policy that costs £150 per annum on average.

“For that £150 per year, families get a second medical opinion from the best stem cell specialists in the world, access to the best treatment centres and a policy which covers all the costs associated with treatment up to 1m Euros a year, including travel to the best stem cell transplant centre for that particular patient, the transplant procedure, accommodation and associated bills.

“We believe this will enable cord blood stem cell transplantation services to go mainstream, which is why we are currently building and will be opening a laboratory facility at our Manchester headquarters in the first quarter of 2017.”

Doctor Peter Hollands, Chief Scientific Officer of WideCells Group, will head up the laboratory at UMIC.

He said the IPO has allowed WideCells Group to further develop its ground-breaking insurance product as well as enter into a partnership with the University of Westminster.

“We are developing short stem cell e-learning courses, with the University of Westminster, for healthcare professionals,” said Dr Hollands.

“But we are entering this exciting commercialisation stage after four years of very hard work.

“The development of the insurance product has been an incredible amount of work.

“People have been talking about this concept for years but no one has actually achieved it. But we’ve done it and have become a public company too.”

He added: “I’ve been in stem cell technology for 30 years now in teaching, research and clinical practice.

“What I’ve seen over that time is the underuse of stem cell technology across the board.

“What we are doing here is my ultimate dream if I’m being honest.

“In Manchester, at the University of Manchester’s Innovation Centre (UMIC), we are creating a state-of-the-art clean room for stem cell processing and for stem cell research. We have a research project ready to start as soon as everything has been licensed by the Human Tissue Authority.”

WideCells is targeting around 100,000 clients to take out the CellPlan insurance policy within three years. The Group is also aiming for 5,000 clients to use the stem cell storage division over the next three years.

WideCells Group employs 30 people across its three divisions in Manchester, Madrid and Brazil.

Joao said the Group will initially sell storage services directly to parents looking to store their babies’ stem cells, in the UK, Portugal and Spain.

“It’s impossible to build a business such as WideCells – which has three divisions and seven products and has just been listed on the London Stock Exchange – without passion as problems come up every day which you have to tackle straight away,” he said.

“UMIC have been fantastic and very supportive in every aspect possible and it’s a pleasure for us to be based at UMIC and in Manchester.

“We have the benefit of being associated with the University of Manchester which is very well thought of around Europe and the world.”


Joao Andrade

  • Age 35
  • Born in Brazil, lives in Porto
  • Has worked for UK-based stem cell banks for the past nine years and is mainly involved in international business development
  • Co-founded WideCells in 2012 as Chief Executive of the Group

Doctor Peter Hollands

  • Chief Scientific Officer, WideCells Group
  • Peter carried out his PhD in stem cell technology in the early 1980s when modern stem cell technology was virtually non-existent

Peter trained at Cambridge University with Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe, who received the Noble Prize for the development IVF for infertile patients

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