£150,000 investment for Durham University spin-out company


A Durham University spin-out company has received £150,000 to fund a new business venture in ageing research. 

Magnitude Biosciences Limited, a spinout from Durham University’s departments of Biosciences and Physics, has launched having gained investment from Saker Capital and the North East Innovation Fund, supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and managed by Northstar Ventures.

The company will assist the ageing research industry and academic researchers in testing compounds, such as food additives and drugs, to understand how they slow down or accelerate the ageing process.

Carrying out ageing research can be challenging because large sample sizes are required to capture the inherent variability in ageing, with the process taking many years to yield results.

To tackle this, Magnitude Biosciences will test on nematode worms, called C. elegans, which are tubular-like organisms just about visible to the human eye without magnification.  They are an established tool in ageing research due to their short lifespan (two to three weeks) and their size, which allows large quantities to be tested over relatively short study periods.

The company has developed an innovative ‘healthspan machine’, which uses small, low cost computers each linked to a camera, to monitor large numbers of nematodes under multiple conditions.

Dr David Weinkove, of Durham University’s Department of Biosciences, said:

“Ageing research is becoming more and more important in understanding conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

“Our new research methods could help companies discover and develop new drugs or food additives that could improve the amount of time a person spends living a healthy life.

“We are delighted to have received investment from Northstar Ventures and Saker Capital, which will support us in growing our business over the coming year.”

Magnitude Biosciences employs four people and has recently recruited Chief Operating Officer, John O’Brien, who brings with him specialist knowledge and skills in start-ups and the life sciences technology sector.

The post has been funded by the Northern Accelerator programme, which is part-funded by the ERDF. The programme is successfully creating high technology spin-out companies by attracting talented business leaders to innovative commercial opportunities created and developed in the North East.

Alex Buchan, Northstar Ventures Investment Director, said:

“We’re delighted to be investing in such an important area of research. The innovative method that’s been developed has great potential in making a real difference in how people will be able to live longer and healthier lives. We look forward to seeing the impact this makes in the increasingly important ageing sector.”

Sean Nicolson, Saker Capital partner, said:

“We’re very pleased to have had the opportunity to back the Magnitude Biosciences team. There is an increasing focus on anti-ageing treatments with significant capital being invested in this field by new and established players. We expect the ability to de-risk and accelerate the development of new treatments using Magnitude’s services will be of great interest to both academic and commercial research groups.”