Eight start ups prepare for investment as they eye £500,000 NELSA Programme


EIGHT start-ups have been selected to receive expert help in becoming ready for investment from a new North of England Life Science Accelerator (NELSA) worth £500,000 which will turn their ideas into businesses.

An expert panel from NELSA has selected the business ideas, including three from the N8 Research Partnership universities of Durham, Leeds and Newcastle which will give them access to mentors, coaching and workshops and help them on the next stage of their commercial journey.

They are ‘Lightox’ led by Durham University; ‘Horizon: therapeutic microbubbles’ from University of Leeds and a business surrounding ‘An Integrated Gastrointestinal Model for Drug Delivery’ from Newcastle University.  Two projects from the University of Central Lancashire have also been selected along with three independent businesses, StrataStem (originally from University of Manchester); MolMart; and Mind Moose.

The NELSA initiative is anchored at Alderley Park’s BioHub and was launched at the 2016 annual BioCap Conference.

Dr Carrie Ambler, deputy director for Natural Sciences in the Faculty of Science at Durham University, said: “Lightox Ltd is developing fluorescent small, drug-like molecules for phototherapies and as molecular probes in biology, medicine, cytometry and imaging.

“The bespoke guidance and support offered by the NELSA business and science mentors will help us navigate the transition from the university start-up we are to the independent commercial venture we are aspiring to become.”

Dr Sally Peyman, University of Leeds, said: “Horizon: therapeutic microbubbles provides world leading microfluidic technology to produce therapeutic microbubbles coated with a drug payload that can be used to deliver treatments to specific target sites in the body, such as a cancerous tumour. Once targeted, drug release from bubbles can be triggered by ultrasound, thus reducing off site toxicity and increasing local dosage.

“The NELSA process so far has proven extremely useful in helping us to think how best to take the technology from the lab and focus on understanding customer requirements to enable effective future development of the technology. We are excited to enter the next phase of the NELSA process to develop this opportunity further.”

Dr Peter Chater, Newcastle University, said: “We’ve developed a lab model of the digestive tract that can simulate the digestion, mucus permeation and uptake of foods and drugs.

“Our model allows the pharmaceutical industry to investigate the delivery of oral drugs without using animal models. Having seen the facilities and expertise at the Biohub, we’re really excited to take part in NELSA.”

The initial application process ended in January 2017 and 15 businesses were invited to take their ideas to a two-day business boot camp to progress them, with five from the N8 universities reaching this stage, also including from the Universities of Lancaster and Manchester.

Ned Wakeman, the director of BioCity which manages the BioHub, said: “The NELSA programme facilitates the creation and growth of more successful businesses by partnering innovative high quality academic research with the valuable industry and commercialisation expertise, funding, and structured programmes, available on site.”

Alderley Park’s BioHub boasts world class facilities for projects in healthcare and life sciences, including those in therapeutics, diagnostics, devices and digital.  It is an international hub for entrepreneurial activity in the life science sector.

Being supported by science park operator ‘Manchester Science Partnerships’ and investment firms ‘Catapult Ventures’ and ‘Alderley Park Ventures’  and collaboration organisations, the N8 Research Partnership and the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA), the accelerator also means that businesses can take advantage of their extensive industry network.