Biofilms ICURe Sprint Researchers Awarded Spin-Out Funding
Two research teams that took part in the Biofilms ICURe Sprint have been awarded spin-out funding to transform their innovations into market-ready businesses.
The Biofilms ICURe Sprint is the first of its kind to champion the biofilm industry. Launched in May 2022, the collaborative NBIC and SETsquared programme is an accelerated version of the well-established Innovate UK Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe) initiative.
The first Biofilms ICURe Sprint gave six academic teams from across the UK the opportunity to establish a commercial market for their research with up to £44k of funding. The programme leveraged the ecosystem of businesses and investors from both NBIC and SETsquared to enable the teams to ‘get out of the lab’ and validate their commercially promising research over eight weeks.
This injection of funding will see these teams accelerate the speed at which they spin out from their universities, recruiting a core team and building their commercial product to get it market-ready.
One of the funding recipients from this cohort, Shaun Robertson, an NBIC Research Fellow from the University of Nottingham, has developed a technological solution to enhance the rapid detection of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa pathogen.
Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic disease that affects around 11,000 people in the UK, and over 160,000 globally. One of the most important bugs that causes this is Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P.a) – a bacteria that is present everywhere but rarely has negative effects on people with healthy lungs. For people with cystic fibrosis, this bacterium can be deadly, and it is the leading cause of decline in lung health, compromising people’s quality of life.
There is a pressing clinical requirement for a straightforward, precise, and non-invasive diagnostic approach to identify P.a during initial pulmonary infections, allowing for quicker and more straightforward medical intervention. MiDx has pinpointed chemical entities specific to P.a. biomarkers, aiming to use them for the creation of an uncomplicated, cost-effective, and precise POC diagnostic test for early detection of this pathogen.
Shaun and his team have developed a simple, specific, and non-invasive POC diagnostic test to increase the rate at which the P.a pathogen can be detected.
Speaking on his time on the ICURe programme, Shaun said, “My experience on the first biofilm sprint was transformational to my career aspirations as it allowed me to get out the lab, build networks and engage directly with stakeholders. The process was intensive, but the skills and training were extremely useful and helped mould a new mindset on how I approach innovation and technology commercialisation.”
“Without the ICURe process, we would not have secured the ICURe exploit funding which will facilitate the development of our Pseudomonas aeruginosa diagnostic and help lay the foundations for the future to develop rapid point-of-care diagnostics for microbial infections.”
Another recipient of this funding was MetZero, a Newcastle University project focusing on using microbial electrochemical technology to treat wastewater in a more cost-effective, carbon-conscious manner. The technology unlocks the trapped energy in the wastewater, efficiently removing the organic matter, and recovering hydrogen in the process.
METzero has developed and manufactured the biggest pilot-scale microbial electrochemical technology (MET) in the UK, which can treat three cubic metres of wastewater and recover hydrogen and ammonia.
This innovation reduces the cost of treatment as there is no need for the traditional aeration process and can be fitted retrospectively into existing infrastructure with digital monitoring capabilities. This allows for scalable solutions that can be constantly optimised in real-time and also provides the operators with insight into the quality of the treated water that would have otherwise not been available.
Pavlina Theodosiou, the project’s Entrepreneurial Lead said,
“The ICURe programme was a game changer for me. It helped ignite my entrepreneurial passion and upskilled me in business development skills and knowledge and I was able to form important partnerships with water and waste management companies that resulted in follow-on funding and collaborative projects. If it wasn’t for ICURe I would have never taken the leap from academia to entrepreneurship. Now, with the addition of this follow-on funding, I have the means to start the business, employ talent and build our demonstration product.”
The original news article can be found on the SETsquared website.