Another funding boost for Biosphere based business

A Newcastle-based pre-clinical service provider has been awarded Innovate UK grant to support the global fight against COVID-19.

Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency has awarded Alcyomics, £50,000 to carry out critical scientific support in the production of a vaccine for Covid-19.

They are one of three businesses that are based in The Biosphere that have received a share of the £40million government investment that was awarded to 800 applicants across the UK. Innovate UK received a record 8,600 applications from across the UK, with this Fast Start competition looking to fast-track the development of research, innovations, and ideas bourne out of the pandemic.

Alcyomics, who were founded in 2007, are uniquely placed to investigate the immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Their service provision is a human skin explant test, called Skimune®, to detect adverse immune responses to a variety of drugs, biologics, chemicals, and cosmetic products. Skimune® can predict whether a drug is likely to cause an adverse reaction and has been particularly useful to the pharmaceutical industry to test their drugs prior to entering costly clinical trials.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have adapted this service provision to develop a suite of human-based assays specifically designed to aid research into the virus causing COVID 19, SARS-CoV-2. Alcyomics has put together several assays designed to aid in the identification of new drug targets for COVID-19 and an assessment of safety and efficacy of new and re-purposed drug candidates. Ultimately, they will develop a simple blood screening test to identify those at most risk of a severe COVID-19 infection. This work looks to reduce the mortality and morbidity rates by assessing susceptible groups, enabling the economy to recover faster by reducing the number of the population off work due to their low risk status.

They have adapted their expertise to specifically aid research for a COVID-19 vaccine, with this funding supporting their teams to provide critical information and clinical management for patients.

Alcyomics - a Newcastle University spin out company - was founded by Professor Anne Dickinson following more than 30 years of research, identifying responses of donor cells against patient skin tissue following hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Her research led to the development of their human skin laboratory-based assay platform (Skimune ®).

Professor Anne Dickinson, from Alcyomics said: “We are proud to be able to assist with the development of a vaccine for COVID-19 by adapting our already successful technology. As a small North East business this fund will allow us to continue critical research that will support the world with its global fight against this virus. So many people across the world have been impacted and our screening will identify those most at risk, helping to keep more people safe. This funding has supported us to innovate and comes at a time where support to keep our research going vital.”

Luke Dunnett, Property Business Manager at The Biosphere said: “Businesses like Alcyomics are testament to the talent, skills and expertise we have in the North East. This funding will make a huge difference and is recognition of the role they can play in the fight against COVID-19. We are surrounded by innovation and talent we are so proud to have companies like Alcyomics operating from The Biosphere.”

Alcyomics are one of four businesses based in The Biosphere who are adapting and innovating using their existing expertise to support with the fight against COVID-19. Atelerix who have developed a ground breaking solution for cell preservation are using existing technology to extend the shelf life of COVID-19 test kits, Independent research organisation, ExplantLab are investigating whether certain genes may protect individuals from developing serious complications following infection from COVID-19 and cancer diagnosis company MDNA Life Sciences are making Covid-19 testing available to commercial businesses.

Councillor Ged Bell, Cabinet Member for Employment and Culture at Newcastle City Council said: “The Biosphere is becoming a hot spot for life sciences and it is brilliant to see a funding boost that will support Alcyomics with their ambitions. New funding streams are critical, even more so in the current climate. Businesses who are based in The Biosphere are standing out as true innovators who are looking to make a positive impact to people’s lives.”

Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. They fund business and research collaborations to accelerate innovation and drive business investment into R&D.

The Biosphere is a purpose-built laboratory facility on Newcastle Helix dedicated to the commercialisation of life sciences. It has secured significant funding through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the Government’s Local Growth Deal through the North East LEP. Both funds help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.

Further information about Alcyomics work in response to COVID-19 is available on their website.

Notes to editor

About Alcyomics

Alcyomics is a Newcastle based unique pre-clinical service provider using Skimune®, non-artificial human skin explants for predicting adverse immune reactions as well as determining efficacy of novel compounds. Our mission at Alcyomics is to provide novel solutions for pre-clinical drug safety and efficacy testing of therapeutics including cellular therapies which is also extended to the chemical and cosmetic industries. As a Service provider Alcyomics aspires to take the lead in providing unique screening services using human in vitro skin explant assays enabling more cost-effective commercialisation of products and or drugs. Alcyomics development pipeline includes drug discovery disease modelling for the identification of novel drug targets. We also offer a consultancy service of how the pre-clinical data can be used to assist clinical trial development such as dose response and assist in developing stratified medicine/ precision medicine approaches to patient selection. Alcyomics technology is also a reliable alternative to animal testing for safety and potency assessment of novel compounds.

About Innovate UK

Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. We connect businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn ideas into commercially successful products and services and business growth. We fund business and research collaborations to accelerate innovation and drive business investment into R&D. Our support is available to businesses across all economic sectors, value chains and UK regions. Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation. For more information visit www.innovateuk.ukri.org

About the Biosphere

The Biosphere was awarded £8.6m from the Government’s Local Growth Fund through the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) along with £4.96m from the European Regional Development Fund. The Biosphere owned by Newcastle City Council has received £4.96m from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for the European Regional Development Fund.

Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. More information is available online.

The Biosphere is part funded by the North East Local Growth Fund from HM Government, administered by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership. The Local Growth Fund is supporting major capital investments to promote innovation, economic and skills infrastructure and sustainable transport as part of the North East Growth Deal. The North East LEP works to make the North East a place where more businesses invest, grow, and prosper. For more information visit www.northeastlep.co.uk

Find out more about The Biosphere here.

About the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is a public, private, and education sector partnership that covers Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland local authority areas. The £270.4m Local Growth Fund, secured as part of the North East Growth Deal, supports the North East LEP’s delivery of the Strategic Economic Plan, which aims to create 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024.

About the Local Growth Fund

Local Enterprise Partnerships are playing a vital role in driving forward economic growth across the country, helping to build a country that works for everyone.

That’s why by 2021 Government will have invested over £12bn through the Local Growth Fund, allowing LEPs to use their local knowledge to get all areas of the country firing on all cylinders.

Analysis has shown that every £1 of Local Growth Fund invested could generate £4.81 in benefits.

If you would like some further facts about the Fund, or the wider regeneration work going on across the country, please contact DCLG press office by emailing NewsDesk@communities.gsi.gov.uk in the first instance to request any additional information you might need.

ERDF and NE
ERDF and NE

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