3 January, 2008 – UMIC signs two new tenants to Grafton Street incubator facility
The University of Manchester Incubator Company (UMIC) has welcomed two new tenant companies to its leading-edge Grafton Street laboratory and technology facilities.
Set up by former University of Manchester researchers, start-up bioscience companies Conformetrix and Imagen-Biotech plan to significantly impact the UK’s pharmaceutical and drug discovery industries.
Martino Picardo, general manager of UMIC’s bioscience business incubation facilities, explains: "Having secured Renovo as our anchor tenant, it becomes really essential for UMIC that we attract new tenants of high quality with good prospects for growth.
"Our new tenants, from within and outside of the University of Manchester, fit extremely well into this high-growth category, and we are looking forward to helping them successfully develop their businesses."
A bioinformatics company, Conformetrix is developing platform technology for three-dimensional representation of drug molecules. The company’s revolutionary technology, based on experimental and computing techniques, will give scientists a better understanding of how drugs work and of their toxic effects.
This means that scientists can make ‘smarter’ modifications to drugs, leading to faster development times and greater chances of success. 3D bioinformatics techniques do not currently exist for small drug molecules, and Conformetrix will offer a unique product for the market.
Founders Charles Blundell and Andrew Almond believe their company will prove to be good news for the UK’s pharmaceutical industry. Andrew Almond chief executive officer says: "Conformetrix has already raised over £300,000 of funding to date and we are well-placed to meet industry’s needs with our ground-breaking technology”.
As a University of Manchester spin-out company, Conformetrix has benefited heavily from University of Manchester Intellectual Property company (UMIP) support as well as from further afield. Dr Simon Cutler Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Innovation Programme Manager explains: "A core aim for BBSRC is to turn excellent fundamental bioscience into economic and social benefit for the UK.
"Andrew progressed his science as a David Phillips Fellow, was able to ‘buy’ time away from university duties to concentrate on commercialisation as a BBSRC-RSE Enterprise Fellow, and has been able to move Conformetrix from lab idea to fully fledged spin-out with proof-of-concept Follow-on Fund money. His potential has been clear as he has developed along our ‘innovation pipeline’. BBSRC looks forward to watching his next step."
Imagen-Biotech offers a novel screening and assay development service. The pharmaceutical industry relies heavily on extensive assays or tests for new drugs and for learning more about human cell structure and change.
Imagen’s automated fluorescent microscopy service will provide scientists with a rapid and bespoke method for testing their candidate drug compounds. Each customer will be able to define their assay scope and needs, instead of having to make do with a standard protocol.
A leading company already uses Imagen’s novel apoptosis assay, and Imagen-Biotech is keen to offer further new and exciting services to help speed up the discovery of new drugs. Apoptosis is important for understanding cell change, from foetal development in the womb right through to diseases of cell proliferation such as cancer.
Rod Benson, managing director of Imagen-Biotech, adds: "The delivery of our services requires the very best premises. UMIC will provide us with excellent facilities capable of meeting the demanding audit requirements expected by our pharmaceutical customers.
"Based in these facilities Imagen-Biotech will provide the best high-content biology services in the market”.
Dr Linda Magee, head of the Northwest Development Agency’s biotechnology, healthcare and pharmaceutical industry network Bionow, says: "I believe that UMIC’s cohort of flourishing biotech’s together with a pipeline of next-generation companies is even better than envisaged seven years ago by the NWDA.
"The Manchester bio-incubator has proved to be a real hub of activity and it’s great to see two more exciting companies join. This is excellent news for the sustainability of the region’s industry cluster."
Martino concludede: "These are exciting times for UMIC and the Manchester biotech community. We are proud that companies of such a high quality like Conformetrix and Imagen-Biotech have chosen to locate in Manchester, and we look forward to more new biotech tenants joining us in 2008."
Source: UMIC press release