Atlas Genetics Ltd is a University of Bath spin-out company established
in 2005 by Dr John Clarkson, a former lecturer in the Department of
Biology and Biochemistry (DBB). In collaboration with DBB researchers,
Atlas Genetics developed novel technology for rapid (<30 minute) and
robust detection of infectious diseases at the point-of-care. Atlas
Genetics has raised over £22m funding specifically to develop the Atlas ioTM
detection system, which combines a patented electrochemical detection
system with probes for specific micro-organisms within a small disposable
cartridge. Different probe cartridges are used to detect a range of
pathogens that have critical clinical importance and large-scale
socio-economic significance, including Candida, methicillin
resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), bacterial meningitis, and
sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) Trichomonas, Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea.
Candida research in DBB underpinned the specificity, sensitivity
and application of the technology to clinical samples and was used in
seeking capitalization for Atlas.
Atlas Genetics re-located from the University to a nearby business park
and employs 35 full-time staff, some having moved from academia into the
company largely thanks to the synergistic relationship with University of
Bath researchers. The ioTM platform has undergone successful
clinical tests on Chlamydia and Trichomonas at Johns
Hopkins University, USA. The ioTM platform and Chlamydia
test is scheduled for clinical trials in 2014, with roll out in Europe and
the USA, pending regulatory approval, providing global reach within the
$42bn in vitro diagnostics market.
King's College London (KCL), operating a state-of-the-art Drug Control
Centre (DCC) in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), delivered the
anti-doping analysis at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This
operation, undertaken in their World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA)
accredited laboratories, was characterised by unprecedented scale, speed
and accuracy. It succeeded in protecting the health of athletes and the
integrity of the Games. KCL was chosen to undertake the 24/7 anti-doping
operation based on its cutting-edge bio-analytical research in drug
control. Although a number of athletes were disqualified in the pre-Games
testing, the deterrent effect of the KCL work was evidenced by the few
doping cases during the Games itself. Using the new biomarker test
developed by the DCC at KCL in collaboration with colleagues at the
University of Southampton, the team identified for the first time the
administration of recombinant human growth hormone (hGH) in two athletes.
The findings of the KCL-led operation are already being used to develop
similar testing facilities for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro
and have opened up the science of drug-testing to schools through the
"Scientists in Sport" initiative.
This case study outlines the impact in generating investment in a
spin-out SME and in developing a technology for clinical diagnosis based
on chemistry research carried out in Bath. The research led to a spin-out
company, Atlas Genetics, which has raised over £18M funding in the REF
period specifically to develop the Atlas io™ platform, novel
technology for rapid (<30 minute) and robust detection of infectious
diseases suitable for point-of-care. The investment has created new jobs
for highly skilled workers at the cutting-edge of medical diagnostics,
with Atlas currently employing 36 staff. The io™ platform has
been fully developed and has undergone successful clinical tests on
multiple infections (based on bespoke Chemistry developed at Bath) prior
to clinical trialling and rollout in Europe and the United States.
Invasive pulmonary aspergillosis (IPA) is a frequently fatal disease of
haematological malignancy patients, caused by fungi from the genus Aspergillus.
Dr Christopher Thornton has developed and commercialised a novel
point-of-care test for the diagnosis of IPA with an Aspergillus-specific
monoclonal antibody (mAb) JF5 generated using hybridoma technology. Using
this mAb, he has developed a lateral-flow device (LFD) for the rapid
detection of Aspergillus antigen in human serum and
bronchoalveolar lavage fluids (BALf) that signifies active infection.
Commercial exploitation of the patented technology has been met through
the establishment of a University of Exeter spin-out company, Isca
Research conducted by Professor Jo Bradwell at the University of
Birmingham provided the basis
of the commercially available diagnostic test Freelite®, which quantifies
free immunoglobulin light
chains in serum and was the first and only assay for the diagnosis and
monitoring of Multiple
Myeloma (MM). MM is a cancer of immunoglobulin producing plasma cells in
the bone marrow.
Freelite® has markedly improved the diagnosis and management of MM, is
helpful in the diagnosis
of all B cell lymphoid neoplasias and provides prognostic information for
present in over 3% of people over 50 years of age. Freelite was
commercialised by the University
of Birmingham spinout company, the Binding Site, which has achieved
worldwide sales, with over
360,000 tests being sold per month in 90 countries and an ongoing 25%
annual growth in sales.
The company provides annual revenue of £55m and employment for 620 people
in the UK and
abroad. An improved second generation of tests has been developed by
Professor Mark Drayson
at the University of Birmingham, which has been commercialised by a second
company Serascience, which started marketing a point of care free light
chain diagnostic test
worldwide in April 2013.
Cardiff University research led to second-generation chemiluminescent
technology. The invention allowed for internal amplification control in
nucleic-acid based clinical diagnostic assays for infectious disease and
produced results with greater accuracy and fulfilled previously unmet
regulatory standards. Adopted by the market leader in nucleic acid
diagnostics (a sub-licensee of Cardiff University) the Cardiff technology
is used globally in more than 60 million in vitro diagnostic tests
annually. Sales of the tests approach $500 million per year and the
sub-licensee was subsequently sold for $3.8 billion.
Biocatalysts provide unique activities that facilitate chemical
transformations that are simply not
possible using abiotic methods. Northumbria University researchers with
expertise in enzymes and
biocatalysis have provided biocatalysis services to the pharmaceutical,
fine chemical, food and
biofuels industries through our business facing innovation unit Nzomics.
This has generated
significant contract research, collaboration and licence agreements to
companies, including the
pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline and the services-led company Almac.
produced as a result of Northumbria University research and technology
transfer are sold
worldwide and benefit business through their use in research and
development activities, such as
the production of intermediates in drug synthesis.
Research at the University of Liverpool (UoL) has developed and proven a
straightforward diagnostic test method for bacterial blood infections.
This was urgently needed as sepsis is a medical emergency that lacks
adequate and rapid diagnostic tests particularly for low cost early
detection. UoL's research has demonstrated that a simple optical test that
can be conducted during routine testing of coagulation is an effective
diagnostic, prognostic and monitoring marker for sepsis that can be
routinely applied in clinical settings. There are now established UK and
international laboratory standards in place. In 2010 a spinout company was
formed to exploit four patents and incorporate the technology into a
point-of-care device suitable for all clinical settings. The company,
Sepsis Ltd, has attracted £1.45m of investment.
Knowledge of the three-dimensional structures of macromolecules is a
understanding their function at the atomic level, an essential component
of modern drug
development. Most structures are determined by X-ray crystallography: the
molecular replacement (MR, which exploits known structures of related
proteins), and about half of
the remainder using single-wavelength anomalous diffraction (SAD). The
software, developed by Read and colleagues, implements powerful new
for MR and SAD phasing and has made a large impact, accelerating over the
At the pharma giant, AstraZeneca, Phaser is considered the "tool of
choice" for solving structures
Essex research identified a novel bioprocessing matrix which has since
been developed into
commercial products and recently launched into external markets by Porvair
Filtration Group Ltd.
The discovery involved the chemical modification of sintered thermoplastic
materials in order to
attach biological molecules, so conferring highly specific functionalised
properties to an otherwise
inert base material. This enabled a new approach for protein
immobilisation, having technical and
practical advantages over existing processes. As a direct result, Porvair
has adopted a new
technology and invested £900k in R&D over eight years. Essex research
has supported a change
in business strategy, enabling entry into new markets, which has in turn
both safeguarded and
created jobs at Porvair.