One of the UK’s most prolific biotech entrepreneurs - Prof Chris Lowe of Cambridge University - has revealed details of some of the new ventures he is cooking up, with at least one of them the subject of talks with a venture capitalist.
Speaking in an interview with bioscience funding body, BBSRC, Prof Lowe said that among his “plans for more companies” were point-of-care-diagnostics technology, “possibly for heart attacks,” new acoustic technology, a new venture targeting asthma treatments and an Anglo-Jordanian project.
The Anglo-Jordanian venture, Bio-Jo, could be run from Jordan “as the running costs are roughly half of the UK,” Prof Lowe said.
Director of the University’s Institute of Biotechnology, Prof Lowe has been involved in the founding of around ten spin-outs from Cambridge University, including Prometic Biosciences and Psynova. He told BBSRC: “We have a lot of technology in development – enough for another three or four companies right now. We publish all that work so I don't do it at the expense of that.
“I do it entirely to show you can develop technology from the academic sector and eventually make money and employ people.”
He also revealed that one of his ventures could shortly be announcing a funding round:”A venture capitalist at the Bioscience for Growth event said he was happy to bung in £200-250K; I knew him prior to that, but we're meeting soon and we'll push it.”
Prof Lowe picked up an OBE in the New Year Honours 2011 and was named commercial innovator of the year at BBSRC’s Innovator of the Year competition in March. That award was for Smart Holograms, an optical sensor platform with applications in healthcare and beyond.
He admitted that Smart Holograms, founded in 2004, had “not been the most commercially successful” of the companies he has been involved with, “probably because of the complexity of the technology involved,” but the company has been busy laying the foundations for future growth, ready for when the market catches up.
A hologram embedded in a smart polymer, Smart Holograms can be used in brand protection as well as medical diagnostics. The firm has quietly built a manufacturing facility in Cambridge capable of producing around 60 million sensors per year. The higher value medical diagnostics manufacturing will be retained in the UK, Lowe said, but the higher volume, lower value anti-couterfeiting holograms would probably be moved overseas.
According to the Royal Society report The Scientific Century: securing our future prosperity, from 2006-10 university spinout companies floated on the stock market or were taken over for a combined total of £3.5Bn, employing 14,000 people in the UK. In 2007/08 university spin outs had a turnover of £1.1Bn.
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