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Pioneering biotech business programme welcomes first start-ups

New business support programme is on a mission to help biotechnology start-ups bridge the gap between science and the market.

Two innovative start-ups are the first to join a new business support programme designed to help early stage, high potential biotechnology companies succeed in commercial markets.

The Biotechnology Business Incubation Centre (Bio BIC) is on a mission to enable small biotechnology businesses to achieve their full commercial potential by bridging the gap between science and the market.

The Bio BIC is located within STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory, at Sci-Tech Daresbury in the Liverpool City Region. It is a collaboration between Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), both part of UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI).

Plasma Fresh

Plasma Fresh, a University of Liverpool spinout, is developing a rapid, innovative and effective disinfection system for the food and drink sector. The system is estimated to generate a 50% reduction in the costs associated with process line sanitisation.

Ensuring a healthy, sustainable and nutritious food supply is a global concern, and food producers need to meet stringent safety regulations to avoid cross contamination on production lines, which negatively impact health and productivity.

This can involve the use of strong disinfectant chemicals which are costly, can be harmful to the environment and involve significant downtime in production for cleaning.

Fast tracking industrial solutions

Plasma Fresh has developed a sustainable system using ‘cold plasma’, which destroys pathogens using just air and electricity, enabling manufacturers to reduce downtime for cleaning and the need for costly liquid disinfectants.

Joining the Bio BIC, Plasma Fresh will now gain access to the essential tools and expert advice it needs to fast track the development of its prototype, and to validate and scale up its technology.

Substantial cost savings

Aaron Dickenson, Head of Operations at Plasma Fresh, said:

“Cold plasma technology has the potential to revolutionise the cleaning processes currently adopted by the food manufacturing industry.

With our sustainable approach, we are primed to enhance food safety standards while simultaneously minimising production line downtime, improving throughput, and delivering substantial cost savings.

Joining the Bio BIC marks a pivotal step towards our vision, enabling us to fast-track prototype development for a 2025 UK launch, and opening doors to expansion into the EU, US, and global markets.”

Matrix Bio

Matrix Bio is harnessing the power of data analysis and computational models to develop a tool that will radically speed up discoveries and developments in pre-clinical research.

The company has developed an innovative platform technology that will accelerate the production of advanced custom hydrogels, gel-like materials that are used by researchers to enable 3D cell growth.

Currently, advanced hydrogel development is limited by slow, trial-and-error experimental approaches, and researchers often need to develop these in-house so that they are tailored to their specific research.

However, they often lack the time and resources to do this, and vital time is wasted developing these hydrogels, rather than spent driving forward their ground-breaking research.

Solving industrial bottlenecks

Matrix Bio’s technology combines high-throughput screening, computational modelling, and rapid manufacturing to build an advanced platform that will speed up the development of custom-made hydrogels.

This will enable researchers and particularly biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device companies, to devote their resources directly to their research or product development goals, with less time away developing the hydrogels they rely on.

Joining the Bio BIC programme will allow Matrix Bio to expand their hydrogel library and to move towards scale-up at the same time as refining their go-to market strategy.

Unlocking market opportunities

Christopher Mosedale, CEO at Matrix Bio, said:

“The failure to create reliable, defined hydrogels tailored to target applications is a key bottleneck constraining adoption of superior 3D cell models in life science research.

Our proprietary design algorithms and high-throughput microfluidic workflows achieve breakthrough efficiency in engineering scaffolds optimised to support client needs.

After proving our automated approach accelerates development 10-fold in academic projects, we’re thrilled to join Bio BIC’s incubator. Their facility and equipment enables rapidly translating our validated technology towards industrial-scale fabrication, unlocking an immense market opportunity while also catalysing innovation across this sphere.”

Outstanding support for start-ups

The new five-year Bio BIC programme provides a valuable support package for biotech start-ups, including support for participants up to the value of £90,000 in the form of:

  • up to £45,000 targeted research and development (R&D) funding
  • up to 100 hours access to R&D facilities and ongoing onsite technical advice
  • intellectual property protection support
  • unlimited business coaching provided by dedicated business experts
  • networking and introductions to investors, customers, sector stakeholders and next stage funders

Tangible business benefits

The Bio BIC builds upon STFC’s strong track record of managing support programmes and facilities for small businesses across its locations nationally, and particularly at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory.

This includes the highly successful European Space Agency Business Incubation Centre, through which STFC has supported more than 130 start-ups over the last decade, with a 95% survival rate over five years.

A pivotal opportunity

Paul Vernon, Executive Director of Business and Innovation at STFC, and Head of STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory, said:

“The Bio BIC marks a pivotal opportunity for pioneering biotech start-ups across the north-west, and I am excited to welcome to Plasma Fresh and Matrix Bio to the programme.

STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory is the UK government’s national laboratory of the north and I’m looking forward to working closely with both companies, in collaboration with BBSRC. Together, we can help transform these highly innovative technologies into successful, commercial businesses, contributing significantly to our economy and society.”

Driving enterprise and collaboration

BBSRC has made significant investment in bioscience research through research organisations across the north-west, including to higher education institutes across the region.

The Bio BIC initiative will accelerate the emergence and success of new companies from these research strengths, driving enterprise and links between the bioscience and innovation communities in the north-west.

Dr Karen Lewis, Executive Director for Capability and Innovation at BBSRC, said:

“The Bio BIC exemplifies BBSRC and STFC’s shared commitment to nurturing bioscience and biotechnology research and innovation in the north-west, helping to bridge the gap between ground-breaking research and commercial success.

By supporting companies like Plasma Fresh and Matrix Bio, to transform their visionary ideas into tangible solutions we aim to both nurture their growth, and contribute to catalysing the development of the biotechnology research and innovation ecosystem in the north-west region.”

Biotechnology momentum

STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory is located at Sci-Tech Daresbury in the Liverpool City Region. More than 150 high tech companies on the campus benefit from access to cutting-edge technologies and expertise to develop and improve products and boost productivity.

Furthermore, a growing number of rapidly expanding firms, such as Croda and Holiferm, are adding momentum to the emergence of an exciting new biotech cluster within the campus.

This sits alongside three well-established industrial clusters managed within the campus for the north-west, specifically dedicated to the health tech, space and digital sectors.

Get involved

Find further information about application and eligibility for the Bio BIC and how it could benefit your business.