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Innovative Strathclyde projects receive funding to help post pandemic growth

Scientist sitting at computer holding up a sensor

A project to develop a rapid, low-cost, antibiotic susceptibility test is one of a trio at Strathclyde to be awarded funding to help growth in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Microplate Dx project, led by Dr Stuart Hannah from the Department of Biomedical Engineering, is developing a test which indicates the right antibiotic for each patient. The team was awarded just under £30,000 from a £3 million Scottish Government support package, managed by Scottish Enterprise (SE), for innovative start-ups and university spin-outs whose growth has been impacted by coronavirus.

The test takes around 45 minutes, is low-cost, sensor-based and designed for use at the point-of-care, with the potential to show which antibiotic to use significantly quicker than current methods which take days.

The project also received funding of just over £50,000 from SE’s High Growth Spin-out Programme.

Develop prototype

Dr Hannah said: “The funding will partly be used to develop a prototype with an initial focus on treating Urinary Tract Infections, which account for more than 13 per cent of all NHS antibiotic prescriptions in the UK.”

ContiMed, a prospective spin-out company from the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences received an award of £47,000 from the coronavirus support package.

The project will apply advanced continuous manufacturing approaches to enable rapid supply-to-order provision of of finished pharmaceutical products in solid oral dose forms for clinical trials.  It aims to reduce drug product manufacturing timelines, inventory requirements and clinical trial supply costs.

The team is Professors Gavin Halbert and Alastair Florence and Dr John Robertson from the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences. Professor Florence, who is also Director of the Continuous Manufacturing and Advanced Crystallisation consortium at Strathclyde said: “This award is an excellent opportunity to support the ContiMed team in our efforts to establish a new science-driven, medicines manufacturing company in Scotland.

“The planned activities are an important step in allowing us to capture real healthcare and economic impacts from the excellent manufacturing research being carried out at the University of Strathclyde and in CMAC.”

The research team at Strathclyde’s Centre for Intelligent and Dynamic Communications were also awarded funding for their Lupovis cyber-security deception solution.

Commercialisation plans

The grant will allow researchers to progress plans to commercialise the system, which uses artificial intelligence to lure hackers away and prevent breaches of network systems.

Professor Ivan Andonovic, who will be a director of the spinout company, said: “There are currently no similar solutions, as decoys are usually static and once a decoy is exploited by a cyber-criminal, they can continue moving towards valuable assets in the network.

“Lupovis offers a dynamic system turning networks from a flock of sheep to a pack of predators.”

The funding forms the first part of the £38 million funding for early stage, high growth potential businesses announced in by the Scottish Government in July.

Spin outs

The IP & Commercialisation team, within the University's Innovation & Industry Engagement Directorate, has supported all three projects with the protection of intellectual property, including two patent application filings. It will provide support for the academic founders as they progress towards forming their spin-out companies.

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Start-up and spinout companies, many of which are in the technology, digital and low carbon sectors, are the future of our economy.

“They are driven by the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation. Crucially, they are the kind of enterprises that create high-quality jobs, and which attract investment into Scotland – both of which will be vital to successfully rebuilding the economy after the damage caused by COVID-19.

“By supporting start-up companies and spinout projects through this funding we can not only help them survive, but give them the potential to prosper.”