Biomed Cluster on an island of opportunity

Douglas Bay on the Isle of Man, which is poised for a boom in healthcare and life sciences
Douglas Bay on the Isle of Man, which is poised for a boom in healthcare and life sciences

Companies such as Glycyx Pharma Ventures are at the forefront of a vibrant biomed sector on the Isle of Man

By Mike Cowley

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The flourishing Isle of Man Manx Biomed Cluster is poised to experience a boom which could eventually see it join and complement BioHub in Alderley Edge in making the North West a centre for innovation in health and life sciences.

Key to this growth will be Glycyx Pharma Ventures, an investment and consultancy company focused on early stage biotech companies, and its new pharmaceutical development and commercialisation group: Glycyx Therapeutics.

The Glycyx companies have been founded by Lorin K. Johnson, PhD, a successful American biotech entrepreneur with strong family ties to the Isle of Man. As a part-time resident on the Isle of Man, he has worked closely with the Manx Biomed Cluster for the past five years, and saw it as the ideal home for his latest venture.

Glycyx will focus on acquiring and developing undervalued pharmaceutical assets in the fields of oncology, gastrointestinal conditions and neuroscience. Typically, these are drugs whose current owners – ranging from university spin-outs to multinational healthcare companies – see limited potential, but where the Glycyx team can see greater opportunity, by changing the development strategy, the formulation, or pursuing entirely new indications in a ‘repurposing’ of the drug.

It was using this repurposing strategy that enabled Dr Johnson to grow the previous company he founded, Salix Pharmaceuticals, Inc., into a global leader in the in-licensing, development and commercialisation of treatments for gastroenterology disorders, and to reach the point where it was acquired for $15.8bn by Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc.

“Glycyx is going to have a significant impact on the Isle of Man biomed sector which has already been enjoying a growth rate of 13% per annum,” says Manx-born Dave Taggart, a former international consultant in health and life sciences who returned recently to the Isle of Man. He has joined the executive team of Glycyx, and recently completed a strategic review of the healthcare and life sciences sector for the Isle of Man Government.

“Initially we will have senior management functions and clinical/commercial strategy setting activities on the Island, but if the business areas take off the way we expect, then there could be a much broader ecosystem of investor, CRO, and commercial and business development functions in place. This will also match the goals of the Isle of Man Government for the sector, where the aspiration is for a moderate number of high value-added jobs to be created over the coming five years.”

The strong support of the Manx Government is expected to be a key driver of growth in the Manx biomed community. In addition to commissioning and acting upon the recent strategic review, the government is establishing strong linkages between the Department of Health and Social Care, the Department of Economic Development and the private sector to explore opportunities in the healthcare and life sciences sector.

Joint advance in cancer care

The first major success for Glycyx came earlier this week with the announcement of the signing of an exclusive development partnership with Valeant to develop the drug Relistor for a variety of oncology indications, including pancreatic and colon cancer.

Dr Lorin K Johnson noted that “Relistor may impact survival rates in cancer patients as well as someday provide a potential new treatment option for those who suffer with the disease.”
Whereas details of the deal remained sketchy at the time of going to press, it is known that Relistor is currently marketed in 35 countries for the treatment of opioid-induced constipation – a side effect of the widespread use of opioids to treat chronic pain in cancer patients. However, a recently published study co-authored by Dr Johnson, and clinicians at MD Anderson and the University of Chicago, showed that treatment with Relistor is associated with increased survival in patients with a variety of advanced cancers.

Dave Taggart of Glycyx commented: “Glycyx has initial seed money committed for the development of Relistor and the next 4-5 development assets (yet to be disclosed). We will be actively seeking both further undervalued assets and funding to continue their development in the coming months.”

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Small workforce that has major global standing

Since the 1980s The Isle of Man has been home to a range of world-class biomed companies involved in: device manufacture, clinical trials, regulatory affairs, compliance and data capture.

While what is known as the ManxBioMed Cluster may only account for less than 1% of the island’s workforce, it punches way above its weight in the global healthcare sector. The current Cluster members include:

Mannin Regulatory

Mannin Regulatory specialises in providing both strategic and practical support in regulatory affairs. Current projects are focused on pharmaceuticals, medical devices and cosmetics. The broad range of support offered includes strategic planning, medical writing, clinical evaluation reports for medical devices, cosmetics safety assessments, pharmaceutical regulatory affairs, preparation of dossiers in CTD (Common Technical Document), NeeS (Non-eCTD electronic submissions) and eCTD formats, and general management.


The company offers automatic needle retraction and safety system for blood retraction.
As such it helps protect patients, nursing staff, and all handlers of contaminated medical materials from injury caused by used needles Blood collection preparation and process using Safe-T happens in the same way as with standard Vacutainer®-style blood sampling.


Bodystat researches and manufactures a range of products which analyse body composition by using Bioelectrical-Impedance Analysis (BIA). Non-invasive, fast and relatively inexpensive, BIA is an accurate and portable technique for fat and fat-free mass measurements. Major clients are BUPA, hospitals and health screening centres. It is used in clinical trials for new drugs designed to combat obesity or cancer.


SEQ are experts in pharmaceutical advice, regulatory strategy and regulatory affairs and is an established recognised service provider operating for close to 30 years. With the EU introducing new/complicated regulation requirements throughout the 1990s and 2000s, SEQ’s expertise has been a welcome support to their European clients. They have achieved more than 500 new product approvals across Europe. The company operates worldwide in the pharmaceutical, device, herbal, food and cosmetic industries.

Clinical Accelerator

The company offers a range of clinical research services to worldwide clients in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries. Its services extend from protocol development and regulatory affairs through clinical conduct to data management, biostatistics and study reporting. It claims to offer the best of both worlds in that its operation extends to Eastern Europe where clinical trials are most cost effective.


Nasaleze is a patented product and is classified as a medical device around the world. It is a completely natural cellulose powder from organic plant extract. Rather than being a cure or medicine, it prevents allergic reactions by acting as an unnoticeable gel barrier to nasal irritants. Likened to an invisible pollen mask, it traps impurities effectively, and helps allergy sufferers. It is sold by Boots in the UK and distributed by Nasaleze in 22 other counties.

ProMetic Biosciences

ProMetic’s proprietary processes enable the superior extraction and recovery capabilities in the fields of therapeutic plasma proteins, biomanufacturing and the treatment of diseases such as fibrosis, anaemia, neutropenia (abnormally low number of white blood cells), cancer, autoimmune disease and certain nephropathies (kidney damage or disease). Due to the nature of the processes, some of the rarest and most valuable proteins can be accessed at unprecedented levels.

Nimbus Medical

Nimbus Medical is the future in the care of the elderly and chronically ill, increasing their support while decreasing costs. To achieve this Nimbus has developed InterCare™, the world’s most sophisticated internet based home care system. Simple to use but powerful in its ability to provide multi way video communication, vital sign tracking, rehabilitation training and personal management.