Outstanding innovations in the life sciences sector – which showcase major medical breakthroughs – were recently recognised at the 15th Bionow Awards Dinner
By Michael Cape
With longer life expectancy and the development of new treatments, all developed economies are facing sustained increases in demand and expectation and ever-rising healthcare costs. Harnessing the innovation of the buoyant life sciences sector, which is increasingly developing not only life-saving but often cost saving breakthrough products and projects will help underpin better health across the UK for all.
Several significant medical advances were judged outstanding at the 15th Bionow Awards Dinner – the annual showcase from Bionow, whose objective is to help write a new chapter in terms of health for the UK population – with each of them winning an industry “Oscar”.
A sensor which rapidly diagnoses urinary infections in the elderly, so potentially reducing the number of hospital admissions; a revolutionary cardiac stent which “dissolves” in the body eliminating problems of rejection; a new way to enable genetic therapies on time and under budget – these are just three of the new wave of medical breakthroughs singled out for commendation in the North of England alone.
InfectDetect, the breakthrough sensor product from Manchester-based Microbiosensor, which won the Bionow Project of the Year in 2016, will save the NHS £9.5m per annum through reduced A&E admissions and hospitalisation costs for urinary tract infections alone.
A revolutionary metal alloy from Swinton-based Magnesium Elektron which “does its job then disappears” is currently being used for coronary implants and picked up the Bionow Product of the Year Award. Magnesium Elektron, a world leader in the provision of magnesium alloys for a range of industries including aerospace, has taken knowledge from another industry and applied it to healthcare.
Cobra Biologics picked up the Bionow Project of the Year award for the “Scalable AAV Production using Novel Hollow Fibre Bioreactors.” In layman’s terms it means this specialist medical manufacturer – based in Keele and the only facility of its type in the UK – can provide processes to enable gene therapies for life threatening conditions to progress to clinical trials at scale, on time and under budget.
The global challenges of antimicrobial resistance are being addressed by Perfectus Biomed, based at Sci-Tech Daresbury and winner of the Bionow Technical Service Award. Perfectus have developed a quality standard for laboratory testing that closely mimics medical bacterial contamination.
Also recognised for offering support was the Innovation Nexus from the Greater Manchester Academic Health Science Network. This won the Bionow Business Services Award for providing a single point of access to information, specialist support and funding to develop, test and deliver innovative products and services in collaboration with the NHS across Greater Manchester, East Cheshire and East Lancashire.
Naturally the success of the northern ecosystem has in turn spawned a new wave of start-ups. Aptus Clinical based at Alderley Park, specialises in the provision of expert clinical research professionals and carried off the Bionow Start Up of the Year Award. The company has already shown significant growth and has a client base which includes large pharma and newer, agile businesses like itself.
Raising funds – critical to any sector but more difficult in life sciences than others – has also benefited from the increasingly high profile of the Northern sector thanks to Bionow, with Manchester based anti-fungal company F2G securing investment of $60m. This will enable them to take a new class of anti-fungal agents to treat life threatening infection through to regulatory approval on both sides of the Atlantic. It also saw them pick up the Bionow Investment Deal of the Year.
But none of these success stories could have been achieved without a constant new wave of talent coming through to maintain the momentum for the life sciences sector in the North. Singled out as the Bionow Promising Technologist of the Year was Dr Bianca Price of the University of Manchester. Recognising existing soft tissue infection models were inadequate, she has developed an innovative “infected wound in a dish” which has helped evaluate novel wound fillers and antimicrobial dressings to the point where commercialisation is a very real possibility.
The winners are quick to credit their membership of Bionow as being a key part of their ongoing success. And not simply due to the direct help on offer but because the organisation is instrumental in facilitating an ecosystem in which they can all thrive. The future success of life sciences in the North – and hopefully its ongoing contribution to easing the burden for the NHS – still seems then to be in good hands.
Pharmaceutical pioneer takes well-deserved bow
Whereas the life science sector in the North – as in the rest of the UK – thrives on the buzz of the latest breakthrough medical products which can transform patient health outcomes, none of this would have happened without the pioneers who helped lay the foundations for success.
One such person is Professor Alan Boyd, an active practising pharmaceutical physician for more than 30 years, having worked across all phases of drug development and therapeutic areas.
He has worked within large pharma and smaller biotech organisations, and to date has been involved in bringing around 15 medicinal products to market with experience that also extends to the development of biological, cell and gene therapy products.
More recently Professor Boyd has focused on growing a consultancy business to support biotechs and institutions focused on early development and translational medicine, supporting clients globally.
It was his contribution to the development of medicines and pharmaceutical medicine as an industrialist, an educator and an inspirational leader which saw Professor Boyd receive the Bionow Outstanding Contribution Award for 2016, the highest accolade in the sector.
In an honorary capacity, he is a Fellow, Board Member and former Chair of the Specialist Advisory Committee in Pharmaceutical Medicine at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine, Royal College of Physicians. He was responsible for establishing the Postgraduate Specialty Training Programme for doctors in Industry and the MHRA, which has resulted in more than 300 doctors achieving Consultant Specialist status.
He is an Honorary Professor in Pharmaceutical Medicine at the College of Medical and Dental Sciences at the University of Birmingham, a Fellow of the Society of Biology and a Council Member of the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges.
Shield is setting AIM still higher
One of the pace-setters in the northern life science sector – Shield Therapeutics, named as Bionow Company of the Year for its ground-breaking work in providing solutions to as yet unsolved medical needs – has successfully gone into financial orbit.
The company has completed an Initial Public Offering on AIM, raising gross proceeds of £32.5m, with a further potential £17.5m in the pipeline. Since then Shield has launched its lead product Ferracru® in both the UK and Germany and significantly increased its head count.
To cap this all off, it has also recently reported its first UK revenues of £240,000.
“Shield Therapeutics is an exceptional example of what is possible from a company operating out of the North of England and we anticipate them continuing to go from strength to strength and leading the way for other key companies across the North” says Dr Geoff Davison, CEO of Bionow.