Academic spinouts are a key element of the innovation ecosystem. By commercialising the intellectual property created in the UK’s universities, they facilitate the application of new technologies in the world.
UK is home to many well-known universities that have created industry leaders. It is one country that attracts aspiring individuals from all over the world with its chain of universities. As per the “Spotlight on spinouts: UK academic spinout trends” report, four of these universities – Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London, and University College London account for a third of all UK spinout companies.
Pharmaceuticals, research tools and medtech are some of the UK’s largest spinout sectors. Furthermore, the data also highlights a rapidly developing AI sector as well.
Another report, “Equity investment into UK spinout” by Parkwalk, notes that 2020 saw a record 371 equity investments made into UK spinouts totalling £1.35 billion. This falls shy of the 2018 record of £1.36 billion marginally, but the COVID-19 pandemic plays a role in it.
Relatively, let’s take a look at a list of UK spinouts that are focusing on taking their technologies into the mainstream.
Founder/s: Ariane C. Gomes, Phillip Kemlo, Joshua Blight
Founded year: 2019
Baseimmune is a discovery-phase biotech start-up focused on antigen discovery and vaccine development. The data-driven platform specialised in pathogen analysis for antigen discovery and vaccine design uses big data, high-performance computing, and machine learning to design more complex antigens for better vaccines. Its software generates vaccine antigens associated with agricultural and human diseases, such as Malaria and COVID.
In April, Baseimmune raised £685K funding led by European university VC fund, Creator Fund along with participation from Mike Watson, ex-president of Moderna’s infectious disease spin-out with the support of Vaccitech and Oxford University. Maki VC and Rockmount Seed Investments also participated in this round. Baseimmune intends to use the funds to for the further development of its platform and also wants to start the pre-clinical development of vaccines in the lab.
Founder/s: Professor Tuomas Knowles, Dr Marc Rodriguez Garcia
Founded year: 2018
Xampla is a spin-out from the University of Cambridge natural alternatives to plastics and is the world leader in plant protein materials for commercial applications. Xampla’s next generation material performs like synthetic polymers, but decomposes naturally and fully, without harming the environment. Their mission is to replace the everyday single-use plastics you see all around, like sachets and flexible packaging films, and the less obvious, such as microplastics within liquids and lotions.
In January this year, the next-generation plastic replacement company secured £6.2M seed funding led by Horizon Ventures, a private investment arm of Mr Li Ka-shring along with participation from Amadeus Capital Partners. Xampla will use the investment to accelerate the rollout of its natural plant-protein alternative to plastic.
Founder/s: Dr Clément Champion, Professor Liam Dolan
Founded year: 2017
MoA Technology, a spinout from Oxford University, is a plant genetics company using its proprietary technology to generate potential candidates for use as herbicides. The herbicide market mirrors the antibiotic market, in that there have been few new molecules developed in recent years and resistance is developing to those products on the market. MoA Technology’s mission is to provide farmers with a diverse choice of innovative technologies for weed control and develop products that will provide excellent, sustainable and economic weed control in a broad range of crops, utilise naturally occurring as well as synthetic sources, and have minimal impact on humans and the environment.
In 2019, the company bagged €7 million (nearly £6 million) Series A round from University Venture Fund, Oxford Sciences Innovation, and Parkwalk Advisors among others to develop its platform and find solutions to avert the global herbicide resistance crisis.
Founder/s: Prof. Julian Gough, Prof. Jose Polo, Prof. Owen Rackham
Founded year: 2019
Mogrify is a UK biotechnology company whose mission is to transform the development of ex vivo cell therapies, as well as pioneer a new class of in vivo reprogramming therapies. Mogrify has developed a proprietary direct cellular conversion technology, which makes it possible to transform (transmogrify) any mature human cell type into any other without going through a pluripotent stem cell- or progenitor cell-state.
The company is deploying this platform to develop novel cell therapies addressing musculoskeletal, auto-immune, cancer immunotherapy, ocular and respiratory diseases as well as generating a broad IP position relating to cell conversions that exhibit safety, efficacy and scalable manufacturing profiles suitable for development as cell therapies.
In a recent development, Mogrify pocketed $17 million (nearly £14.6 million) Series A funding in a round led by Parkwalk Advisors along with strategic Corporate Pharma investor Astellas Venture Management, 24Haymarket, co-Founder of Abcam PLC, Dr Jonathan Milner, and Mogrify CEO, Dr Darrin M Disley OBE. The funds will be used to advance its immuno-oncology and ophthalmology programs, continue platform development and explore cell reprogramming for novel therapeutic application.
Founder/s: Professor Adam Perriman
Founded year: 2017
CytoSeek, a spinout from the University of Bristol, is on a mission to use Artificial Membrane Binding Protein technology to deliver the potential of the next generation of cell therapies, with a focus on treating solid tumours. CytoSeek is now engaged in proof of principle studies for multiple product candidates, and is seeking to enhance cell therapies against solid tumours.
CytoSeek’s novel cell membrane augmentation technology enables it to add new functionalities to cell therapies including tissue-specific targeting and enhanced cell survivability. This technology is designed to not only help target the immune cells to the solid tumour, but also to improve their cancer cell-killing ability.
In March this year, the biotech startup bagged £3.5 million seed funding to accelerate the commercialisation of its Artificial Membrane Binding Protein (AMPB) technology, which will be used to discover the potential of immune cell therapies for treating solid tumours. The funding led by the newly established deep tech fund Science Creates Ventures (SCV), which is a syndicate of Parkwalk, Melltwind, Luminous Ventures, UKI2S and angels.
Founder/s: Aman Khan
Founded year: 2019
Spun out from the University College London, Novai has created DARC Technology, which combines an innovative patented biologic with a state-of-the-art AI algorithm, which allows pharmaceutical companies to reduce the time, cost and risk of developing new drugs. For the first time in humans, using standard imaging equipment, DARC is able to identify cellular level disease activities. The company aims to reduce the clinical drug development period from years to months, as well as catch and monitor disease progression in trial patients.
In July 2020, the biotech startup secured £500k in seed funding led by SFC Capital. The company intends to use the funds to further develop AI-powered technology, which enables standard medical imaging equipment to identify eye disease at a cellular level, which is up to 18 months prior to the current gold-standard processes.
Founder/s: Chris Iveson, Robin Hartley
Founded year: 2020
FourJaw, a University of Sheffield spin out, offers a machine agnostic data analytics platform that’s accessible, affordable, and uses Industry 4 tech to deliver productivity improvements with tangible benefits to a manufacturers’ bottom line. To keep pace with the changes that technology brings across manufacturing, it is more important now than ever to adopt digital tech that allows companies to compete on a global scale. FourJaw looks to equip manufacturers with the right edge tech and cloud analytics as we enter “industry 4.0”.
Earlier this year, FourJaw Manufacturing secured a significant six-figure investment from a combined Angel and Venture Capital syndicate. It will use the funds to accelerate the development and roll out of its productivity maximising platform FourJaw Manufacturing Analytics.
Founder/s: Dr Mark Platt, Rhush Maugi
Founded year: 2021
Figura Analytics revolutionises drinks analysis, to improve product quality and consistency and to help build brand value. The Loughborough University spinout uses technology to characterise nanomaterials, proteins, heavy metal ions, colloids, bacteria, and algae in a range of solutions from sea water, blood and beverages.
The technology uses Figura’s proprietary microfluidics, sensors and software algorithms, enabling them to characterize any particle suspended in a solution, regardless of its size and sample matrix. This has a number of uses in the drinks manufacturing process from analysing flavours and filters, through to replacing traditional microbiological tests. This will help brands deliver quality and consistency to their consumers.
The nanotechnology business raised £180K seed round funding this week from private investors and the UK’s leading early stage investor SFC Capital. It focuses on on developing its rapid testing technology platform aimed at helping the drinks industry to improve quality and consistency of ingredients and finished products.
Founder/s: Victor Malachard
Founded year: 2018
Spun out from University College London, Nozzle.ai is an eCommerce and advertising optimisation platform for Amazon. The platform was designed by data scientists and Amazon experts to help brands maximise sales and share category and advertising performance on the e-commerce platform.
Using the data sets available through Amazon’s API ecosystem, Nozzle.ai provides companies with operational efficiencies, deep insights, and delivers continuous media to spend optimisation and sales performance across Amazon’s entire ad tech stack. This helps sellers and retailers drive market share and profitability on Amazon.
Last year, Nozzle.ai raised £2 million funding from Parkwalk Advisors, The Angel CoFund (ACF), UCL Technology Fund (UCLTF), and a syndicate of eCommerce-expert angel investors. The company intends to use the funds to expand the team across all business functions and further develop its product offering (advertising audit, customer analytics and advertising bid management) accelerating adoption among sellers, brands and their agencies.
Founder/s: Jurek Kozyra
Founded year: 2018
Nanovery, a Newcastle University spinout, is developing nanorobots to diagnose the world’s deadliest diseases by creating a point-of-care solution that is 10× cheaper and 100× faster, using nanobots.
Recent advances have enabled early detection of cancers with just a blood sample, but this can still take 2 weeks. Cancer diagnoses using scans and tissue biopsy are slow, expensive and risky for patients. With the advancement of liquid biopsy, patients can be screened or diagnosed with just a blood sample, but this technique is still slow and expensive as it relies on PCR and sequencing. Nanovery will help to drastically reduce the time and costs of diagnosis through technology.
Founder/s: Victor Riparbelli, Prof. Matthias Niessner, Prof. Lourdes Agapito, Steffen Tjerrild
Founded year: 2017
Synthesia uses artificial intelligence to create high-end videos for many applications including personalised advertising, corporate communications and e-learning. The technology from Synthesia synchronises the lip movements in a video to a new dialogue track which enables video content to be translated into foreign languages, widening distribution channels for a fraction of the cost. Synthesia recently launched their first global campaign with Malaria survivors speaking through David Beckham to help raise awareness around the Malaria Must Die initiative.
Recently, the company bagged £9 million Series A financing led by Matt Turck from FirstMark Capital alongside participation from existing investors. Synthesia will use the new funds to invest in product and IP development, starting with its personalized video API.