February 4, 2019

North East Times celebrates some of the innovative and up-and-coming companies and enterprises that have spun out from our region’s universities

Dr Sam Whitehouse, Dr Carrie Ambler, and Professor Andrew Whiting (pictured left)

LightOx is developing light-activated therapies for skin cancer treatments, as an alternative to typical surgery, radio- or chemo-therapies.

It was established in late 2016 by academics from Durham University and Oxford University, Dr Carrie Ambler, Professor Andrew Whiting and Professor Mark Coles, with Dr Sam Whitehouse joining the team last year.

“We have a range of molecules (drugs) that can enter the cells of interest and upon activation with a specific light source we can kill the cancer cells,” says Dr Whitehouse.

“Initially we are looking at skin and head and neck cancers, however, these molecules could also be targeted towards areas such as wound treatments for infections, or fungal diseases.”

Having secured its first round of investment, LightOx is looking to bring its innovative treatments to clinic in 2020.
In the meantime, it will start selling the molecules to other researchers interested in the cell imaging and targeted probes field, via a global distributor, in Q2 this year.

“We have also developed a light delivery device – the LightOx Box – to aid researchers in their development and apply light in a controlled manner,” Dr Whitehouse adds.

LightOx has benefited from the ability to extract founding IP from Durham and Oxford universities, and have also been able to leverage a network
of expertise housed in both institutes.

“The universities are keen to support our business and have been very helpful in allowing our academics to support the business in its early stages,” says Dr Whitehouse.

Shantelle Million

MiCarePlan, established by Shantelle Million, offers a digital alternative to the documentation of care within residential homes.

According to Shantelle: “The MiCarePlan system is based on the understanding of how a care home works and looks to reduce the frustrations staff face on a daily basis.”

The aim of MiCarePlan is to offer a digital alternative to the traditional paperwork process that has been used for decades.

Shantelle began exploring the concept while she learnt about clarifying communications as part of her English language degree at Newcastle University.

She believes joining the Newcastle University Founderships Programme was critical to getting her business off the ground.

“The emotional, financial and business support I received was fantastic and continues today,” she says. “Over the past three years, Newcastle University’s Institute of Ageing, the Medical and Business Schools and the careers team have enabled me to develop in so many ways – both personally and professionally.”

As well as getting MiCarePlan into care homes, Shantelle is working with schools, universities and charities to discuss innovation in the sector.

Ethan Lowerson-Marshall, Abbie Burgess and Adam Wood

Ethan, Adam and Abbie met at the Enterprise Place at the University of Sunderland and have combined their expertise in web and graphic design, social media, photography, PR and videography to create intoitMEDIA, which offers custom digital marketing solutions.

Ethan says: “Our strength is that we offer a range of services in one place. Our individual skills combine to offer a competitive ‘one stop shop’ for clients.”

Having launched in August 2018, intoitMEDIA has already won its first clients and is delivering its solutions utilising the expertise of the three founders.

intoitMEDIA continues to receive support from the Enterprise Place where Abbie says: “There is so much help and support for literally any question or worry about starting a business.”

Johnson Fernandes

Equiwatt is an intelligent energy management platform that rewards households for saving energy.

Co-founder Johnson says: “At times of peak energy demand, energy can be at its most expensive and least efficient supply point. This is often referred to as ‘dirty energy’. Our smart technology platform includes an easy-to-install home hub and app that automatically manages the energy usage of household appliances at those peak times.”

By coordinating the energy usage of appliances across thousands of households, Equiwatt can reduce
the cost of peak time energy for energy companies. Those companies are willing to pass those savings back to households via the Equiwatt cashback programme.

“It means households could earn up to £300 a year by simply allowing high usage appliances to be turned off automatically for a few minutes during peak demand times,” Johnson adds.

Johnson and fellow co-founder Ravneed Kaur established Equiwatt in November 2015 while part of Newcastle University’s Founderships Programme.

“The university was instrumental in helping Equiwatt in the early days of setting up the company. We received guidance for market research and business development along with visa support to enable the company founders to incorporate and run the business legally,” says Johnson.

Three years on and Equiwatt is beta-testing its digital platform in 50 homes in the North East. The company is also part of a research partnership with the world-leading energy systems group at Newcastle University, and Climate-KIC Accelerator, a European accelerator for clean tech startups.

Chloe Wilson

Chloe Wilson and her partner, Darren Appleton, has established NU TO GO, a health food kitchen on Gateshead High Street, which caters for a broad audience including vegan, paleo, and vegetarian, and comprises on- the-road catering trucks, corporate catering, meal preps and nutritional advice.

“The reason behind the concept was down to the lack of availability on the high street for grab-and-go health food,” says Chloe, “We saw a gap in the market and the idea was born.”

NU TO GO was established in March 2016, with the support of Northumbria University.

“The university has helped us with many different aspects of the business, including providing legal, design and marketing expertise from external companies. The team has been a great support along the journey of concept to execution,” says Chloe.

The primary focus is to have multiple food trucks on the road servicing businesses in Newcastle and Gateshead. another way we aim to grow the business is with meal preparation. i’ve already taken steps towards this by hiring a nutritionist – ex GB athlete, Stacey Smith.