July 24, 2020 @ 12:22 by Chloe Holmes
A Newcastle-based pre-clinical service provider has been awarded Innovate UK grant to support the global fight against COVID-19.
Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency has awarded Alcyomics, £50,000 to carry out critical scientific support in the production of a vaccine for Covid-19.
They are one of three businesses that are based in The Biosphere that have received a share of the £40million government investment that was awarded to 800 applicants across the UK. Innovate UK received a record 8,600 applications from across the UK, with this Fast Start competition looking to fast-track the development of research, innovations, and ideas bourne out of the pandemic.
Alcyomics, who were founded in 2007, are uniquely placed to investigate the immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Their service provision is a human skin explant test, called Skimune®, to detect adverse immune responses to a variety of drugs, biologics, chemicals, and cosmetic products. Skimune® can predict whether a drug is likely to cause an adverse reaction and has been particularly useful to the pharmaceutical industry to test their drugs prior to entering costly clinical trials.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have adapted this service provision to develop a suite of human-based assays specifically designed to aid research into the virus causing COVID 19, SARS-CoV-2. Alcyomics has put together several assays designed to aid in the identification of new drug targets for COVID-19 and an assessment of safety and efficacy of new and re-purposed drug candidates. Ultimately, they will develop a simple blood screening test to identify those at most risk of a severe COVID-19 infection. This work looks to reduce the mortality and morbidity rates by assessing susceptible groups, enabling the economy to recover faster by reducing the number of the population off work due to their low risk status.
They have adapted their expertise to specifically aid research for a COVID-19 vaccine, with this funding supporting their teams to provide critical information and clinical management for patients.
Alcyomics was founded by Professor Anne Dickinson following more than 30 years of research at Newcastle University, identifying responses of donor cells against patient skin tissue following hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Her research led to the development of their human skin laboratory-based assay platform (Skimune ®).
Professor Anne Dickinson, from Alcyomics said: “We are proud to be able to assist with the development of a vaccine for COVID-19 by adapting our already successful technology. As a small North East business this fund will allow us to continue critical research that will support the world with its global fight against this virus. So many people across the world have been impacted and our screening will identify those most at risk, helping to keep more people safe. This funding has supported us to innovate and comes at a time where support to keep our research going vital.”
Luke Dunnett, property business manager at The Biosphere said: “Businesses like Alcyomics are testament to the talent, skills and expertise we have in the North East. This funding will make a huge difference and is recognition of the role they can play in the fight against COVID-19. We are surrounded by innovation and talent we are so proud to have companies like Alcyomics operating from The Biosphere.”
Alcyomics are one of four businesses based in The Biosphere who are adapting and innovating using their existing expertise to support with the fight against COVID-19. Atelerix who have developed a ground breaking solution for cell preservation are using existing technology to extend the shelf life of COVID-19 test kits, Independent research organisation, ExplantLab are investigating whether certain genes may protect individuals from developing serious complications following infection from COVID-19 and cancer diagnosis company MDNA Life Sciences are making Covid-19 testing available to commercial businesses.
Councillor Ged Bell, Cabinet Member for Employment and Culture at Newcastle City Council said: “The Biosphere is becoming a hot spot for life sciences and it is brilliant to see a funding boost that will support Alcyomics with their ambitions. New funding streams are critical, even more so in the current climate. Businesses who are based in The Biosphere are standing out as true innovators who are looking to make a positive impact to people’s lives.”