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26 August, 2014 - 12:08 By Tony Quested

Cambridge entrepreneur steers global medtech innovator

Catherine-Beech 2014

Cambridge UK life science entrepreneur Dr Catherine Beech is spearheading a truly international startup initially targeting eye disease but with applications in cancer and other disease areas.

Dr Beech is CEO of Nottingham University spin-out Exonate whose biology is being conducted in the UK and whose chemistry function is being led in New South Wales, Australia.

Exonate’s Scientific Advisory Board includes luminaries from Utah, Philadelphia, Switzerland, Sydney and the UK. The business is also using CROs in India, which are much more cost-effective than anywhere else on the planet.

“I need expertise to commercialise this pioneering opportunity and I intend to harness it wherever I can find it,” Dr Beech told Business Weekly.

The company is in the front line to introduce eye drops to treat a source of blindness and replace costly hit-and-miss vaccinations that cause patients untold distress and pain.

Exonate has set up a commercial office in Cambridge and uses Cambridge professionals for legal and accountancy work in Taylor Vinters and Ensors.

Exonate is bidding to raise a further £600k from angels and other sources to accelerate progress towards commercialising the technology, having raised healthy seed finance in an over-subscribed round, and Dr Beech believes the opportunity is an exciting one.

She said: “The technology targets unmet needs and the first application is wet age-related macular  degeneration which can cause blindness. This is the commonest form of blindness in the western world with 30 million sufferers worldwide and 200,000 in the UK.

“We believe that by leveraging our technology we can develop molecule-based eye drops, making the current once-a-month injections unnecessary for sufferers. This would save patients a lot of suffering and the NHs a lot of money.

“Drops would be the Holy Grail. Our science is very compelling and has been tested on mice and worked. We are testing the drops for side-effects and toxicity and will then see if it works on human patients in eye clinics.”

Nottingham University acquired facilities from Boots that took a lot of cost out of validating the science advanced by David Bates at the university’s Queens Medical Centre. 

Dr Beech said the low-cost model that Exonate had utilised would enable the business to target new markets quickly and efficiently.

While eye disease represented “the low hanging fruit” she was confident that there were many additional applications – not least in cancer but also in areas of diabetes and chronic pain.

Exonate is keen to explore collaborations for its core science.

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