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15 November, 2012 - 10:10 By Tony Quested

Abcam boss backs stem cell venture

Abcam CEO, Jonathan Milner

Jonathan Milner, CEO of antibodies hothouse Abcam, has joined other angels in backing an exciting new stem cell company in Cambridge UK.

They have formed a syndicate with the University of Cambridge Enterprise Fund to support DefiniGen, recently featured in Business Weekly. The university has pumped £75k into the funding pot.

DefiniGEN is one of the first commercial opportunities to arise in the area of stem cells. The ability to generate stem cells by reprogramming cells from patients’ skin has revolutionised this area of research.

These cells, known as human induced pluripotent stem cells (hIPSC), can be differentiated into almost any cell type, allowing the opportunity to have a ready source of human cells for testing new therapies.

DefiniGEN has been formed to supply hIPSC-derived cells to the drug discovery and regenerative medicine sectors. The company is based on the research of Dr Ludovic Vallier, Dr Tamir Rashid and Professor Roger Pedersen of the Anne McLaren Laboratory of Regenerative Medicine.

The hIPSC-derived cells produced by DefiniGEN show many of the functional characteristics of primary cells, are highly reproducible and can be made in large quantities, making them ideal for liver toxicity testing, which is a major cause of drug candidate failure.

The university’s enterprise fund has also invested £50k in Inotec AMD – a spin-out from the Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy, specialising in the treatment of chronic wounds.

Growing numbers of people, especially the elderly, suffer painful, debilitating wounds for five years or more. The treatment of these wounds consumes up to five per cent of total healthcare budgets.

The company is based on a combination of fuel cell technology developed by Professor Derek Fray and a novel system for distributing oxygen over a chronic wound.

Inotec has developed a portable, rechargeable battery powered oxygen generator about the size of smartphone which provides pure humidified oxygen using its own consumable oxygen delivery web.

As previously reported in Business Weekly, the enterprise fund made the first of its three investments to date in Cambridge CMOS Sensors (CCS) – £125k.

CCS is based on research from the Department of Engineering. The company aims to be a leading manufacturer of mid-infrared emitter, and technology provider of CMOS MEMS structures such as basic and smart micro-hotplates, semiconductor sensors (gas sensors, mechanical sensors, temperature sensors & flow sensors) and nano-MEMS and nanosensors.

The company’s technology is a platform that allows fabrication of highly advanced sensing structures at a fraction of the cost of the present technologies. CCS has a range of low power consumption, low cost products and is actively working with multi-national companies and involved in leading edge R & D projects for the next generation of micro and nanosensors.

The Enterprise Fund co-invested alongside the Parkwalk UK Technology EIS Fund, Martlet and Providence Investments.The Enterprise Fund, a combined Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) and Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) Fund, was launched in May of this year and closed in September.

The SEIS was announced in the 2012 budget as part of the government’s strategy for stimulating economic growth. The scheme allows individuals to invest in new companies while benefitting from generous tax incentives.

Cambridge is the first university to have its own SEIS Fund, and the first to combine it with the EIS. The fund is managed by London-based investment firm Parkwalk Advisors, on behalf of Cambridge Enterprise, the University’s commercialisation arm.

University entrepreneurs interested in applying for funding, or who would like further information, can contact Cambridge Enterprise’s Seed Funds team on 01223 763723 or CESF [at] enterprise.cam.ac.uk." target="_blank">CESF [at] enterprise.cam.ac.uk.

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Abcam CEO, Jonathan Milner

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