Uptake of a fluorescent "Polydye" into CHO cells.
The fluorescent polymer can be used to track delivery
of a drug in cells or for in-vivo distribution and tumour
Dr Mark Eccleston
Royal Society of Edinburgh/BBSRC Enterprise Fellow
Dr Mark Eccleston has officially taken over as Chief Executive Officer of Vivamer, a spin out company from the department of Chemical Engineering. The former CEO, professor Nigel Slater will become Chairman. Dr Eccleston is about to complete an MBA as part of the BBSRC/Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellowship scheme and recently progressed to the second round of the Research Council's business plan competition. Only half of the original 100 entrants successfully made it through and the surviving competitors will now go on to compete for five finalist places who will then present in front of a panel of Venture capitalists for a prize of £25,000. Importantly, this stage of the competition comes with access to business advisors and expenses to progress the business planning.
Vivamer was founded in 2003 to commercialise Cell Penetrating Polymer technology developed within the Cambridge Unit of Responsive Biopolymers. The University, in return for a license to the technology, owns nearly 60% of the company of which 20% is held by CUTs on behalf of the department. Dr Eccleston commented "the recent commercial training through the Enterprise Fellowship has been invaluable in reassessing Vivamer's business plan and future direction. This has been validated in the business plan competition so far. We have been focussing on establishing commercialisation partners for a number of applications of our technology over the past few months in order to support our first fundraising round following on from support from the University challenge Fund. The aim is to leverage development contracts in areas that will have rapid access to market, such as smart reagents, and commercial grant funding with equity based financing to grow the company to the point where is can either be sold or floated on the stock market. This could set a precedent for an alternative funding route for the department as well as showcasing its technology and commercial aspirations".
Several other companies have spun out from the department, notably Novexin which was formed by Daniel jones and Heikki Lanckriet and recently raise £400, 000 funding and secured a £200, 000 DTI development grant. "Dan and Heikki have shown the way and I intend to follow", said Vivamer's new CEO. "The difference [in the case of Vivamer] is that the department has a vested interest in our success as it stands to make a bigger financial gain than either of the founders when we reach an exit".