Our successes

Spin out successes

The MRC is interested in the contribution its research makes to the formation and growth of spin out companies.

MRC research leads to discoveries that can be commercially exploited and result in positive economic impacts such as employment, provision of new goods and services, and direct investment into the UK – as well as improving human health.

Our track record in this area is considerable: we have evidence of MRC-supported research leading to the creation of well over 100 new companies, and it is estimated that these companies represent at least 500 new highly skilled jobs in the UK.

A snap-shot of some of these companies is shown below. To read about more companies based on MRC funded research, see the 2014 MRC Spin Out Company (XLSX, 101KB) list or read section 2.4 of the Outputs, outcomes and impact of MRC research 2013/14 Report (PDF, 4.61MB).

Abcodia (formed 2010)

Professor Ian Jacobs, Dean of Biomedical Sciences at University College London and Principle Investigator of the MRC-funded UKCTOCS established Abcodia with management support from Somaxa.

Abcodia is an innovative company engaged in the validation and discovery of biomarkers for the early detection and screening of disease. The company works alongside University College London, one of the world's leading multidisciplinary universities and in partnership with diagnostic, pharmaceutical and technology companies to exploit a unique prospective serum bank for the purpose of ethical biomarker validation and discovery.

In December 2012, Abcodia swept the board at the Startups Awards 2012 by scooping three top prizes, as well as being honoured as the overall ‘NatWest Startups Business of the Year’, for its pioneering work in cancer screening.

In June 2013, Cancer Research UK and its commercial arm, Cancer Research Technology (CRT), joined forces with Abcodia to develop new blood tests to detect a range of cancers which currently have limited screening tests available when they are still at a very early stage. Later that year, the company was granted a world-wide exclusive license to ROCA from the Massachusetts General Hospital and Queen Mary, University of London. ROCA is a diagnostic test aimed at the screening and early detection of ovarian cancer and is the subject of several ongoing clinical trials.                                                                

In January 2014, The Guardian listed ROCA as one of the six health breakthroughs to look out for; while another article highlighted ROCA as a potential game changer in ovarian cancer screening.

For more information, visit the Abcodia website.

Activiomics Ltd (formed 2009)

One of the company's two scientific founders is Professor Bart Vanhaesebroeck, an MRC-funded scientist at Queen Mary, University of London, who is a world-leading expert in a particular cell process (PI3K signalling) which is a major disease target in cancer and inflammatory diseases.

The company has developed a suite of advanced, label-free mass spectrometry technologies that enables it to identify and quantify, directly from clinical samples, proteins and phosphoproteins that correlate with the progression of disease and/or the administration of drugs.

In November 2012, the company announced a research agreement with the Japanese pharmaceutical company Kyowa Hakko Kirin. Under the agreement, Activiomics will apply its novel TIQUAS phosphoproteomics platform to determine signalling mechanisms of lead compounds in relevant cell-based systems.                                                                    

In September 2013, the company announced the successful completion of validation studies showing the utility of TIQUAS, the company’s proprietary technology, for the identification of prognostic and predictive biomarkers. 

In March 2014, the company announced that Activiomics Ltd is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Retroscreen Virology Group plc (“Retroscreen”).

Anaptys Bio Inc (formed 2005)

In 2007, the company licensed MRC intellectual property from Michael Neuberger’s lab at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular biology (LMB). AnaptysBio is a privately-held company focused on the generation of antibody therapeutics and is the leader in the use of somatic hypermutation (SHM) for antibody discovery and optimization. AnaptysBio’s proprietary SHM-XEL™ platform replicates key features of the human immune system and overcomes limitations of prior antibody technologies.

The company has previously announced partnerships with Merck, Roche, Novartis, Celgene, Gilead, DARPA and DTRA, and in April 2012 it established a strategic partnership with Celgene Corporation to develop novel antibodies against cancer and inflammation-related therapeutic targets.                                       

In May 2013, the company was awarded a contract from the US Government to develop highly termostable anti-ricin antibodies for biodefence applications. Later that year, it announced an antibody development agreement with Momenta Pharmaceuticals Inc, focused on the development of new antibodies.

In January 2014, the company announced the development of a ‘first-in-class’ therapeutic antibody to interleukin-33 (IL-33) which was discovered using the company’s proprietary platform. Two months later, the company announced a strategic immuno-oncology collaboration with TESARO Inc (NASDAQ: TSRO), an oncology-focused biopharmaceutical company.  Under the terms of the agreement, AnaptysBio has granted TESARO exclusive rights to certain antibody programs.  Antibody candidates from these programs are expected to enter clinical trials over the next 18 to 24 months.

The company now has a product on the market.

For more information, visit the Anaptys Bio Inc website.

Bicycle Therapeutics (formed 2009)

Bicycle Therapeutics is an MRC Technology spin out based on the research of Sir Greg Winter, a researcher at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. The company was formed to develop the technology licensed from the MRC for the creation of a new generation of biotherapeutics which combine the desirable features of small molecules and biopharmaceuticals to create highly specific and highly stable drugs.

In 2012, the company secured a tranched equity financing of £3.75 million to invest in the selection of drug candidates using its bicyclic peptide technology platform. Current investors Atlas Venture, Novartis Venture Fund, SR One and SV Life Sciences were joined by new investor Astellas Venture Management, the venture capital arm of Astellas Pharma.                                                                         

In 2013, Bicycle Therapeutics entered into an agreement with Belgium’s ThromboGenics to develop drugs to treat eye diseases, notably diabetic macular edema (DME).

For more information, visit the Bicycle Therapeutics website.

Celleron Therapeutics (formed 2004)

Celleron is a spin out company from the University of Oxford. It has strong links to the new Oxford Institute of Cancer Medicine and was founded by Professor Nicholas La Thangue, an MRC grant holder and former programme leader at MRC National Institute for Medical Research (now part of the Francis Crick Insitutue). Celleron Therapeutics is a private oncology company with several products in clinical development. Celleron aims to apply its biomarker platform, CancerNav, which predicts tumour sensitivity to new and existing therapies, to all its products and thereby provide efficient, targeted cancer therapies which can be developed rapidly and with reduced risk.

In 2012, Quintiles invested in a new Oxford spin out company Oxford Cancer Biomarkers to market the CancerNav platform, and in March 2014 Celleron Therapeutics announced that the first patients will receive personalised cancer treatment in Oxford.

The company has a product in development.

For more information, visit the Celleron Therapeutics website.

Domantis Ltd (originally called Diversys Ltd now owned by GSK) (formed 2000)

Domantis was an MRC spin out established by Sir Gregory Winter and Dr Ian Tomlinson from the MRC Laboroatory for Molecular biology with seed funding from MVM Ltd. Domantis Ltd was formed to develop Human Domain Antibodies: Domain Antibodies™ (also known as dAbs™) are therapeutic molecules that have the benefits of both small molecules and conventional antibodies.

In 2001, Domantis secured an investment from an Australian biotechnology company Peptech and by 2004 the total venture capital raised by Domantis reached $58m and the company employed 40 staff.  In 2006, GSK acquired Domantis for £230 million and the MRC received £7.3 million from sale of its interest.

Fios Genomics Ltd (formed 2008)

Fios Genomics was founded by academics from the University of Edinburgh and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge. The founding Directors include Dr Peter Ghazal and Dr Tom Freeman who have both held MRC funding.

Fios Genomics offers computational innovative solutions to overcome challenges in genomic microarray analysis and achieve biologically insightful results rapidly. Optimised analysis solutions are applied from data generation, quality and statistical filtering to network and mechanistic pathway biology to streamline workflows for predictive accuracy and cost-effective report outputs. The company has been involved in over 50 different projects and is an SME partner on a number of grants.

In 2014, the company expanded its staff and was recruiting for a Business Development Manager.

The company has a product in development.

For more information, visit the Fios Genomics Ltd website.

Ichthus Therapeutics (formed 2013)

Icthus Therapeutics is a new spin out from the University of Edinburgh’s College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine focused on women’s health, and in particular on endometriosis. The founders are academics and clinicians from the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health and the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, including Dr Andrew Horne of the University of Edinburgh.

The company is funding 'PURFECT' - a pilot clinical trial to determine whether purified fatty acids are effective in the treatment of endometriosis-associated pelvic pain.

The company has a product in development.

Imanova Ltd (formed 2011)

Imanova is an innovative alliance between the MRC and three world-class London Universities: Imperial College, Kings College and University College. Imanova is a molecular and functional imaging service company. It has established proof of principle for training in radiochemistry in the context of this kind of company.

Imanova was formally opened in May 2012 by the Minister for Science. In December 2013, announced its support for the MRC UK Dementia Research Platform (UKDP) by providing expertise in clinical imaging in a major new study of biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease.

The company has a product on the market.

For more information, visit the Imanova Ltd website.

Imaxio (formerly Avidis S A) (formed 2000)

Imaxio is an integrated biotechnology company providing drug discovery and genomic services to the industry. Its predecessor Avidis, a spin out from the MRC and Cambridge University, was formed to create immunotherapeutics through its unique protein engineering technology platform, Heptafold(R).

Imaxios’ research partners span the globe and include the CNRS unit Architecture et Fonction des Macromolécules Biologiques (Marseille, France), the MRC National Institute for Medical Research (London, UK), Harvard Medical School (Boston, USA) and Hôpital Universitaire de Genève (Geneva, Switzerland).

Based in France, Imaxio employs 20 staff. The company was re-engineered in 2004 with the purpose to focus on vaccines. In 2006, Avidis and Diagnogene joined forces to become Imaxio. Later in the year, Imaxio strengthened its presence in the protein engineering industry through the acquisition of the peptide aptamer technology assets of a French company (Aptanomics).

In 2013, Imaxio acquired Trolovol, an orphan drug indicated for a congenital metabolic disease. The same year the company signed an option for a licence agreement with a leading global animal health company to develop veterinary vaccines and also announced the first human clinical trial using its pro-immunogenic technology IMX313, in tuberculosis.

The company has a product on the market.

For more information, visit the Imaxio website.