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Two new bio-medical spin-out companies enable pre-symptomatic diagnoses

Two new bio-medical spin-out companies from Newcastle University enable pre-symptomatic diagnoses

29 July 2022

Two bio-medical companies spun-out from research at Newcastle University in the past month will offer innovative, accessible and accurate tests in the fields of skin damage, and neurological diseases. These tests will enable early detection which in turn allows early intervention and preventative treatment.

Skin Life Analytics has developed a personalised non-invasive test that can reveal if somebody’s skin is at risk of ageing prematurely. Aspects of lifestyle including exposure to sunlight and poor sleep can damage skin cells. Initially this damage is invisible to the eye. The new test reveals damage before visible symptoms appear.

The technology behind the Skin Life Analytics test draws on 15 years of research by Professor Mark Birch-Machin and his team, whose pioneering research into mitochondria’s role in skin ageing looks at the role lifestyle activity such as exposure to sunlight, pollution, sleep, and genetic mitochondrial dysfunction have on the skin.

Their development of a simple and non-invasive skin swab test can measure and monitor skin damage in the mitochondria which are the batteries of the cells. The test offers a lifestyle assessment suggesting changes that could be made to improve skin. It also utilises face scan technology to pinpoint areas that would benefit from a more specific care regime.

The same technology is used to accurately assess the potency of actives which are used commercially in skin care and to combat skin ageing.

Skin Life Analytics is based in the Catalyst and works closely with the National Innovation Centre for Ageing (NICA), receiving both mentoring and business support to bring its research to commercialisation. Skin Life Analytics also worked with the University’s SME innovation scheme, Arrow for research to prove its scientific claims. It has also been supported by Northern Accelerator and national schemes Innovate UK (ICURe) and the EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account.

Professor Mark Birch-Machin, CSO and founder of Skin Life Analytics along with Jonathan Brookes the CEO said;

“Spinning out a company allows us to commercialise our unique and non-invasive skin care test and technology. It will enable it to be used widely by aesthetic clinics, cosmetic and ingredient companies and individuals to prevent premature ageing, and identifying any potential skin damage that could cause issues later on.”

Pre-symptomatic detection of neurological disorders 

Each year in the UK there are 20,000 new cases of dementia with Lewy Bodies and 20,000 Parkinson’s cases. Early detection can enable early diagnoses and can significantly help clinical management of these neurodegenerative diseases.  

ESP Diagnostics Ltd (ESPDx) has developed a simple and accurate test for early-stage diagnosis and early pre-symptomatic detection of both dementia with Lewy Bodies and Parkinson's disease. The test measures biomarkers in extracellular vesicles enabling early and accurate and diagnosis of neurodegenerative disorders for patients, clinicians, healthcare providers, and drug developers. 

As leading UK centre for dementia research, this technology was developed at Newcastle University by Dr Marzena Kurzawa-Akanbi, Senior Research Associate, Biosciences Institute, and Dr Chris Morris, Senior Lecturer, Translational and Clinical Research Institute, who now have key roles at ESPDx. 

ESPDx team took part in the Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe) programme designed to help start-ups with a customer discovery programme, funded by Innovate UK. They were invited to apply for follow on funding from Innovate UK and secured £280,000 to fund the company in the first year, enabling its launch last month. 

CEO of ESPDx Dr Dale Athey explained: 

“While existing methods often rely upon expensive and complex techniques, and lack accuracy, the ESP test is simple, rapid and cost-effective and can be performed on standard laboratory equipment. We provide assay services to pharma and biotech companies developing disease modifying therapies, and are developing IVD products for patients, clinicians and healthcare providers worldwide.” 

Innovative economic growth 

Newcastle University creates high-tech, innovative companies by identifying and ‘spinning out’ commercial and not-for-profit activities from world class research. More than 35 companies have been set up, creating more than 234 jobs. The companies have attracted more than £56M of investment in the last two years. 

Rick McCordall, Head of Company Creation said 
“Creating commercial companies from university research leads to high-tech, innovative companies with ground-breaking new products and services. Starting businesses in this way allows practical and commercial application of our scientific research and gives an important boost for the regional economy. We have an exciting pipeline of new commercial spin out opportunities and encourage those interested in working with us to get in touch. We are always looking for people to join our start-up companies, either in advisory or leadership roles, or to invest or partner with them.” 

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