NEW IN OUR LOCAL INNOVATION SECTOR
Major new funding for Clatterbridge researchers
Liverpool’s Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) is to receive up to £1.5m in investment over the next five years, to help doctors and scientists find cancer treatments of the future.
A collaboration between Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool Clinical Trials Centre and scientists and researchers at the University of Liverpool has been made possible by a partnership between Cancer Research UK and The National Institute for Health and Care Research. It will allow new treatments, including immunotherapies, for a wide variety of cancers to be developed, whilst also improving existing treatments.
Dr Sheena Khanduri, the Medical Director of The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust, says: “Clatterbridge is one of the leading cancer research hospitals in the country. We are at the forefront of immunology research and some of our clinical research trials are global firsts. Driving all these efforts is the knowledge patients will benefit directly from our pioneering research.”
One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetimes, so finding new treatments is vital.
Biograd is soon to open the UK’s second biggest Biobank facility in Liverpool, part of a £7.6m investment in Wavertree Technology Park. Biobanking is the process of preserving human tissue for research (such as Covid vaccines) or application (taking cells out of patients and putting them back in; such as stem cells).
The site will also host a new Biograd Innovation cCentre incorporating Biograd Education – a lab-based learning provider for aspiring scientists. It will be a hub for the local community and a space for city region based female-led science and technology SMEs to blossom. It’s also designed to be eco-friendly and sustainable, and is planning to take its energy usage off grid by 2024.
Dr Natalie Kenny, CEO of Biograd, comments: “Our incredible new headquarters, which will house the second largest biobank… in the UK, represent an exciting new era… as we move into stem cell and regenerative medicine research, alongside continued education operators.”
MYMA secures investment from LYVA to increase IVF success
LYVA Labs, the LCR’s innovation commercialisation organisation, has invested £106,000 (matched by £390,000 innovate SMART UK grant) into MYMA Medical – a Daresbury-based fertility technology start-up formed in 2020. It’s an offshoot organisation from nine years’ research into the automation of egg and sperm manipulation, at the University of Birmingham’s Department of Engineering.
Infertility is the most common healthcare condition for 30-40 year olds, affecting 3.5 million people in the UK, and 186 million worldwide. Currently the process of physically taking the best sperm available by manual injection has only a 30% success rate and is subject to human error – automation aims to reduce this and also to eliminate the need for multiple procedures, often needed due to the low success rate, which can cost £10,000-£12,000 per cycle – a prohibitive expense for many where it can be required several times over.
Lorna Green, CEO of LYVA Labs, says: “MYMA Medical is a brilliant, innovative start-up with a model to significantly enhance the experience of people struggling with fertility. So many are touched by fertility issues… either personally or through communities, so I am proud to bring businesses like this to our ever evolving region”
New cancer advances
A University of Liverpool spin-out drug discovery company, Sulantrix, is exploring new medicines targeting cancer, using previously untapped classes of pseudoenzymes as the key.
Pat Eyers, CEO of Sulantrix, says: “Until recently, pseudokinases were somewhat of an enigma in human biology… Sulantrix is putting patients at the centre of everything we do by drugging ‘kinases’, the enzymatically active cousins of pseudokinases, in order to find new ways to treat naive and drug resistant cancers.”
A UK start-up at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Daresbury laboratory has also reached its most critical milestone yet, in the development of pioneering next generation technology to treat cancers.
Advanced Oncotherapy’s Linear Proton Radiotherapy “LIGHT” accelerator has fired a 230 megaelectron volt (MeV) proton beam, meaning it can treat tumours to a depth of 32cm.
Protons beams result in almost zero radiation to the surrounding tissues or organs, offers higher disease-free survival rates and are particularly useful for tumours adjacent to critical organs or areas like the liver, lungs, head, neck, prostate or breast, paediatric tumours and tumours in patients treated with chemo-radiation.
The technology is based on work developed at CERN (the home of the Hadron Collider) – the LIGHT systems reduce shielding requirements, enable fast speed of delivery and focused radiation, compared to existing proton beam therapies. That makes it more affordable and accessible to patients.
Liverpool Vaccine Equity Programme Launches New Phase
The Liverpool Vaccine Equity pilot project was designed to develop solutions based on local data, to overcome barriers to vaccine uptake (and halve Covid-19 vaccination inequality levels in Liverpool). This helps community-based groups tackle avoidable and unfair differences in health in the most disadvantaged areas of the city.
The second phase, which started in December 2022, brings together IICON (infection innovation consortium), Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Central Liverpool Primary Care Network (CLPCN) and Capacity Development International to extend the approach to new communities in Liverpool. Additional Community Innovation Teams will select their own health equality priorities, based on the needs of the community they serve. As well as vaccine equality, health and wellbeing issues like childhood immunisation, mental health and cancer screening can be addressed.
Miriam Taegtmeyer, is professor of Global Health at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and leads the programme. She says: “Our pilot phase and summary report has shown that utilising community level data alongside local knowledge and insights is a highly effective method of resolving entrenched health inequality issues.”
Collaboration for Change
The Liverpool City Region is world renowned for its cutting edge approaches to health and wellbeing. Following a pilot in 2022 the Civic Data Cooperation is bringing back its “What’s Your Problem” scheme in 2023 to help focus on the regions growing mental health crisis, especially amongst men and students.
“What’s Your Problem” is a four-part programme designed to remove the barriers of getting ideas off the ground, not fully understanding the problems at hand, the lack of exterior support and differences in work cultures, and instead to open doors between those in Health, Care and Community product and service design – creating a space to find solutions that actually work.
The participants will be invited to a series of events which will provide an open forum to look at these problems – and to connect problem solvers to come up with new ideas for people in mental health crises, as well as the opportunity to access up to £60k in seed funding.
Eleanor Fielding, Programme manager at CDC says ‘“Whats Your Problem” isn’t just about new introductions, or networking, but transforming how we approach the region’s biggest problems – we don’t want to just open doors between sectors; we want to take them off the hinges.”