The Department of Haematology has an excellent record in commercialising and working with industry to bring about the clinical impact of its discoveries. Some examples are given below:
Diagnostics for the Real World is a spin out company founded by Dr Helen Lee in 2003. Building on Dr Lee’s work in the Diagnostics Development Unit which she established in the Department of Haematology, its founding mission is to serve the large, unmet need in resource-limited settings for high performance, easy to use diagnostics under “real world” conditions to support clinical services for people in real need. DRW and Dr Lee have won many awards for their SAMBA platforms, including a European Inventor of the Year Award. The SAMBA II device can be used at the point of care to detect a number of infections including HIV and SARS-CoV-2.
Founded in 2013 by Professor Jim Huntington and Dr Trevor Baglin, X01 developed the anti-thrombin antibody ichorcumab for use as an anti-coagulant drug with reduced bleeding risk compared to commonly used drugs such as warfarin. The company was acquired by Janssen Pharmaceuticals in 2015.
Z Factor is a spin out company founded in 2015 by Professor Jim Huntington to identify and develop therapeutic agents to treat alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency. Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency is a genetic disorder that affects 1 in 2,000 people of European descent. The most common disease-causing mutation is the Z-variant. People suffering from alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency can present emphysema and liver cirrhosis. Building on discoveries made by Professor Huntington’s group into the structure of the Z-variant of alpha-1-antitrypsin (Z-AAT), their small molecule drug ZF874 is designed to correct the misfolding of Z-AAT and is currently in Phase I trial.
In vitro platelet production
Dr Cedric Ghevaert has developed an efficient method to produce megakaryocytes from stem cells under conditions that are compatible with the production of a product fit for humans. The intellectual property for the differentiation process has been licensed to Platelet BioGenesis in 2017 who intend to make platelets that are cheaper, safer and available on demand. Dr Ghevaert also founded the spin out company Tropofour Therapeutics which is developing a compound for use in the control of platelet production.
Stroma Biosciences is a spin out company founded in 2020 by Dr Ingo Ringshausen and Dr Eugene Park. It is working on the development of therapeutics targeting stroma-intrinsic mechanisms responsible for environment-mediated drug resistance and immune modulation in cancer and autoimmune disorders. Stroma Biosciences has been selected as one of four start-up companies taking part in the Accelerate@Babraham Start-up Programme. As part of the programme, Stroma Biosciences have secured five months access to Accelerate@Babraham’s bio-incubator facilities, including use of fully equipped laboratory space and flexible workspaces. The company is also receiving £10,000 of funding, personal mentoring and access to the Babraham Research Campus’ networks.
SDS Therapeutics is a spin out company founded in 2020 by Professor Alan Warren, Dr Christine Hilcenko and Dr Maxim Rossman. It is working on the production of a small molecule drug which will prevent progression to acute myeloid leukaemia in people with the leukaemia-predisposition disorder Shwachman-Diamond syndrome.