Working with Industry

Department of Chemistry University of Oxford

Oxford Mass Technologies (OMass)

Research: Professor Dame Carol Robinson
Focus: Structural mass spectrometry (MS) platforms, often referred to as native mass spectrometry, for characterising complex protein assemblies. 

 

HydRegen

Research: Professor Kylie Vincent
Focus: A novel way of recycling the enzyme cofactor NADH, using cooperative sets of enzymes mounted on graphite beads. NADH is used extensively in enzyme-catalysed synthesis.

 

Oxford Impedance Diagnostics 

Research: Professor Jason Davis 
Focus: Novel ultra sensitive multi marker diagnostic tests to assist in the diagnosis, prognosis and stratification of disease.  The base technology allows the development of simple, single step, electronic and low cost diagnostic chips that can capture and quantify biomarker proteins in whole blood serum.

OxStem

Year setup: 2014 
Research: Professor Steve Davies and Professor Angela Russell
Focus: Use Stem Cell and Medicinal Chemistry expertise within Chemistry and its associated partners at Oxford to identify new classes of drugs that can re-program or stimulate existing endogenous cells.

OxStem’s purpose is to spin out companies from the University of Oxford (“Oxford”) and is comprised of an internationally respected top tier scientific team with a strong track record in both translational bioscience and commercialising world-class scientific innovation. The idea is straightforward – to use the Stem Cell and Medicinal Chemistry expertise within Chemistry and its associated partners at Oxford to identify new classes of drugs that can re-program or stimulate existing endogenous cells – awakening previously defunct or dormant cellular processes. OxStem is positioned to transform the field of medical therapeutics for what are typically (but certainly not exclusively) age-related conditions, such as Dementia, Heart Failure, Macular Degeneration (the leading cause of blindness in the developed world), Diabetes and Oncology. 

 

OxSyBio

Year setup: 2014 
Research: Professor Hagan Bayley
Focus: 3D printing techniques to produce synthetic materials for wound healing and drug delivery, and in future even synthetic tissues for organ repair or replacement.

This new company has been set up to develop 3D printing techniques which can be used to produce synthetic materials for wound healing and drug delivery. The 3D droplet printing technology devised by Professor Hagan Bayley’s group is already able to print tissue-like materials from thousands of tiny water droplets, each coated in a thin film mimicking a living cell’s external membrane, and studded with protein pores so that they act like simplified cells. Electrical impulses can be transmitted through the networks of droplets in a similar way to cells in the nervous system. In the longer term the company aims to develop a printer that can create synthetic tissues for organ repair or replacement.

 

Oxford Advanced Conductors (OxACs)

Year setup: 2014 
Research: Professor Peter Edwards 
Focus: Specialises in advanced materials and processes for production of high-performance optoelectronic thin film coatings for touch panel displays.

OxACs’ technology is based on over a decade of research by Peter Edwards' transparent conducting oxide research team. Touch screen displays are experiencing rapid market growth; however, most are based on indium, a rare and geopolitically sensitive material. OxACs has created a novel silicon-doped zinc oxide material (SiZOTM) to replace the indium oxide generally used in touch panel displays, at a fraction of the cost. It has also developed eco-friendly and sustainable manufacturing processes for the production of high-performance transparent conducting thin films coatings, and aims to significantly lower manufacturing costs for information display and related technologies.

 

Oxford Biotrans

Year setup: 2013
Research: Professor Luet Lok Wong
Focus: Enzyme-based techniques which can transform commonly available natural extracts into related flavour and fragrance compounds.

Oxford Biotrans is supported by over 15 years of enzyme research by Professor Luet Lok Wong, who has developed a technique using enzymes to transform commonly available natural extracts into related flavour and fragrance compounds. The process requires little energy and generates almost no waste in contrast to conventional chemical processes, and the end product is completely natural. Oxford Biotrans’ first product will be the grapefruit flavour and fragrance, nootkatone, which is difficult to extract from grapefruit and therefore expensive. The company will use enzymes to produce nootkatone from valencene, a widely-available natural compound obtained from oranges. The Oxford Biotrans technology also has potential applications in the production of pharmaceuticals, agrochemical and other speciality chemicals.

 

Oxford Advanced Surfaces plc

Year setup: 2006
Research: Professor Mark Moloney and Dr Jon-Paul Griffiths
Focus: Onto™, which can bond with completely unreactive materials, allowing high-performance adhesion of advanced materials to surfaces.

Founded in 2006 by Professor Mark Moloney and Dr. Jon-Paul Griffiths, Oxford Advanced Surfaces (OAS) was set up to exploit their expertise in molecular synthetic design and formulation chemistry. Many advanced materials offer excellent properties such as light weight, chemical resistance and high strength, but their use in products containing laminate structures or coated parts is often limited because they cannot be strongly bonded to other materials. The company’s key technology, Onto™, was initially developed in the Department and has continued and expanded through OAS. Onto™ can bond with completely unreactive materials, allowing high-performance adhesion of ink to plastics, metallisation, or nanocoatings which change the functionality of a surface (e.g. its wetting properties).

 

Oxtox Ltd

Year setup: 2006
Research: Professor Richard Compton
Focus: Development of Drugsensor, an electrochemical device that can detect drugs in saliva and could be used by the police as a roadside drug-driving detector.

OxTox’s technology is based on electrochemical sensors invented by Professor Richard Compton’s group, who created a simple device capable of detecting the presence of cannabis in a small sample of saliva. OxTox is developing Drugsensor, a hand-held device which has the potential to be used by the police as a roadside drug-driving detector, just as breathalysers are currently used to test for alcohol. Drugsensor is easy to use and reliable, and this has helped to secure its place as the forerunner amongst its competitors in a recent study by the UK Home Office. OxTox is developing sensors to detect other drugs such as amphetamines, and currently has six patents at various stages of application.

 

Oxford Nanopore Technologies Ltd

Year setup: 2005
Research: Professor Hagan Bayley
Focus: Currently poised to market two groundbreaking DNA sequencing devices (GridION and MinION ) based on nanopore sensing technology.

Based on research by Professor Hagan Bayley, Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT) is at the forefront of the drive to transform DNA sequencing, which has a huge range of potential applications. The company is currently poised to market two groundbreaking DNA sequencing devices: GridION, about the size of a DVD player, and MinION, a miniaturised version the size of a USB memory stick. Both devices use nanopore sensing, in which molecules pass through nanopores set in an artificial membrane and create disruptions in electrical current which enable identification of the molecule in question. MinION is expected to retail at less than $1000, and the company calculates that 20 GridION nodes used together could sequence a human genome in 15 minutes. ONT has attracted high levels of investment.

 

Velocys plc 

Year setup: 2005; formerly Oxford Catalysts Group
Research: Professor Malcolm Green and Dr Tiancun Xiao
Focus: Smaller-scale reactors which can produce high-grade fuels from low-value and waste gas. A project with British Airways will convert waste biomass to jet fuel.

Velocys’ technology is underpinned by nearly two decades of world-leading research developed over 18 years at Oxford by Dr Tiancun Xiao, of the Wolfson Catalysis Centre and the Chemistry Department, and Professor Malcolm Green, of the Inorganic Chemistry Department. Spun out as Oxford Catalysts in 2005, the company makes reactors which are able to produce high-grade fuels from low-value and waste gas using the Fischer-Tropsch process, a collection of chemical reactions that convert a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen into liquid fuels. The reactors are small enough to transport in standard containers to where they are needed (e.g. remote gas fields). Several commercial-scale projects are underway, including one in partnership with British Airways which will convert waste biomass to jet fuel, providing enough fuel for BA’s entire operation at City Airport. In preparing to spin out Oxford Catalysts Ltd, the Oxford Enterprise Fellowship programme (run by the Oxford University Begbroke Science Park) awarded a Technology Enterprise Fellowship to Dr Xiao which allowed him to concentrate for a year on developing the technology and commercial interest.
See A5 flyer: Valuable liquid fuels from waste gas

 

Oxford Medical Diagnostics 

Year setup: 2004; part of Avacta since 2008
Research: Professor Gus Hancock
Focus: High sensitivity, laser-based, gas-detection technology, leading to the development of a breath test to measure blood ketones, and a sensor to detect water vapour in gas pipelines.

Oxford Medical Diagnostics (OMD) is a specialist in high sensitivity, laser-based, gas-detection technology, founded on the research of Professor Gus Hancock’s group. The technology has many applications in health and industry. The current focus of OMD’s work is the development of a breath test to indirectly measure blood ketones, which will assist type 1 diabetics with their condition and its complications. Other diseases such as TB may be amenable to similar testing. Hancock’s methods are also being applied to industrial gas sensing; OMD has a contract with Michell Instruments who are developing a laser-based sensor to detect water vapour in gas pipelines (a major cause of corrosion and blockages). In 2008 OMD was acquired by the Avacta Group for £3m.

 

Summit plc

Year setup: 2003; formerly VASTox
Research: Professor Steve Davies
Focus: Development of a potentially groundbreaking new oral drug treatment for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The lead compound is now in clinical trials.

VASTox was spun out of the Department of Chemistry in 2003, initially using zebrafish to screen small molecules with drug potential, and then focusing on a potentially groundbreaking new treatment for Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Professor Steve Davies’ group designed and synthesised a large group of novel small-molecule compounds for use in Professor Kay Davies’ early work on DMD in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics. Screening led to the identification of a lead compound which is now in clinical trials; if successful, it will become the first oral drug treatment for DMD. The company is also pursuing a novel antibiotic treatment for Clostridium difficile infection. 
See Oxford Researchers Working on New Drugs to Treat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

 

Pharminox Ltd

Year setup: 2002
Research: Professor Gordon Lowe; Professor Malcolm Stevens (Nottingham)
Focus: Originally novel platinum-based chemotherapeutic agents, now alternative treatments for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common

Pharminox was formed to develop novel platinum-based chemotherapeutic agents for the treatment of ovarian, testicular and colorectal cancer, aimed at overcoming the side effects and resistance associated with currently available drugs. The discovery of the anti-tumour activity of these platinum complexes arose out of a fundamental study of the structure of DNA conducted by the late Professor Gordon Lowe. Subsequently Pharminox licensed technology relating to new anti-cancer molecules from the laboratory of Professor Malcolm Stevens at the University of Nottingham, and the company is now working on alternative treatments for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer. Pharminox has raised over $9m in investment.

 

Zyentia Ltd

Years: 2002-2006
Research: Professor Chris Dobson
Focus: Software to predict elements in proteins that lead to aggregation, a cause of many diseases and a problem for manufacturing of pure proteins. Sold to Lonza in 2006.

It is increasingly recognised that numerous diseases result from incorrect protein folding leading to aggregation of proteins in the body. Biotechnology companies trying to produce pure proteins run into similar problems; incorrectly folded proteins can be unstable and even toxic. Research by Professor Chris Dobson in the area of structural modification of proteins led to the spin-out of Zyentia in 2002. The company initially focused on the development of modified human calcitonin, a hormone that regulates bone density, used in the treatment of osteoporosis. Zyentia also developed software to predict elements in proteins that could lead to aggregation, and this was successfully sold to Lonza in 2006, who have since further developed and patented the approach.

 

Inhibox Ltd

Year setup: 2001
Research: Professor Graham Richards
Focus: Scopius, the world's largest searchable virtual database of small molecules for drug discovery. InhibOx has pioneered the use of cloud computing for large-scale molecular modelling.

Key contributions to the field of computational chemistry for drug discovery have been made by InhibOx, a spin-out company based on the research of Professor Graham Richards, whose Screensaver Lifesaver project gave an early demonstratration of how the idle processing power of volunteers’ computers could be harnessed to screen huge numbers of molecules and assess their potential as cancer drug leads. InhibOx have developed Scopius, the world's largest searchable virtual database of small molecules (over 112 million compounds) and pioneered the use of cloud computing for large-scale molecular modelling. This helps to reduce the cost of identifying molecular leads for new drugs, and has opened up the early stages of drug development to smaller companies.

 

Oxford Asymmetry Int Plc 

Year: merged with Evotec in 2000
Research: Professor Steve Davies
Focus: Drug development – designing and making novel chemical compounds for clients in the pharmaceutical industry to test, and refining those that showed promise.

Oxford Asymmetry International plc was formed from two companies spun out by Professor Steve Davies: Oxford Asymmetry Ltd (an asymmetric synthesis company), and Oxford Diversity Ltd (a combinatorial chemistry company). The company’s focus was on drug development, designing and making hundreds of thousands of novel chemical compounds for clients in the pharmaceutical industry to test, and then refining those that showed promise. It merged with Evotec Biosystems in December 2000 to become Evotec OAI, now a leading European company for the discovery and development of new drugs.

 

Oxford Molecular Group plc 

Year setup: 1989; a subsidiary of Accelrys since 2001
Research: Professor Graham Richards
Focus: Innovative chemical information management and decision-support software for researchers in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and other chemical research industries.

In early 1970s, as computers were beginning to make an impact in scientific research, Graham Richards saw the potential for software to revolutionise areas such as drug discovery. His subsequent work on computer-based molecular modelling led to the spin-out of Oxford Molecular Group, which created innovative chemical information management and decision-support software for researchers in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, agrochemical and related chemical research industries. The company was floated successfully on the stock market in 1994 and became part of Pharmacopeia Inc.'s software subsidiary, Accelrys, in 2001. Accelrys is now a leader in cheminformatics, bioinformatics, and simulation software for the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, based in part on the Oxford technology it acquired.

 

MediSense 

Year setup: 1984; acquired by Abbott Laboratories in 1996
Research: Professor Allen Hill
Focus: Development of a highly accurate electrochemical sensor to monitor blood glucose levels, which became a commercial home-use monitoring device for diabetics.

Research by Professor Allen Hill’s group into the electrochemistry of human enzymes led to the spin-out of MediSense and the development of a highly accurate sensor capable of monitoring blood glucose levels. The sensor detected levels of glucose oxidase, the enzyme responsible for glucose metabolism, and results could be obtained from a small drop of blood with no pre-treatment necessary, making it extremely suitable for a home-use monitoring device for diabetics. A commercial product was launched in 1989 and its success led to the sale of MediSense to Abbott in 1996 for £876m. Abbott have since further developed a range of meters for diabetics based on the original MediSense design. Whereas in the early eighties, there were essentially no electrochemical glucose sensors, now almost all the devices are electrochemical.

 

ReOx Ltd 

Year setup: 2003; technology licensed to Amgen
Research: Professor Christopher Schofield
Focus: drug discovery technology to develop novel treatments for disease by controlling the activity of hypoxia inducible factor (HIF)

 

Glycoform Ltd 

Years: 2002-2010
Research: Professor Ben Davis & Dr Antony Fairbanks
Focus: the development of an advanced drug delivery system based on harnessing the way carbohydrates specifically target cell receptors; and the glycosylation of protein drugs - the attachment of carbohydrates to proteins to improve their drug characteristics.

 

Oxford BioSensors Ltd 

Year setup: 2000; liquidated 2009

 

PowderJect Pharmaceuticals Plc 

Year setup: 1993; acquired by Chiron Corporation 2003