Orla Investment
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Orla raises £500,000 for life sciences expansion

A Newcastle-based life sciences company has raised new investment funds as its sets out on its next phase of growth.

Orla Protein Technologies Ltd has secured a combined £500,000 from a number of individual business angels from both inside and outside the region, and from the Finance For Business North East Growth Fund managed by NEL Fund Managers .

The new growth funding will be used to expand the company’s activities in advanced protein technology and mobile medical diagnostic applications. As a result, the company’s workforce is expected to double to around 20 over the next 12-18 months.

Orla was originally established as a spin-out business from Newcastle University in 2003 and raised initial capital through NEL in 2004.

Dale Athey, Orla chief executive, explained: “We will use this funding to accelerate the commercial development of the business by expanding our sales and marketing activities on a global scale.

“The highly specialist and advanced scientific areas we are working in means that product and technology development lead times are lengthy, but Orla now has fully validated technology platforms and considerable scientific know how that will provide the basis for new growth.

“Successful sales have already demonstrated significant interest in our products and our focus will now be on sustained business development and market expansion.”

Based in Newcastle’s International Centre for Life, Orla has successfully patented, developed and commercialised new protein-based biosurface engineering concepts that are used in a range of scientific and laboratory-based research applications.

The Orla technology is based on ground breaking research undertaken by Prof. Jeremy Lakey of Newcastle University, a co-founder of the company, and who remains very much involved in the business.

For example, scientists working in stem cell research, as well as other cell cultures, use Orla protein products as microscopic surfaces on which the cells are grown and maintained.

As part of the new arrangements Dr Roger Duggan, one of the founders and former chief executive of the Boldon-based Immunodiagnostic Systems PLC, will now join the Orla board.

Dr Duggan’s expertise in medical devices and patient diagnostics will be particularly relevant to Orla’s subsidiary business, OJ Bio Ltd., a joint venture established with the Japanese Radio Company (JRC).

This partnership combines JRC’s specialist electronics with Orla’s protein technology to create novel biochips used in medical diagnostic devices and sensors.

OJ Bio technology is currently being used in clinical studies being carried out on new techniques for the remote diagnosis of HIV, respiratory viruses and periodontal gum disease.

Dale Athey said: “We are delighted that Roger will be joining the company. His experience in the medical diagnostics sector will be invaluable as we take the business forward.

“This is an important, growing and very exciting field and OJ Bio’s technology has already attracted considerable interest for use in the diagnosis and monitoring of infectious diseases.”

NEL and the University have supported the business throughout its research and development phases and will continue to be important shareholders in the company as it extends its commercial activities.

Barrie Hensby, chief executive at NEL Fund Managers, who also sits on the Orla board, added: “Orla, in partnership with JRC, has established itself as a leading player in the confluence of technologies which will see real-time point-of-care diagnostics intersect with mobile telephony, and which will allow disease diagnosis to be determined anywhere in the world and communicated to anywhere in the world.”

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