The Biosphere at Newcastle Helix.
Jane Imrie

Two Newcastle Helix firms secure slice of £40m government innovation funding

Two businesses based in a central Newcastle innovation hub have been awarded five-figure funding to accelerate their innovations in the global battle against COVID-19.

ExplantLab and Atelerix, both based in The Biosphere on Newcastle Helix, have secured almost £50k each from government organisation Innovate UK to accelerate the development of their technologies to support the fight against the coronavirus.

Hydrogel technology specialist Atelerix secured the funding in order to develop its existing technology in a bid to extend the shelf life of COVID-19 test kits.

Mick McLean, CEO of Atelerix said: “By developing our existing technology, we can not only support with the immediate implications in the current global efforts in diagnosing coronavirus, but this could be a monumental step to stabilising swab samples used to detect a plethora of diseases and conditions.

“This funding will play a key part in our future growth plans and we are privileged to play our part in the fight against this pandemic.”

ExplantLab plans to use the funding to research whether certain genes may protect individuals from developing serious complications following infection from COVID-19, with the aim to create a prototype algorithm for predicting the response to infection and reliability of antibody tests.

Dr David Langton, director of ExplantLab, explained: “If genes associated with increased or reduced susceptibility to other viruses could be identified, it could be important in helping improve health and reduce impact on our economy.

“This funding will help us to accelerate this development and bring together different specialties to shield more vulnerable members of society.”

Both firms secured the funding as part of a £40m initiative from Innovate UK known as Fast Start, which launched in April to support UK firms innovating to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cllr Ged Bell, cabinet member for employment and culture at Newcastle City Council, added: “The life sciences sector is in the limelight like never before, with some of our region’s best talent and minds coming together to help with the UK and global effort against COVID-19.

“The Biosphere was part of the city’s commitment to growing the sector and as we look towards the recovery of our economy our region’s strengths in life sciences will play a critical role.

“Not only are these businesses helping to improve lives, this funding will support them to boost their ambitions and provide pathways to jobs and new opportunities.”

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