Round 8 of Biomedical Catalyst awards announced

Posted: 10 August 2015 | Charlotte Batchelor, Drug Target Review

Twelve new treatments, diagnostics and medical technologies will receive funding from the eighth round of the successful Biomedical Catalyst (BMC)…

Round 8 of Biomedical Catalyst awards announced

Twelve new treatments, diagnostics and medical technologies will receive funding from the eighth round of the successful Biomedical Catalyst (BMC), a joint programme run by the Medical Research Council (MRC), which contributed £13m of the total £18m in this round, and Innovate UK.

The BMC supports UK academics and small to medium-sized businesses seeking to take their research from discovery through to commercialisation to deliver patient benefit. Any UK small or medium-sized business or academic institution undertaking research and development has been able to apply to the BMC on a rolling basis, with applications assessed by independent experts.

This latest round brings the total number of BMC awards to 318 since 2011, when it was set up, with a total investment of more than £370 million split between the MRC, Innovate UK and leveraged funding from industry.

MRC-funded awards in this round ranged from development of a targeted therapy for inflammatory bowel disease to pre-clinical development of a universal flu vaccine. 

The MRC’s Chief Executive, Professor Sir John Savill, said: “This round of awards is a further demonstration of the exceptional science coming out of the vibrant academic and industrial research base of the UK.  The continued success of the MRC/IUK Biomedical Catalyst illustrates the value of dedicated support to ensure that this country can rapidly exploit world-leading science for the benefit of patients and the UK economy.”

Minister for Life Sciences George Freeman, said: “The UK’s healthcare industry has a worldwide reputation for excellence.  By providing early support to these latest treatment and diagnosis developments, we are not only going to potentially help improve or save lives, we are helping businesses grow and boost the UK’s productivity.”

Chief Executive of Innovate UK, Dr Ruth McKernan said: “Delivering efficient and effective healthcare has never been more important, and innovation is central to making that happen. Through the Biomedical Catalyst, we have backed innovative companies that are taking on this challenge and developing the medical advances of the future that will potentially help to save lives and money.”

MRC projects funded in this round:

Development of an infection-detecting wound dressing


Burn wounds can become infected if harmful bacteria get into them and if not treated early, an infected burn can lead to blood poisoning or toxic shock syndrome (TSS). However, current methods of infection diagnosis are timely which can result in inadequate care. Researchers at the University of Bath have developed an early prototype wound dressing which gives a quick and clear visual indication following the presence of key infection-causing bacteria.

Targeted therapy for inflammatory bowel disease


Crohn’s disease is a chronic, inflammatory bowel disease, which can cause severe symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhoea and weight loss, but for which there is currently no cure. Existing therapies are focused on reducing inflammation of the bowel lining and providing temporary relief of symptoms, but researchers at KCL and the NIHR Comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre are searching for a cure. The team are the first in the world to trial a personalised treatment using T cell therapy in patients with the disease with the hope that, if successful, their research could help other debilitating autoimmune disorders.

Valium without the sedation:  reducing the sedation effect of valium for the treatment of anxiety disorders


Valium was once hailed as a ‘wonder drug’, but its sedative side effects have limited its use as a treatment for anxiety. Researchers at the University of Sussex are looking at ways to ‘retool’ the drug to remove the sedation to allow it to once again be considered a frontline treatment for anxiety disorders.

Pre-clinical development of an influenza vaccine to induce broad protection through multiple immune mechanisms


The current flu vaccine needs to be updated every year, as experts attempt to predict which strain of the constantly evolving influenza virus we need protection from. Researchers at the University of Oxford are working alongside Mount Sinai in New York to bring two leading approaches to fighting flu together for the first time. Focused on attacking the core of the virus that doesn’t change, the new vaccine is designed to boost T cell production and induce protective antibody responses, to create what would be the ultimate universal flu vaccine.

Spotting bowel cancer sooner with a fluorescent dye


Spraying a fluorescent dye onto the lining of the bowel could help doctors distinguish between normal and cancerous tissue in the bowel. Normal endoscopy to look for bowel cancer can only spot visible, physical changes to the lining of the bowel. Researchers at the University of Oxford will trial the new approach in 50 patients which will coat the bowel in the dye – it will only stick to healthy tissue leaving a ‘black spot’ where cancerous cells are. They hope that the technique will help spot cancers earlier, when it’s more likely that they can be treated successfully.  

A Phase I/IIa clinical trial of a humanised monoclonal antibody to treat age-related macular degeneration


Research by the Macular Society estimates that as many as 40,000 people a year develop neovascular (wet) age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  Researchers at University College London will conduct a Phase I/IIa clinical trial of a humanised monoclonal antibody, firstly in patients who are no longer responsive to standard treatment and later in newly diagnosed patients. If the trials are successful the treatment could be a major step towards improving the eyesight of patients with wet AMD.

A potential cure for Graves’ hyperthyroidism in young patients


Around 700 young people a year are diagnosed with Graves’ disease – where the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone – but have very few treatment options, with only a quarter ever being cured. Doctors at Newcastle University are leading a trial to see if one dose of rituximab, a drug used to treat arthritis and leukaemia, could be given in conjunction with the standard treatment to see if it improves the chances of a cure.

Innovate UK-funded projects:

Ohmedics Ltd


A device that patients can use at home to monitor for lung infections caused by bacteria and fungi. The project, led by Glasgow based Ohmedics Ltd, could help minimise lung damage and improve the quality of life for patients with chronic lung diseases, as well as help reduce the unnecessary prescription of antibiotics by GP surgeries. Professor Patricia Connolly, CEO of Ohmedics Ltd said: “In the rapidly expanding world of home use diagnostic monitoring systems for telehealth it is vitally important that the systems that are developed to help patients come from a strong clinical base and are developed to meet the highest regulatory standards to ensure patient safety. Through the support of Innovate UK we are able to embark on this exciting programme to deliver medically qualified diagnostic systems for early detection of lung infection that patients will be able to use in the comfort of their own home.”

Cytosystems Ltd


This project has been researching the potential to assess bladder cancer by means of a urine test and avoid the need for uncomfortable procedures using fibre optic tubes. This project will allow the urine collection and processing to be easily carried out in the clinic or general practice followed by an automated system to analyse the cancerous cells. Bladder cancer is the 4th most common cancer in men and 7th in women and is one of the most expensive to manage, and this new test should significantly reduce costs.



Brainomix has developed the medical imaging software, e-ASPECTS to automate the measurement of stroke damage. This will automate the procedure to measure tissue at risk and identify patients who can benefit from mechanical reopening of the brain artery. Worldwide annually, 13,000,000 patients suffer a stroke. Mechanical clot removal improves patient outcome but as it costs up to £23,000 per patient, patient selection is crucial for its adoption.

MISSION Therapeutics


MISSION Therapeutics, a UK-based SME has identified a small molecule inhibitor with potential to be developed for treating soft tissue sarcomas and other cancers. The project will aim to develop these inhibitors to create a first-in-class treatment for some of the most difficult to treat cancers.

Sentinel Oncology Limited


This project will aim to develop a new treatment for Fragile X syndrome, the single largest cause of genetically inherited disability amongst diseases categorised within the autism spectrum disorders. It will treat the underlying cause of the disease rather than the symptoms and potentially provide cost savings in terms of reduced needs for on-going care and education assistance.