Atelerix was spun out of Newcastle University in 2017 by three co-founders, Professor Che Connon, Dr Steve Swioklo and Dr Mick McLean.
The conventional freezing and thawing of cells and tissues through cryogenics can be hugely damaging, and these cells often die or change their function in the process. To tackle this problem, Atelerix has developed an innovative technology that encapsulates the cells in an alginate gel, preserving them at room temperature for up to two weeks. The simple and less costly preservation process means that cells are kept safe and can be delivered across the world undamaged when they reach their destination. The gel is simply dissolved when the cells are needed.
Commercialisation of the gel encapsulation approach has been led by Debra Leeves, Chair of Atelerix in two main areas – cell models used for drug discovery and testing cells used as the starting material for therapies.
Major investment was needed to help the company pursue the next step in their journey.
Atelerix received a £150,000 grant through the Regional Angel Investment Accelerator (RAIA) programme. Funded by Innovate UK, the programme is led by the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) and delivered by the Innovation SuperNetwork and North Invest in partnership with the UK Business Angels Association.
The grant was matched with further £275,574 of investment from an array of angel investors across the UK. Many of the investors had previously invested in Atelerix and are keen to see Atelerix realise their growth ambitions. Investment of £15,000 for the project was put forward as another exciting deal to be made by the newly formed Women Angels of the North syndicate, launched by Fund Her North.
Debra Leeves, Chair of Atelerix said, “We are on the brink of fully commercialising a portfolio of five products, which meet the varied needs of our customers including biosuppliers, the global research community and the drug discovery industry (pharma, biotech and CROs). We have validated our products with potential users and their feedback shows we have got the right products at the right price to meet their needs. Securing this investment will enable us to start to generate revenue and grow the business.”
Jordan Dargue, Head of Access to Finance at Innovation SuperNetwork and Board Director at North Invest said: “We were so impressed with Debra and her expertise and passion for Atelerix. The technology is innovative and solves a real market problem. The RAIA grant of £150,000 helps de-risk the investment for the angel investors as well as speed up the development of the product, so I was thrilled to be able to help Debra access this crucial funding from Innovate UK. I can’t wait to see the product be brought to market.”
The Innovation SuperNetwork provides investor readiness support to innovative North East businesses and helps them access the right innovation finance, including their investor network at the Newcastle Angel Hub and by working in partnership with North Invest. This activity is delivered through the Catalysing Innovation In North East Clusters Project, which is part-funded by ERDF.
Atelerix is based at The Biosphere, a purpose-built home for life science start ups and SMEs at Newcastle Helix.
The funds raised will help Atelerix fully commercialise their product and bring it to market.