The ICURe programme supports the ‘Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research’, for research teams from UK universities with commercially promising ideas.

Up to £30k is available through the three-month programme, allowing for the market validation of University research to ‘get it out of the lab’ and into the marketplace.

The University of Bath has seen recent success with two Entrepreneurial Leads: Dr Asel Sartbaeva, Associate Professor from the Department of Chemistry, and Dr Vimal Dhokia, Reader from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, both being awarded funding through the programme. They will be in the latest cohort starting in September 2021 until they complete the bootcamp at the end of the year.

Dr Sartbaeva and her research team have developed a new method for vaccine stabilisation with commercial potential, called ensilication. She says:

Ensilication is an award-winning method for coating vaccine active components, on molecular level, with an inorganic material, silica; this coating enables the vaccines to maintain their efficacy until needed, without the need for refrigeration. Silica is abundant, biocompatible, FDA approved, cheap, and easy to use. Our preliminary data on several bioactive molecules indicate that ensilication preserves them, even when heated above 80°C, showing that ensilication is a viable route for vaccine thermal stabilisation. Our latest work on tetanus toxoid show that ensilicated tetanus sent by post with no refrigeration produces similar immune response as native tetanus toxoid, while unprotected has spoiled in the post.

The Benefits of commercialising research on ensilication with support of the ICURe programme are wide-ranging and include:

  • easier clinical trial run with commercial vaccine manufacturers, faster product development, and quicker access to regulation and approval authorities
  • profound changes to vaccine transport and storage, making the vaccination programme more cost effective and sustainable in the future
  • increased availability and accessibility of life-saving vaccines due to no cold chain
  • easing of healthcare infrastructure, allowing medical personnel to focus on patient wellbeing rather than maintaining the vaccine cold chain
  • vaccine manufacturers able to easily include the ensilication into current vaccine production lines, to be shipped all around the globe without refrigeration

Dr Sartbaeva says:

We hope that ICURe program will give us necessary commercial and business knowledge and expertise to start commercialising the ensilication research.

The research from Dr Vimal Dhokia and his research team from the Department of Mechanical Engineering will be focused on new manufacturing processes. Dr Fangda Xu, Prof Stephen Newman and Dr Dhokia have developed a next generation 3D printing digital platform which is able to visualize, simulate and predict the direct energy deposition (DED) process with data-driven methods.

This will mean that higher quality prints can be realised with significantly reduced failures. It is expected that DED will have significant market growth in large scale engineering sectors such as aerospace. The iCURe programme will be the first step in accelerating the developed technology to a viable commercial entity.

Karen Brooks, Programme Director for the SETsquared Partnership, an enterprise collaboration between the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey, says:

We have seen real success with ICURe, a dynamic and comprehensive programme which has helped create over 150 new companies and over 500 new jobs, from a range of research disciplines. It’s an intensive market analysis, looking at different potential markets for the research and includes interviewing 100 potential customers to scope out customer needs, acquiring transferrable business skills, and culminating in a panel presentation where recommendations for the next steps to commercialisation are made. We look forward to seeing research with much commercial potential being taken to the marketplace and having an impact on the wider society.

The current round of the ICURe programme is closing 4 October 2021

There is an ICURe information event on 10 September 12.00-13.00.

ICURe is funded by Innovate UK.

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