Springwell Ltd: Match-maker
for Innovative Technologies
Vivienne Cox PhD, Director
Innovation is the key to the business of Springwell Ltd, the London-based bioscience consultancy company founded in 2001 by Dr Vivienne Cox. The last few years have been a challenging time for the private UK biotech sector, but the spirit of innovation in public sector research was given a boost by new government legislation in 2001, which allowed for the first time the commercialisation of innovation from NHS research. Public sector innovation has proved to be a rich source of licence opportunities.
Springwell takes every opportunity to ?matchmake? the innovations it evaluates for public sector clients to the private sector. One such example has led to a successful joint application for EU funding between an NHS group at the Institute of Neurology, to codevelop a novel diagnostic assay with Lab 21 Ltd. Lab 21 Ltd is a new company that offers state-of-the-art analytical and diagnostic services to the pharmaceutical, industrial and healthcare sector.
Springwell?s involvement with Lab 21 began in 2003, when Dr Cox began working with Dr Berwyn Clarke and Dr Stan Tyms to help them realise their vision of a start-up venture dedicated to molecular virology diagnostics, through technology acquisition and business development. Gradually a portfolio of innovative technologies was identified by the team and made available through acquisition or licence.
It soon became apparent that the scope of the technologies enabled them to branch out into all fields of infectious and metabolic disease, using the latest pharmacogenomic and molecular technologies coupled with sophisticated multiplexing and data management systems.
Springwell helped to secure funding for the venture in April 2005. Lab 21 Ltd is now off to a fl ying start with laboratories in Cambridge (UK) fitted out to conduct tests from simple one-off sensitivity/ resistance testing of compounds through to full analytical profiling of complex clinical trials, as well as environmental and industrial monitoring services. Particularly exciting clinical products available now are CF44, a new 44 mutation, single tube cystic fibrosis screen (compared with the 8 mutation screen in current use), and Fibrotest/Actitest, a non-invasive test to detect the degree of liver fibrosis avoiding the need for liver biopsy, saving both patient discomfort and valuable hospital resources at a fraction of the cost of a biopsy.
Dr Clarke commented that ?Springwell was a major catalyst to the establishment of the Lab 21 business. Not only did they provide critical introductions within the investor network but they also contributed significantly to the identification and development of key opportunities in the first phase of the business. Lab21 also recognises that Springwell offers valuable business development services as the company builds on its successful launch and has already contracted them to provide this ongoing support.?
Dr Andrew McCulloch of NHS Innovations, London and Vivienne Cox, discussing a new spin-out venture
Several of Springwell?s clients are small companies seeking global recognition and commercialisation of their innovative technologies. To facilitate this Springwell cohosted a conference dedicated to biomedical innovation in July 2005. The venue was the historic Royal Institution of Great Britain, home to innovation for 200 years, exemplified by the pioneering discoveries of Michael Faraday.
The conference provided a showcase for inventors and emerging companies to present their technologies to an audience of potential commercial partners, customers and investors. Keynote speakers included Dr Maire Smith, Director of NHS Intellectual Property and Dr Keith Powell, Entrepreneur in Residence at the Bloomsbury Bioseed Fund, and ceo of several companies, including the London based Domainex Ltd. Dr Powell highlighted the value of the conference, saying, ?Early stage companies and academic inventors gain little from large scale biopartnering meetings, they need to have a focused and dynamic environment where they can find specific contacts without spending the budget for the year on the admission charge.
A meeting in central London which is relatively low cost and yet still has good speakers and good attendance is a godsend to those companies.? In fact the 22 showcased companies and inventors were able to attend free as a result of sponsorship by NESTA, Springwell and David Keltie Associates. The next Biomedical Innovation conference will be held in London in March 2007.
The London BioScience Innovation
Royal College Street
London NW1 0NH
Tel +44 (0)207 691 0980