March 10, 2021

North West biotech start-ups collaborate in the fight against Covid-19

Two pioneering start-ups at Daresbury Laboratory have joined forces to develop, and are getting ready to manufacture, a new Covid-19 testing platform that is rapid, low cost and easy to use.

Daresbury Laboratory launches new facility

While there are other Covid-19 diagnostic tests available, this laboratory-based test will be even more accurate and can adapt to mutational changes of the virus - so will always be up-to-date. Developed by biotech start-ups, Daresbury Proteins and Revivocell, the test will deliver highly accurate results within minutes and will not require specialist training to use.

The two companies have both been carrying out their own R&D using the cutting edge research facilities at Daresbury Laboratory, which is part of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), since 2018.  They have recently combined their individual expertise and know-how towards developing the low cost, highly accurate, rapid testing platform. This new technology has recently been recognised with funding through the Future Innovation Fund, a programme established by the Metro Mayor to support businesses in the Liverpool City Region.  This funding will help them to scale up and manufacture their technology.

Paul Vernon, Head of STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory, said: “With the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic being felt in the UK and across the world, I’m immensely proud to see start-ups at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory networking, collaborating and innovating to find solutions to this crisis.  In a mission to repurpose and develop new technologies that will provide desperately needed routes back to normality, I am thrilled that the cutting-edge laboratory facilities and business support we provide are proving catalytic to help start-ups, Revivocell and Daresbury Proteins, work together to succeed.”

Science Minister Amanda Solloway: “The UK’s scientists have been leading the way in testing, treatments and vaccines throughout this pandemic, and this new partnership is another example of that excellent work.

“The biotech sector in the North West has a bright future thanks to initiatives like this, which will be essential as we continue to tackle coronavirus and build back better from the pandemic.”

Daresbury Proteins, a spin out company of the University of Manchester, moved to Daresbury Laboratory, which is located at Sci-Tech Daresbury, as the competition winner of a six-month R&D and business support package.  Its research focussed on refining a new technique for developing human proteins from mammalian cell cultures that can be used to help speed up the new drug development process.  However, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the company focussed its expertise more specifically towards developing and commercialising a rapid  antibody testing technology, which uses proteins specific to Covid-19 to detect whether someone has been infected as well as to monitor immune resistance to Covid-19 post-vaccination.

Revivocell, a spin out of Lancaster University, located to Daresbury Laboratory to refine its technology that can culture human cells in 3D formation. These cells can mimic the environment of living human tissues more precisely than other existing techniques and be used to accurately predict the effect on the body of new drugs in development.   Revivocell has recently patented this unique technology, CELLBLOKS, in the UK, with patents pending in the US and Europe.  The company is using this expertise, together with Daresbury Proteins, in the development a new rapid testing platform for Covid-19.

Dr Valon Llabjani, founder and CEO of Revivocell, said: “ we are thrilled to have been supported by Daresbury Laboratory and the Liverpool City region in the delivery of much needed approach to allow cost effective and accurate screening not only for COVID-19 infections but also evaluate the effectiveness of new vaccine programmes.”

Dr Jennet Beesley, founder and director at Daresbury Proteins, added: “2020 was a very challenging year in many respects and help provided by Daresbury Laboratory and the Liverpool City Region has been tremendous. We are now looking forward to our contribution towards eliminating this pandemic and the provision of truly innovative world-class solutions.”

Further information about support for SMEs and early stage businesses at Daresbury Laboratory, and across STFC more generally, is available at the STFC website.