Aberdeen drug discovery pioneer, Elasmogen Ltd has won two new UKRI grants worth £374,000 to support programmes for COVID-19 and oncology.
In April 2020, Elasmogen secured £143,000 from the Scottish Government to use their drug discovery platform to accelerate the development of new diagnostics and therapeutics for COVID-19, a joint undertaking with the University of Aberdeen’s Scottish Biologics Facility. This key grant facilitated the re-opening of the company’s laboratories.
“As a University of Aberdeen spin-out with labs on campus, we were caught up in the University buildings' closures, and so all work in our labs stopped at the end of March,” explained Elasmogen’s CEO Dr Caroline Barelle. “The timing of the lockdown was incredibly frustrating as our data was beginning to show such exciting promise. Everything changed in late April with the success of our COVID-19 funding which allowed us to not only help in the fight against this pandemic but meant we could open up our labs again.
“Our COVID-19 work is progressing very well and we already have a panel of a new class of binders to the business end of the virus, the spike protein. These new molecules will be developed with others into sensitive and rapid diagnostics (a pregnancy test for COVID-19) as well as new therapeutics to fight the disease.”
The second award is a UKRI Continuity Grant providing additional support for Elasmogen’s joint undertaking with Almac Discovery Ltd and their labs in Edinburgh and Northern Ireland. Almac synthesise cancer-killing chemical war-heads that are combined with Elasmogen’s cancer seeking soloMERs – which have their origins in the immune system of sharks. Together these soloMER drug conjugates are able to more effectively destroy difficult to treat solid tumours.
Caroline continued “Whilst the fight against COVID-19 is happening now, the fight against cancer will continue long after COVID-19 is under control; and so it is wonderful that we can now use this Innovate funding to bring the rest of the team back on-site and continue our cancer programmes.”
Caroline finished by stressing, “We are so grateful to the UK and Scottish Governments for believing in and funding our research during such a difficult time. The team have worked so hard to achieve these successes out of what could have been a company ending break. Everyone knows Aberdeen as the oil and gas city but often forget that there is a world-class drug discovery effort going on in companies across the city too.”
Prof Stephen Logan, chair of the life sciences sector board at Opportunity North East (ONE), said: “Elasmogen is one of the region’s high-growth life sciences companies specialising in developing novel biotherapeutics. Its recent successes with new funding grants highlight their response to the immediate challenge of COVID-19 while maintaining their long-term focus on cancer. The action and investment by ONE and partners in the life sciences cluster in Aberdeen to accelerate collaborative innovation and commercialisation will help to anchor companies like Elasmogen in the region long term. North east Scotland will build its health and wellbeing economy as part of post-COVID-19 recovery on the accelerated growth of life sciences companies, startups and spinouts – establishing a leading role in bringing forward next-generation therapies to tackle modern health challenges and developing innovative digital health solutions.”
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