- Linear Diagnostics Ltd was formed in March 2011
- Grown rapidly to a team of 10
- The company was spun out of research at the University of Birmingham to commercialise a rapid diagnostic platform technology
Who With 150 research papers to their names – Dr Matt Hicks and Professor Tim Dafforn founded Linear Diagnostics Ltd (LDL). Their experience includes research into biophysical spectroscopy, DNA-drug interactions, fibrous protein structure, peptide-lipid interactions and synthetic biology. Prof Dafforn has recently been appointed to the prestigious role of Chief Scientific Advisor for the UK Government department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS).
Moving into The BioHub Initial development on LDL’s fast, simple-to-use and economical diagnostic devices started at the University of Birmingham, but as the work became more commercially orientated - leaning towards medical development rather than research - the team needed somewhere with more biological equipment. After looking far and wide they found The BioHub, the perfect facility right on their doorstep.
So what’s the verdict? Dr Matt Hicks says:“For us, the benefits of establishing a base at The BioHub have been numerous. The shared facilities make access to high-spec, specialist and larger equipment affordable – and with the meeting rooms and office space all under one roof, it’s a great set-up. There’s peace of mind having the facility managed, which means there’s less worry about maintenance. With the University and QE hospital so close on our door step, we have access to world-class experts, as well as opportunities for ideas sharing and co-development work with PhD secondments. It’s ideal for access to patients and samples - for getting our products tested by medical professionals too – and the insight into how they’ll actually work in the processes of a realistic clinical environment. There’s an exciting atmosphere working with other bio-medical businesses at The BioHub, and the location is fantastic, which is important for us both in terms of collaborations and visitors.”
The future? “As we go forwards we will need space for more employees and it’s this flexibility that has attracted us to The BioHub at this stage, particularly with the additional grow-on space available on the first floor. Our ambitions for the future are such that we will outgrow this facility, and we are sure that as we move on, there will be no shortage of enterprises that will benefit from The BioHub in the future.”
With a long string of investment in the city thanks to Library of Birmingham, the Bullring and now the multi-million pound Grand Central destination, Dr James Wilkie, Director of Research and Innovation services at the University of Birmingham, talks about how the focus shouldn't be all on the shops and retail therapy bringing in the punters and giving Birmingham its great name, as there’s a new kid on the block…
Big shopping brands and new city centre developments will always take centre stage, it’s just the nature of how they function – they’re public facing and very much in the public mind. But I’d just like to remind everyone that as the birthplace of the industrial revolution, Birmingham has another heartbeat - just as important in bringing investment and prestige to the city - but rarely promoted to the same degree… scientific innovation. Let’s not forget this significant heritage, which still drives a large part of the city’s economy today - I’m sure few would know that the city has over 300 medical businesses based in Edgbaston alone.
Rightly famous for its cricket, Edgbaston also has more medics per square mile than anywhere else in the UK. This is because anyone developing a medical business wants to be near the QEII University super hospital and the fantastic research and clinical trials units of the University of Birmingham. Building up quietly for the past forty years, Edgbaston is now one of the best places for this kind of business in the UK. It also offers a great quality of life.
It’s this progress behind the scenes that is really exciting for our city and I think we should shout about how Birmingham has always been a major innovation player in the UK. Too often it’s only the so called ‘golden’ triangle of London-Oxford-Cambridge that are openly recognised as the British science leaders, but thanks to all the work taking place in Edgbaston venues like Birmingham Research Park and our newest addition The Biomedical Research Hub (The BioHub), we now have the chance to join this trio, taking our own place on the UK science and medical innovation scene. We are definitely ones to watch.
We’re launching The BioHub Birmingham at a great time too. With Ebola still a worry, bio-medical innovation and the development of drugs is needed more than ever right now – and we have the laboratory facilities to host men and women who want to make these inroads into medical discovery.
The BioHub Birmingham is an amazing new lab space facility that is already bringing a thriving concentration of science entrepreneurs and start-up companies to the region. They’re looking for affordable space where they can research, complete proof of concept work and progress medical ideas. I want us to celebrate their business successes too, because just as much as their city-centre retail cousins, they have a role to play for the long term benefit of the city and the wider country.
The name says it all. It’s a BioHub for bringing life and buzz to Birmingham. A place for bio-medical start-ups to grow into something brilliant. By all means celebrate the arts and leisure but let’s also hail the people quietly innovating for all of our futures.
LaBiotech Tour is the first world tour of biotech ecosystems. They share the exciting work from biotech companies through a series of documentaries. Fifteen biotech companies were featured on the UK tour (small, medium and large) and The BioHub Birmingham, a brand new fully serviced biomedical laboratory, based at the heart of the Edgbaston Medical Quarter was one of them. Take a look at the featured video above which also showcases the BizzInn business incubator. Learn more about the LaBiotech UK tour.
Anthony Clarke, Senior Laboratory Manager
The Innovation Laboratory is the responsibility of the Senior Laboratory Manager Anthony Clarke, whose role is a constantly evolving one at the moment, as the vast array of different equipment is gradually commissioned. A typical day can involve everything from paperwork to dummy runs in the autoclave.
He says, “This job is an incredible opportunity. These are commercially serviced labs that are offering superb facilities for applied research and proof of concept testing. We don’t know what exciting biomedical idea is going to come through that door - and that’s the joy of the job.”
The crucial aspect of his role, for Anthony, is the safety of the research laboratory environment and the safe use of the shared equipment. He is also the on-site expert for the tenants to refer to for training and equipment operation. Clean, calibrated and working equipment are the other main responsibilities of the Laboratory Managers.
To aid the Laboratory Managers, The BioHub will feature a state-of-the-art equipment monitoring system, which will check all the low temperature storage for compliance, and uses WiFi connectivity to a remote safe server.
Anthony said, “When there’s 18 refrigerators and 13 freezers holding precious materials for your tenants you need to be sure everything is functioning well!"
Complementing the -80°C and -152°C freezers provided for tenants, a high specification Cryo Room keeps two liquid Nitrogen freezers at -180°C where the most extreme low temperature storage is sited. The specially fitted room has a top-up system from tanks situated outside and the Laboratory Manager checks the monitoring screens for fill-levels, correct temperature and that oxygen levels in the room are safe.
Two autoclaves are provided for tenants, and enable clean lab ware to be maintained as well as ensuring waste is completely safe before leaving the building. A high end glass-washer complete with on-board purified water system ensures glassware is ultra clean and always available.
The main purified water in the Innovation laboratory (18.2MΩ) supplies high quality water from a 75L reservoir. A ring main from a centralised purified water system to enable supply, on tap, in all the side laboratories and ultimately throughout The BioHub is currently being installed. This will bring the total purified water reservoir capacity to 600 litres.
The Fume Hoods and Biosafety cabinets (Class II) have to be compliant with statutory regulations and the Laboratory Manager must keep the necessary records; the less technical aspects of his daily role, and perhaps if pressed the least liked!
Balances and pipettes may not be the most glamorous of the equipment we supply for tenants, but they certainly are the most capable in terms of material measurement. We have a range of balances with different capabilities but the most impressive is the Microbalance which can measure down to 0.000001g or 1µg. To ensure absolute accuracy the balance is mounted on a marble plinth and is protected by a Perspex surround.
Anthony issues each tenant of the BioHub Birmingham with their own set of pipettes; 3 variables (0.5-10µL, 10-100µL and 100-1000µL) and an electronic pipette (30-300µL), and these form the standard equipment on each Lab Station, along with a Vortex mixer.
Anthony continued, “All of the shared equipment needs delivering, installing and commissioning and I am responsible for supplier and engineer liaison. The good relationships that have been established are essential to the future smooth running of The BioHub."
Part of the wider Laboratory Manager’s role is the enjoyable activity of establishing a strong bond with the tenants and balancing a ‘policing’ aspect with that of a mentor or trainer. He responds quickly to their needs and supplies technical support or advice when required.
All of the shared equipment we provide for tenants is ‘top of the range’ and is of a value that start-ups would find difficult to finance for themselves.
“This is exactly why The BioHub Birmingham® at Birmingham Research Park is unique and illustrates our commitment to attracting biomedical and medtech companies to our facilities” said Anthony.
Tenants of The BioHub Birmingham benefit from business support services and facilities which BizzInn provides, just next door, and also have the advantage of access to the diverse network of businesses, research scientists and clinicians based at other adjacent life science venues. Probably the most compact biomedical hub in the UK!
Tenant of The BioHub Birmingham®, Linear Diagnostics Ltd, were finalists at Venturefest West Midlands’ Pitchfest 2015, held at the NEC, Birmingham, on the 30th June. Pitchfest was a competition inviting business owners to present their ideas, pitch for investment and take part in the showcase event, with the chance of winning one of several awards. The company had a lot of interest in their technology and spoke to a wide variety of people about potential applications for their platform technology. (Matt Hicks, Chief Technology Officer Linear Diagnostics, pictured left)
Are you running a small business under five years old? Do you have a brilliant business idea that you're convinced could be the next big thing in the life sciences sector? Could you benefit from a massive business boosting prize package, expert coaching and tailored business support? BizzInn, the University of Birmingham's business incubator, has launched a new Entrepreneurs Challenge to find the next idea which has the potential to have a big impact on health. The BizzInn Entrepreneurs Challenge has been specifically designed to help entrepreneurs to assess their business idea and to develop a credible exploitation plan which will help to launch their new product, service or innovation. The Challenge is open to entrepreneurs, start-ups and SME’s under 5 years old (and in the West Midlands), that have the next big idea with the potential to impact the medical/biotech or overall life sciences sector. A substantial prize is on offer to the winner worth over £15,000 which includes a full package of business support designed to help accelerate their businesses, including:
- Six months’ access to the BizzInn incubator at Birmingham Research Park, including access to all in-house events, and six months’ 1-2-1 business support and mentoring from the BizzInn Entrepreneur-in- Residence
- Six months’ lab space at the BioHub on Birmingham Research Park
The BioHub Birmingham® attended Venturefest WM at the NEC on Tuesday 30th June – CEO of Birmingham Research Park, James Wilkie, presented on Birmingham Research Park, The BioHub, BizzInn and the surrounding cluster as benefits. The event provides networking opportunities along with presentations, stimulating ideas and funding options to entrepreneurs and start-ups particularly in the science knowledge and technology fields.
BioHub were delighted to sponsor 'The BioHub Birmingham Outstanding Achievement Award' at the Medilink UK Awards 2015. This year's winners were Mast Group Ltd, a market leader in manufacturing and supplying diagnostic products which are mostly used for the detection and diagnosis of infectious diseases.
The photo features (from left to right) :
Ken Wong, Instruments Development Manager Mast; Sarah Wallis, Sales Support Manager Mast; Sean Rose, Paralympian; Howard Rose, R&D Director Mast; Dr James Wilkie, CEO Birmingham Research Park