The Universities of Birmingham and Warwick have created a new spinout company, 4D Medicine Ltd, to commercialise a new class of materials – liquid resins that can be printed into solid 3D scaffolds to help patients recover from major medical procedures more quickly.
The company has secured a £197k grant from Innovate UK and pre-seed investment of £281k from SFC Capital to develop a range of implantable medical devices that will improve patient quality of life by accelerating healing and recovery after common surgical procedures.
The polycarbonate-based resins, developed by Professor Andrew Dove and Dr Andrew Weems at the University’s School of Chemistry, are novel bioresorbable materials with good shape memory, tunable mechanical and chemical properties and very promising tissue-healing performance. The composition of the novel resins is protected by a family of patents filed by the Universities of Birmingham and Warwick that have now been licensed to 4D Medicine Ltd as part of the spin-out process.
The breakthrough resulted from a 12-year programme of tissue engineering and biomaterials research by the Dove Research Group, led by Professor Dove at Birmingham and previously Warwick Universities, which focussed on modifying polymer chemistry and structure to both encourage healthy tissue growth and to optimise how implanted materials degrade.
4D Medicine Ltd, trading as 4D Biomaterials, will be headed by CEO Philip Smith, a University start-up veteran with a background in polymeric devices, scaling up production, and raising early stage funding for technology ventures.
The company will concentrate on scaling up their materials production capabilities and on initial applications, including options for a prototype lumpectomy device to address the needs of an emerging market for patients who have undergone a surgical procedure that is used during breast cancer diagnosis, and as a first treatment option for women with early stage breast cancer.
Phil Smith said “The anticipated benefits of our lumpectomy device concept include filling the void left by surgery and promoting faster healing by encouraging the healthy tissue to grow back through the 3-D printed scaffold”.
He added “In the current difficult environment, we are very pleased to have raised pre-seed investment with support from University of Birmingham Enterprise. This important funding milestone reflects our growing confidence in the clinical and commercial potential of our products and technology.”
Rohallah Ghasemi, Lead Investment Manager at SFC Capital, commented: “4D Medicine’s science is fully developed and has been externally validated, and at the time of our investment, its team of field experts had clearly shown evidence of commercial demand. The potential target markets are huge and we believe 4D’s technology will be a game-changer in the biomaterials market. We are very pleased to have lead their pre-seed round earlier this year.”
Before 4D Medicine was founded, the researchers went through the Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe) programme, which is funded by Innovate UK and helps academic innovations gain entry to fast-moving markets such as medical devices and diagnostics.
During this programme the founders tested their concept with surgeons and received highly encouraging feedback. This led to them winning follow-on funding from Innovate UK that enabled them to form the company and commence development of a commercial product range.
Phil Smith concluded “The academic team at Birmingham has created a breakthrough in biomedical materials that promises to improve experiences and outcomes for millions of patients across the world. The challenge now is to convert that potential into reality!”
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