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ImmuOne: Making each breath safer

ImmuOne: Making each breath safer

ImmuOne is a spin-out company from the University of Hertfordshire specialising in human in vitro cell culture solutions for safety assessment. The technology allows for the respiratory testing of any sort of chemical or particles that we might inhale. Scientists and researchers can use the test results to measure the extent of the damage that these substances can cause and determine the concentration that might be considered safe. This has worthwhile potential applications across a range of industries relating to pollution, agricultural chemicals, asthma, paint inhalation, as well as minimising the use of animal testing.

ImmuOne: Making each breath safer

FACT FILE

Start date: 2019

Website: Visit website

Location: Hatfield

Employees: 7

Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe)

Funding: Grants: £450k; Equity: £100k

KEY MILESTONES

September 2018

Took part in ICURe £35k

January 2019

ICURe roundabout success £15k

April 2019

Company formed

October 2019

Innovate UK follow-on funding received: £288k

January 2020

Innovate UK commercialisation project activated

April 2020

First patent submitted

May 2020

First investment

June 2020

R&D commercialisation work begins

July 2020

First team member hires

January 2021

£100k NC3Rs grant received

“My PhD research project led to the development of a 3D model human lung that can be grown in a laboratory. My supervisor, Victoria Hutter and I were both strong believers in finding alternatives to animal testing and we knew that the lung model I had developed had the potential to really make a difference. At the end of my PhD, ICURe was recommended to me and it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. To be given the chance to travel the world and learn so much about the commercial side of business that I had no idea about, was such an exciting prospect.”

“Before ICURe, I had no idea of the commercial value of the technology I had built. At the time of writing my PhD, I hadn’t thought beyond my final submission. The technology I created would just have been left sitting in a book somewhere. I had no thoughts of commercialisation, it just wasn’t on my radar. I certainly couldn’t have foreseen that less than two years later we would be spinning out, and developing the product even further with a team of employees. ICURe was absolutely essential to this process, and to us becoming the company we are today.”

“I think it was about halfway through ICURe when we started having conversations with people that we realised what a gap in the market there was for this technology. The problems in the industry as it stands had actually been solved academically, but the bridge back to the market had never been connected. That was the point that I got really excited, and it just took off from there.”

“At the Options Roundabout I could barely contain myself – I was so excited to tell the team what I had found out. When I started on ICURe I didn’t have any real expectations of my technology, so I was blown away to discover just how in demand it was. ICURe gave me the opportunity to speak to more people than I ever would have been able to on my own, and it also helped us to identify three other market sectors – one of which is now our main target market.”

“The whole process of ICURe was intense. Over the 12-week period I spent five nights in my own home – that’s how much I was on the move! I made connections across four continents, visiting eight countries including the USA, France, Spain, Scotland and Belgium and taking part in upwards of 120 meetings. I followed where the leads took me – you get introduced to more people and you just keep going. I think sometimes the best information you get is informally – talking at the bar or buffet with someone at the end of the working day for example. ICURe allowed me that time and dedication to soak it all in.”

“Coming out of ICURe we had a clear path of what we needed to do next, and we spent the next few months incorporating the company and securing private investment. I went from being a scientist in the lab, to actually identifying and building a complete network in the biotech field. We needed advisors for everything from insurance to finance and negotiating – so I attended networking events to build those connections. It was time consuming, but it’s already paying off.”

“It’s still very early days for us, but already we’ve faced challenges including the labs shutdown during the first COVID lockdown in 2020. But from June last year we’ve been able to adjust our working practices to work in a safe way and we’ve gone from strength-to-strength from there. In the last six months we have been building our team and bringing in expert scientists, business advisors and our co-founder, Victoria Hutter. Each hire has helped us to drive the growth of the company and build towards our commercialisation objectives.”

“The future is looking very bright for us at the moment. Our technology is a game-changer for a number of industries, including drug development, the cosmetic industry and pharmaceuticals. In pharmaceuticals, for example, there haven’t been any new drugs developed for the past 15-20 years, despite the fact asthma and other respiratory disorders are so prevalent now. Due to pollution and all these additional chemicals that we’re inhaling, I think often we forget that we’ve take 23,000 breaths a day. To know what we’re developing is going towards making each of those breaths safer for our bodies is an incredible place to be.”

Abigail Martin

Abigail Martin, Co-Founder
ImmuOne

SETsquared is a partnership between

  • University of Bath
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Exeter
  • University of Southampton
  • University of Surrey