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Grants get biotech firm's Covid and cancer projects back up and running



Aberdeen life sciences firm Elasmogen has been able to resume its work on treatments for Covid-19 and cancer thanks to two grants worth a total of £374,000 to support its work.

The company had been making rapid progress with a test and treatment for Covid-19 with the University of Aberdeen’s Scottish Biologics Facility, when lockdown interrupted its work in March.

It was able to reopen its laboratory in April thanks to a £143,000 from Scottish Government.

Elasmogen CEO Dr Caroline Barelle said: “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.

“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 UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) Continuity Grant supporting Elasmogen’s work on a treatment based on proteins found in sharks.

The project is a joint venture with Almac Discovery in its labs in Edinburgh and Northern Ireland. Almac’s cancer-killing chemicals are combined with Elasmogen’s soloMERs – which have their origins in the immune system of sharks. Together they are more effective in treating solid tumours.

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Barelle said: “Whilst the fight against Covid-19 is happening now, the fight against cancer will continue long after Covid-19 is under control. 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 programs.

“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.”



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