Each month we profile an innovative, growing company from across the Greater South East of England. The Electrospinning Company is a pioneer in design and manufacture of implantable biomaterials and they have recently expanded into purpose-built cleanroom facilities at the Harwell Campus to increase their production capabilities. We spoke with Ann Kramer, CEO, about their work and their plans for the future.
Please give us a brief overview of your company and how it came about?
Electrospinning was founded in 2010, as a spinout of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) at Harwell. Initially we developed a range of laboratory consumable products for 3D cell culture. These Mimetix® cell culture plates are marketed to researchers in drug discovery and regenerative medicine for more phenotypically relevant cell-based assays.
In 2015, we obtained the ISO 13485 quality certification required to manufacture materials that can be implanted, moved into cleanrooms, and added contract design, development and manufacturing services to our commercial offering. This was timely, as the medical device industry was just waking up to the potential of these novel biomaterials which have the power to guide the patient’s own cells to repair and regenerate damaged tissues. We have developed our technology platform, focusing on reproducible, scalable manufacturing processes and have become a frontrunner in the application of electrospinning technology to regenerative medical devices.
Tell us about some of your work with universities?
We work with many universities across the UK and internationally to keep up with cutting edge technology developments in our field. We collaborate with the University of Nottingham to develop SMART materials for stem cell expansion. We manufactured the clinical-grade samples for Prof. MacNeil at the University of Sheffield and the L.V.Prasad eye clinic in Hyderabad, who are evaluating corneal repair materials and procedures that offer a step change in availability and affordability. These are currently in Phase I clinical trials to demonstrate patient safety.
We also collaborated with the University of Campinas in Brazil and Nottingham Trent University to develop an electrospun scaffold containing Copaiba oil. This allowed the fabrication of drug releasing bioactive scaffolds for potential use in applications such as wound care.
How do you work with companies to design and manufacture electrospun materials?
We can’t reveal the companies we work with for confidentiality reasons, but we currently supply a Fortune 500 company with an electrospun biomaterial that is the first such component of an FDA-approved medical device; having supported them with product development and registration. We also have four projects in an advanced stage of development, two of which will be at a clinical testing stage in 2019, and a pipeline full of early stage projects. We have a diverse clientele of large corporates and start-ups working in a range of therapeutic applications including orthopaedics, eye repair and urology.
You raised investment through our investment programme, Angels in MedCity, how was that experience and how did that support your growth?
We have raised around £2.5 million from UK Angel investors since foundation. We engaged with Angels in MedCity in 2015 and benefited from access to investors interested in medtech and from PR that reached a broad audience.
How else have you sourced funding?
We have developed our technology platform through participation in collaborative projects funded by the European Union (FP7) programme and InnovateUK. We are currently collaborating with universities in Germany, the Netherlands, and France to develop an orthopaedic implant for osteoporosis, in a project funded by EU Inter-reg. We are one of the first companies to be awarded a low interest loan facility from InnovateUK to fund a manufacturing scale-up project.
Why did you choose the Harwell Campus to base the company?
We spun out of the STFC government research group and were located in their business incubator. We have established a strong local network to access skills and metrology capability, so we saw advantages in staying local when we came to move into our own facility. There is rapid growth in start-up and scale-up companies in this region, building on the University of Oxford and STFC knowledge centres It makes recruitment easy.
What’s next on the cards?
Growth. We have just moved into our own facility which removes our capacity constraints, initially with 5x the cleanroom area. A manufacturing scale-up project and investment in our technology platform will enhance our capacity yet further through improved productivity. We now have nine people and are actively recruiting five more. We expect to support our clients in bringing products into the clinic and are excited to see the larger medical device companies increasingly embracing this class of novel biomaterials.
Find out more about The Electrospinning Company here.