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University of York spin-out business to aid drug development

Posted on 7 February 2014

A University of York academic has received a Royal Academy of Engineering award to develop a spin-out business based on innovative computer modelling software to help drug development.

The £85,000 Enterprise Fellowship will allow Professor Jon Timmis, from York’s Department of Electronics, to commercialise the software and to develop a new company into a viable business over the next 12 months.

Together with Dr Mark Coles, from York’s Centre for Immunology and Infection, Professor Timmis has created new computer modelling software which can help drug developers predict the effects of new drugs on autoimmune diseases, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Type 1 Diabetes, and Multiple Sclerosis.

Autoimmune conditions, where the immune system attacks its own tissues, affect 10 per cent of the UK’s adult population and are a leading cause of death and disability.

As well as funding, Professor Timmis will also receive one-to-one mentoring from some of the UK’s top technology entrepreneurs as part of the Academy’s Enterprise Hub.

Professor Timmis, who is also a Royal Society-Wolfson Research Merit Award Holder, said: “I first became interested in commercialisation of my research after discussions with various pharmaceutical companies and collaborators concerning my work and the avenues by which it might be exploited.

“It became clear there was significant interest in the potential for my research and expertise to make a significant impact at various stages of the drug discovery pipeline. I am now enthused with the prospect of commercialisation and consider it a natural extension to the academic research process, which can ensure the work achieves its intended aim.”

The new modelling software, which was developed with support from the University’s Centre for Chronic Diseases and Disorders (C2D2), is capable of integrating more data types than current systems and has two key areas of application in the field of immune and inflammatory diseases – drug development and personalised medicine.

Professor Timmis is one of eight researchers from UK universities to receive Royal Academy of Engineering funding to be spent exclusively on developing a spin-out business based on their technological innovations.

Arnoud Jullens, Head of Enterprise at the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “UK universities produce some of the greatest innovations in the world, but getting them out of the lab and into the marketplace remains a huge challenge. Business-minded academics need investment and support from experienced industry practitioners to exploit their research, which could become the commercial success stories of tomorrow, and this is exactly what the Academy’s Enterprise Hub provides."

Notes to editors:

  • Enterprise Fellowships provide funding and support to outstanding entrepreneurial engineering researchers, working at a UK University, to enable them to develop a spin-out business around their technological idea. The award provides up to £85,000 to each Enterprise Fellow to enable them to spend 12 months establishing their own business. In addition to the financial support, training will be provided to develop business skills. Mentors from the Academy’s Fellowship are also allocated to each Enterprise Fellow to provide additional support, advice and access to their entrepreneurial and venture capital networks during the Fellowship. Further information can be found here:
  • The Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise Hub is a new national resource for the UK’s most promising technology-intensive SMEs and entrepreneurs. It provides money-can’t-buy bespoke support and one-to-one mentoring from its Fellowship, which includes prominent tech entrepreneurs such as business icons Mike Lynch, Sir Robin Saxby, Anne Glover and Ian Shott CBE. Further information can be found here:
  • Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship - comprising the UK's most eminent engineers - provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain's engineering community. Further information is available here:
  • The Centre for Chronic Diseases and Disorders (C2D2) was established by the University of York with the support of the Wellcome Trust to coordinate and maximise the impact of research into alleviating the world-wide burden of chronic diseases and disorders.
  • More information on the University of York’s Department of Electronics at
  • More information on the Centre for Immunology and Infection at the University of York visit

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