Global University Venturing: Imperial leads on Cambridge seed

by Gregg Bayes-Brown, 12 December 2013

Imperial College London’s tech transfer unit Imperial Innovations (II) has led a seed round worth nearly £1m ($1.6m) for Cambridge University spin-out Aqdot.

II, which invested £350,000 of the total, was joined in participation by the university’s own tech transfer unit Cambridge Enterprise as well as investors Parkwalk Advisors and Providence Investment Company. As part of the deal, Kelsey Lynn, director at II, will join the Aqdot board of directors.

Aqdot is developing chemical encapsulation technology which allows tiny droplets to carry active materials, such as cleaning enzymes for detergents and agrochemicals for crops. Funds raised by the seed round will be used to further develop Aqdot’s technology as well as securing new partnerships.

Roger Coulston, co-founder at Aqdot, said: “Instead of licensing to industry, we decided to form a company and to commercialise the technology through active industry engagement. We chose as funding partner Imperial Innovations because of their experience and insight in building high-growth companies based on academic research. We look forward to creating early value with this disruptive and novel technology through a number of partnerships in different industry segments.”

More information on Global University Venturing.

Cabume: Rising star Aqdot plans major growth following £1m funding round

by Lautaro Vargas, 11 December 2013

A year old startup pushing a new encapsulation technology with the potential to disrupt a range of industries from farming to big pharma is gunning for early revenues through major partnerships following a £1 million seed fundraising round.

Aqdot Ltd spun out of Cambridge University’s Department of Chemistry at the end of 2012 to further a technology with the ability to enclose materials in capsules between 10 and 100 micrometres in diameter, while accurately controlling both the capsule structure and the core content.

Beyond being quicker than existing industry techniques, this ‘one-step’ process also allows for a far more controlled release of the microcapsule contents through a range of different stimuli, whether it’s drugs in the body or sealants in aircraft construction.

The company has generated a lot of interest including national broadsheet newspaper coverage and has won several business plan competitions from Cambridge University’s own CUE awards to a €20,000 European venture competition.

Having decided to build a company rather than just sell licenses, Aqdot now plans to use the money to ramp up development of the technology and grow new partnerships in its selected markets.

The appeal of the spin-out road for Aqdot lies in its belief that its technology is suitable for pretty much the entire micro encapsulation industry, a $40 billion opportunity that covers oil and gas, paper, textiles, pharma and medicine, adhesives, household and personal care, food and paints and coatings.

The company will need to have more focus early on, but says its Investors – who are Imperial Innovations, Cambridge Enterprise, Parkwalk Advisors, and Providence Investment Company – leave it well placed for rapid growth

Imperial Innovations’s Kelsey Lynn, who has joined the Aqdot board of directors, says there is already interest from a variety of large corporates and believes a company can emerge that can change the landscape of controlled release functionality in encapsulation.

She said: “Aqdot benefits from a wealth of research undertaken at one of the world’s leading chemistry departments,” adding, “We are excited to be involved with the company at this early stage in its development.”

Imperial Innovations is also supplying the company’s launch CEO in Dr John Hamlin, its own Entrepreneur-in-Residence who has 25 years of experience in senior business and technology positions in BP Chemicals. Aqdot has also recruited as chairman, Dr Peter Fields.

“We chose as funding partner Imperial Innovations because of their experience and insight in building high-growth companies based on academic research,” said Aqdot co-founder and CSO, Roger Coulston. “We look forward to creating early value with this disruptive and novel technology through a number of partnerships in different industry segments.”

More information on Cabume.

Business Weekly: Thanks a million as Imperial backs Aqdot

by Kate Sweeney, 10 December 2013

Imperial Innovations has invested £350k and led a new seed funding round of almost £1 million ($1.6 million) into Aqdot Limited.

Cambridge Enterprise, Parkwalk Advisors, and Providence Investment Company joined Innovations in the investment round.

The funds will be used to further the development of the Aqdot technology and partnerships with companies in the selected markets.

Aqdot has developed a proprietary and disruptive chemical encapsulation technology that enables extremely tiny droplets to be produced to carry ‘active materials’: for example cleaning enzymes used in domestic detergents, and agrochemicals for crop treatment.

The high stability and robustness of the droplets allows for a finely controlled release of the contained ingredients while using much less encapsulation material than traditional products.

In addition to giving value to producers and consumers, the reduction in wasted active materials also yields significant environmental and sustainability benefits.

The company is engaged with a number of interested corporate partners across a variety of industries and is prioritising opportunities in home care, personal care, nutraceuticals and agrochemicals.

The science that underpins Aqdot technology was developed at Cambridge University Department of Chemistry under senior academics Professor Chris Abell and Dr Oren Scherman, both of whom join Aqdot’s Scientific Advisory Board.

The Cambridge University co-inventors Dr Jing Zhang and Dr Roger Coulston join the company as director operations and chief scientific officer, respectively.

Innovations Entrepreneur-in-Residence Dr John Hamlin joins as the launch CEO bringing his 25 years of experience in senior business and technology positions in BP Chemicals.

The company has recruited as chairman, Dr Peter Fields, who, after 20 years at ICI, implemented a buy-and-build strategy as COO to grow European specialty chemical distribution company, Azelis, from €330m to €1.1bn in revenue.

Innovations Director Kelsey Lynn joins the Aqdot board of directors.

Kelsey Lynn, director technology ventures at Innovations, said: “We are delighted to lead this investment round alongside Cambridge Enterprise and other high quality investors to build a company that can change the landscape of controlled release functionality in encapsulation.

“Aqdot benefits from a wealth of research undertaken at one of the world’s leading chemistry departments and is already receiving interest from a variety of large corporates. We are excited to be involved with the company at this early stage in its development.”

Roger Coulston, co-founder and CSO at Aqdot Ltd, added: “Instead of licensing to industry, we decided to form a company and to commercialise the technology through active industry engagement.

“We chose as funding partner Imperial Innovations because of their experience and insight in building high-growth companies based on academic research. We look forward to creating early value with this disruptive and novel technology through a number of partnerships in different industry segments.”

More information on Business Weekly.

Growth Business: Cambridge spin-out Aqdot gets Imperial Innovations cash

10 December 2013

Having been spun-out from the University of Cambridge at the end of 2012, Aqdot has secured the capital it needs to further develop its technology.

The science behind the business was developed at the university’s Department of Chemistry by Chris Abell and Oren Scherman and involves the manufacturing of structures for encapsulating actives.

The chemical encapsulation technology allows very small droplets to be produced to carry what the company calls ‘active materials’ – such as those used in domestic detergents and agrochemicals.

Roger Coulston, co-founder and chief scientific officer of Aqdot, comments, ‘Instead of licensing to industry, we decided to form a company and to commercialise the technology through active industry engagement.

‘We chose as funding partner Imperial Innovations because of their experience and insight in building high-growth companies based on academic research.’

Joining Imperial Innovations, which is contributing £350,00 towards the round, and Cambridge Enterprise as investors are Parkwalk Advisors and Providence Investment Company.

Aqdot says that it is engaged with a number of interested corporate partners in a variety of industries, with priorities being made in the home care, personal care, nutraceuticals and agrochemicals areas.

Kelsey Lynn, director for Technology Ventures at Imperial Innovations, says, ‘We are delighted to lead this investment round alongside Cambridge Enterprise and other high-quality investors to build a company that can change the landscape of controlled realise functionality in encapsulation.

‘Aqdot benefits from a wealth of research undertaken at one of the world’s leading chemistry departments and is already receiving interest from a variety of large corporates.’

More information can be found on growthbusiness.co.uk.

The Observer: Cambridge’s leading tech startups

The Guardian, The Observer

Nicola Davis, 1 December 2013

Jing Zhang (1), director of operations, and Roger Coulston (2) CSO

Company launched: 2012

What it does Aqdot has developed and patented new technology for creating microcapsules filled with a range of active ingredients.

These ingredients can then be released, under control – a technique that can be tuned to myriad applications.

“The early priorities are the home care, personal care, nutraceuticals and agrochemicals markets,” says Zhang

Why Cambridge? The company has close links to the University of Cambridge chemistry department, while the city’s ability to attract talent is also beneficial, as is its accommodating and supportive entrepreneurial community. “This is ideal for a young start-up like us,” says Zhang.

Future Plans The next few years should see Aqdot develop significantly. “The primary opportunity is for us to grow by licensing the technology,” says Zhang. “This would be among a variety of other business models including straight licensing, joint development agreements, joint ventures and production of our product.” Work is currently underway to commercialise the technology.

The full coverage can be found on The Observer.

 

Business Weekly: Ones to watch: Aqdot

Business Weekly

Kate Sweeney, 8 July 2013

Aqdot is a young but diverse company requiring expertise in multiple fields including polymer chemistry, supramolecular chemistry, microfluidics, biological chemistry, chemical engineering, engineering, administration, sales and marketing.

The University of Cambridge Department of Chemistry spinout recently won the first RSC Emerging Technologies Competition for 2013. The event was organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry to identify and support research-intensive small enterprises and academics on the path to commercialise technology in chemical sciences with significant potential impact for the UK economy.

Microencapsulation is currently a multi-billion-per-annum industry with established applications in food, cosmetics, pharmaceutical, and personal care products. The current unmet consumer demand is to produce sustainable and inexpensive capsules that can be triggered to release bio-macromolecules.

To address this critical industry challenge over the next decades, Aqdot has developed an innovative technology to produce microcapsules with greatly simplified manufacturing procedure and unprecedented ability to encapsulate and release enzymes, antibodies and other high value materials.

Aqdot is building a prototype for the consumer products that will act as a demonstrator for the many other possible applications.

The full coverage can be found on Business Weekly.

The Engineer: Team plans faster production of technology for drug delivery

The Engineer

Stephen Harris, 14 February 2012

Technology for more controlled drug delivery could be produced hundreds of times faster than with existing methods thanks to new research.

Scientists at Cambridge University have developed a faster process for manufacturing microcapsules — tiny spheres filled with drugs, pesticides or other substances — that also enables more precise control over when their contents are released.

The researchers have used microfluidics — where chemicals are combined in tiny sub-millimetre channels — to create droplets of a mixture that spontaneously assembles into capsules. These can then be broken down with light, heat or changes in pH.

‘Microfluidics has a very high frequency of generating those droplets and therefore capsules,’ PhD student Jing Zhang, lead author on the research, told The Engineer.

‘Currently I’ve only been doing a frequency of 300 to 3,000 droplets per second but it could go up to 100,000 droplets per second easily.’ Conventional methods produce around a couple of hundred microcapsules per second, she added.

Microcapsules are used to slowly release drugs inside the body, disperse pesticides over crops, add flavours or nutrients to food and even to release sealants in manufacturing processes.

The shell of the capsules either degrades over time or is broken down mechanically to release the contents. But the capsules produced through Cambridge’s method are more susceptible to other stimuli and so the release can be coordinated.

This could be particularly useful in manufacturing complex structures such as aircraft, where sealants usually need to be applied to parts one small area at a time to ensure a precise enough fit, said Zhang. ‘Potentially we could apply a signal and all the glue would be released in one go.’

The full report can be found in The Engineer.

C&EN: Easy Route to Microcapsules

Chemical and Engineering News

February 13, 2012 (p37)

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have used supramolecular host-guest chemistry to fabricate cargo-carrying microcapsules from microfluidic droplets in a single step (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1215416). Oren A. Scherman, Chris Abell, and coworkers chose cucurbit[8]uril as the host molecule because it can form a ternary complex with two guests—in this case, methyl viologen attached to gold nanoparticles and a naphthol-containing copolymer. The researchers combined individual solutions of the three components in a microfluidic device to form a single aqueous phase. The oil phase shears droplets off the aqueous phase at a T junction. As the oil phase carries the droplets through a winding channel, the components combine to form hollow micro capsules consisting of a dispersion of gold nanoparticles in a polymer mesh held together by cucurbit[8]uril. The size of the microcapsules ranges from 10 to 24 μm and varies with the ratio of the oil and aqueous flow rates. The researchers can load a variety of cargo—such as drugs, biological molecules, and even cells—in the microcapsules by adding a fourth solution to the aqueous phase during fabrication.

 

Cambridge University Research News: “Smart” microcapsules in a single step

Cambridge University Research News

11 February 2012

A new, single-step method of fabricating microcapsules, which have potential commercial applications in industries including medicine, agriculture and diagnostics, has been developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge. The findings are published Friday (10 February) in the journal Science.

The ability to enclose materials in capsules between 10 and 100 micrometres in diameter, while accurately controlling both the capsule structure and the core contents, is a key concern in biology, chemistry, nanotechnology and materials science.

Currently, producing microcapsules is labour-intensive and difficult to scale up without sacrificing functionality and efficiency. Microcapsules are often made using a mould covered with layers of polymers, similar to papier-mâché. The challenge with this method is dissolving the mould while keeping the polymers intact.

Now, a collaboration between the research groups of Professor Chris Abell and Dr Oren Scherman in the Department of Chemistry has developed a new technique for manufacturing ‘smart’ microcapsules in large quantities in a single step, using tiny droplets of water. Additionally, the release of the contents of the microcapsules can be highly controlled through the use of various stimuli.

The microdroplets, dispersed in oil, are used as templates for building supramolecular assemblies, which form highly uniform microcapsules with porous shells.

The technique uses copolymers, gold nanoparticles and small barrel-shaped molecules called cucurbiturils (CBs), to form the microcapsules. The CBs act as miniature ‘handcuffs’, bringing the materials together at the oil-water interface.

“This method provides several advantages over current methods as all of the components for the microcapsules are added at once and assemble instantaneously at room temperature,” said lead author Jing Zhang, a PhD student in Professor Abell’s research group. “A variety of ‘cargos’ can be efficiently loaded simultaneously during the formation of the microcapsules. The dynamic supramolecular interactions allow control over the porosity of the capsules and the timed release of their contents using stimuli such as light, pH and temperature.”

The full report can be found in Cambridge University Research News.

The Food Navigator: One step microcapsules will provide new opportunities and benefits for industry

The Food Navigator

Nathan Gray, 10-Feb-2012

An innovative new technology platform could provide manufacturers and food formulators with greater control and speed when producing encapsulated ingredients such as flavours and bioactive ingredients, say its developers.

The new technology – a single-step method for producing ‘smart’ microcapsules using fluid droplets – is said to have potential commercial applications in food, nutrition, and pharmaceuticals, among others. Developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge, UK, and published in prestigious academic journal Science, the team behind the new technology promises that the ‘one-step’ microcapsules offer several advantages over currently used techniques.

Speaking with FoodNavigator.com, Dr Oren Scherman from the department of chemistry at Cambridge explained that the fluid technology used by the new platforms means that microcapsules have little variation in terms of size, and are “highly reproducible and scalable.” “I think that the fundamental advance that we have taken is the ability to both formulate the capsule and encapsulate cargo in a single step, so all the molecules and components are dynamically assembled simultaneously,” said Scherman, who was one of several researchers from the University of Cambridge involved in the platform’s development.

“We have on demand capability for release, and you can also have whatever you want as far as capsule size, or cargo, all in a uniform structure,” he said, noting that he was sure that there was “a lot of opportunity within the food manufacturing and production domain.”

“Because it’s a platform technology, it has a lot of applicability to many diverse areas, and I think that is something we are keen to explore through contact current leaders in the field,” added the expert.

The full report can be found in The Food Navigator.