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Cascade Fund invests in protein crystallography at Reading – University of Reading

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Cascade Fund invests in protein crystallography at Reading

Release Date 10 May 2006

Dr Kim Watson, Reader in Structural Biology at the University of Reading, is the latest recipient of early stage, or 'seed', investment from the Cascade Fund, bringing the total number of investments made by the Fund in technology from Reading to seven. Two separate investments will support the establishment of a business case for a spin-out company providing protein crystallography solutions to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Protein crystallography is the study of the three-dimensional structure of biological molecules at atomic (or near atomic) resolution using X-ray diffraction. Knowledge of the structure or 'form' of a molecule can aid understanding of its biological function, provide a major building block in our search for new therapies and is key to our understanding of disease mechanisms. Such detailed understanding of protein structure and function is an important underpinning for life sciences. Pharmaceutical companies utilise protein crystallography as part of their core research platform for drug development. The business idea has evolved through the award of a University Enterprise Fellowship to Dr Kim Watson which has provided her with training and a business mentor from Finance South East who run the Merlin (1) mentoring programme. The Structural Biology Unit is part of the BioCentre at the University of Reading. The BioCentre is housed in state-of-the-art research laboratories, principally within the Plant Sciences building. An investment of £8 million, with more than £2.5 million spent on new equipment, makes the BioCentre one of the best equipped research laboratories of its type in Europe. The BioCentre is a centre of excellence, enabling the University of Reading to be at the forefront of Life Sciences research. It provides a platform comprising facilities and expertise in genomics, post-genomics, structural and computational biology; and is a scientific hub encouraging and supporting integrated approaches to the challenging scientific questions addressed by biologists, computer scientists, chemists, physicists, biotechnologists and health-related researchers. The BioCentre aims to encourage access to its facilities and expertise across the University - and foster links and collaborations with external enterprises and institutes. Facilities include modern laboratories for large scale fermentation, molecular biology, tissue culture, biochemistry, X-ray structural biology, discovery proteomics, transcriptomics and modern mass spectroscopy. Dr Watson is well placed to understand the protein crystallography world market, having led a Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Global Watch Mission in June 2004 to visit emerging structural genomics centres (including protein crystallography) in China and Japan. The mission provided an opportunity to discover at first hand the new areas emerging from programmes in China and Japan and to explore areas of potential collaboration and technology transfer with the UK. The mission involved representatives from the University of Reading, the University of Oxford, Rigaku/MSC, Oxford Diffraction Ltd, GlaxoSmithKline and Syngenta. End Notes for editors 1. The Merlin mentoring project is co-financed by the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) and the European Social Fund (ESF) 2. The Cascade Fund is an early stage or seed fund available to five partner universities in south east England: Brunel, Reading, Royal Holloway, Surrey and Sussex. It invests in activities that have moved beyond the scope of Research Council funding but which are still too early for conventional funding sources. The Cascade Fund has £4 million, 75% funded by the Office of Science & Technology (with contributions from the Wellcome Trust and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation) under the second round of the University Challenge Scheme, and 25% by the partner universities. The Cascade Fund is managed by an independent fund manager, Generics Asset Management Limited (GAML). Web: 3. Generics Asset Management (GAML) is the wholly-owned FSA-regulated investment management company of The Generics Group Ltd. GAML manages and maintains investment assets on behalf of both external investment funds and The Generics Group. GAML invests in technology-based opportunities and aims to make investments in enterprises to which GAML or other parts of the Group can add significant value and reduce the inherent technology risk. The Generics Group is quoted on the London Stock Exchange (Reuters: GEN.L) Web: 4. Dr Kim Watson is Reader in Structural Biology and Head of the Structural Biology Unit in the BioCentre at the University of Reading. After completing a DPhil. in Molecular Biophysics at the University of Oxford (1994), she was awarded a Diabetes UK Fellowship (until 1999) to pursue independent research in structural and computational biology of proteins involved in liver glycogen metabolism. Following that, she was awarded a Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine Fellowship (until 2005) to continue and extend her work to include pancreatic proteins involved in insulin release. She is an internationally recognised protein crystallographer with several years experience of protein biochemistry and bioanalytical methods. She has published over 40 papers in leading journals, the majority focusing on protein structure-function studies and protein-ligand analysis. Web: 5. The University of Reading is a top-rated international research institution, in the top 20 research intensive universities in the UK, with over 17,000 students from over 100 countries. The University employs around 4000 people, making it one of the largest employers in Berkshire. Web: 6. Finance South East exists to provide an integrated approach to funding, and associated pre- and post-investment support, for ambitious growth companies and entrepreneurs in the South East (SEEDA) region. Its specialist range of products and services include advice on funding strategy, introductions to funding sources, fund management and mentoring and investor networks. For further information editors should contact: Sue O'Hare, Technology Transfer Manager, University of Reading. Tel: +44 (0)118 935 7198, Fax: +44 (0)118 935 7330, Email: or Andrew Austin, The Generics Group, Tel: +44 (0) 1223 875200 Fax: +44 (0) 1223 875201, Email:

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