Logical Biological Recognized as one of ‘Europe’s Fastest Growing Companies’ due to Customer Centric approach and Quality Commitment

Logical Biological are excited to share a milestone in their journey at Discovery Park. Their relentless dedication to customer centricity and unwavering commitment to quality has led to them securing 148th spot in the prestigious “FT 1000: Europe’s Fastest Growing Companies” listing.

The “FT 1000” list, created in collaboration with Statista, shines a spotlight on the European companies that have shown extraordinary growth. The ranking is determined by analysing the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in revenue from 2019 to 2022. In a list that is dominated by IT, Software, Construction and Energy/ Utility companies, Logical Biological is proud to be leading the way for science.

Read the full release here.

World Sleep Day is Here and It’s Time to Think About Our Own Sleep

Written by Joel Petch, Senior Lecturer and Academic Lead at the Kent and Medway Medical School, and Dr Andrew Westwood, Consultant Neurologist at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust. 


Humans, like all animals, sleep and we spend a third of our lives doing it; yet only recently have we started to take its importance seriously. It is as fundamental as eating, drinking, and breathing. It helps both our physical and mental health. We continue to learn more and more about the purpose of sleep, and still do not fully understand it, but here are some things we do know about it.

In the last few decades, we have come to realise its importance in consolidating learning and memory formation. The nerves in our brain fire slower and synchronously during sleep, without having to worry about what’s going on in the world around us. It gives our brain the chance to process everything that has occurred during wakefulness and restore our bodies in preparation for the day ahead.

Sleep also has a role of cleaning out the waste products and toxins that accumulate in our brains, and only in the last decade have we discovered that we have a special system called the glymphatic system. This system expands during sleep and appears to help filter the brain of waste products. It’s thought that disruption to this process may be involved within several brain disorders.

Skipping a few hours of sleep for more social media time has its consequences. Lack of sleep disrupts our metabolism and you might notice you are more peckish after a bad night of sleep. This has a knock-on effect of piling on the pounds. It’s commonplace for fitness advice now to highlight how important sleep is – it’s not what you actively do on a treadmill or lifting weights, but we can help reach our goals by allocating enough time for sleep.

We’ve all experienced a bad night of sleep and sometimes people around us can tell – we may become more irritable, moody, and find it more difficult to concentrate on what we are doing. It’s clear that sleep is of critical importance, and worth remembering that a happy brain is a well-rested brain. So, we’ve established the importance of adequate quantity of good quality sleep, lets explore what can be done to enhance your sleep.

While there is no singular approach to ensure you have a restful sleep, there are several adaptations which offer an accumulative effect. These adaptations- referred to as sleep hygiene- are a range of actions which promote sleep and offset wakefulness. Lifestyle adaptations are preferable to medications, particularly in the medium and longer terms.


Some considerations to avoid to adversely impact upon sleep:

Avoidance of napping during the day- it may be tempting to have that afternoon snooze, but this will enhance wakefulness at night and eat into your daily sleep quota [which, ideally, we would like to achieve at night].

While many of us feel the need to rely upon coffee to get us from day to day, if you have trouble sleeping, it would be wise to reduce the caffeine in the afternoon and evening. Caffeine, one of the worlds most popular drugs, blocks adenosine within the brain, preventing drowsiness and triggering a temporary sense of alertness. It’s noteworthy that other evening treats also contain caffeine including energy drinks, tea (black and green) and chocolate.

Immediately prior to bed, you would do well to avoid the use of your mobile phones. Social media activities may well lead to a heightened sense of arousal, and the blue light emitted from the screen also impacts upon your ability to sleep. This light, due to its short light wave, can delay the secretion of the sleep hormone, melatonin. This comes from the pineal gland via activation of the superchiasmatic nucleus, our own internal body clock located within the

hypothalamus. So, in the interest of a good sleep, waking feeling refreshed, and best able to engage with your day, please do avoid the pinging of social media prior to bed.

Aristotle postulated that ‘a person awakes from sleep when digestion is complete’, while this is contested, in a nod to Aristotelianism, please do avoid heavy meals before sleeping. Acid reflux and indigestion is a common cause of disrupted sleep. Alcohol is another substance to avoid, this may feel helpful with regards to onset of asleep, but any subsequent sleep is likely to be fragmented. In addition, there this is evidence that alcohol induced sleep also adversely impacts dreaming, a period of sleep critical in memory consolidation and glymphatic clearance.


Here are some things you can actively do:

It’s important to develop and maintain a regular sleep routine, this includes timings and patterns of activities. Try to sleep and rise at the same time each day. It’s most important to keep that same wake-up time as this is usually easier for us to do than to guarantee we can sleep at the same time. Ensure you don’t go to bed earlier after a bad night of sleep, keep the same routine regardless. A warm and relaxing bath may also be the perfect approach to prepare to sleep for some, usually 60-90minutes before intending to sleep. Further positive actions include having a sleep-promoting environment- a space which is comfort, quiet, and at a temperature that is lower than during the day. Implementing these actions will have an accumulative effect and heighten the likelihood of a restful night. However, if you are finding it difficult to sleep, be reassured that this is a common, albeit frustrating, circumstance. Further practical advice can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/how-to-get-to-sleep/

Kent & Medway Women’s Health Innovation Summit unites NHS and industry to close gender health gap

The sold-out event brought together a dynamic group of NHS leaders, clinicians, patients, academics and innovators at Kent and Medway Medical School


Kent & Medway’s first ever Women’s Health Innovation Summit took place last week (6th March), bringing together local leaders to revolutionise women’s health and close the gender health gap. 


The sold-out summit attracted 130 women’s health experts and was held at The Pears Building at the Kent and Medway Medical School, in Canterbury. The Kent & Medway Women’s Health Summit marks the start of a partnership between NHS Kent and Medway, Kent and Medway Medical School (KMMS), Health Innovation Kent Surrey Sussex (Health Innovation KSS) and leading research and development site, Discovery Park. 


Key speakers included Dr. Kate Langford, Chief Medical Officer at NHS Kent & Medway ICB, Dr. Maryann Ferreux, Medical Director, Health Innovation KSS, Professor Chris Holland, Founding Dean, KMMS, Jane Kennedy, Chief Business Officer at Discovery Park and Natasha Walton, Deputy Director Digital Diagnostics & Transformation at NHS England. 


Dr Kate Langford, Chief Medical Officer and Women’s Health Champion for NHS Kent and Medway, said: “We’ve heard some very difficult stories about women’s experiences and the data shows that despite living longer, the average woman spends nearly a quarter of her life in poor health, compared with a fifth of men. Partnership is key to change, and Kent and Medway’s first ever Women’s Health Summit demonstrates our commitment to improving the health of women.”


Speakers highlighted that addressing women’s health and closing the gender health gap requires a multifaceted approach that acknowledges the complexities of individuals’ experiences. Intersectionality, which considers how various social identities intersect and shape these experiences, is crucial to this.


Menopause, mental health and cardiovascular care were topics of key focus at the event, highlighted as areas of unmet need, with alarming statistics revealing that women are twice as likely to die of a heart attack compared to men. Furthermore, a lack of research and data is a driver for the gender health gap, with five times more research conducted on erectile dysfunction, which affects 19% of men, than on premenstrual syndrome, which affects 90% of women


The aim of the new partnership, the Kent & Medway Innovation Hub, is to create a vibrant innovation ecosystem that fosters breakthrough ideas, empowers people and our workforce, and positively impacts the health and well-being of individuals and communities. The learnings from this event, including the findings from the breakout sessions on menopause, mental health and cardiovascular care, will play a key role in codesigning the hub and better understanding the problems that need to be solved in the system. The findings will also inform the creation of a women’s health hub in Kent & Medway, as part of the national women’s health strategy.


Also launched at the summit was a special edition of Discovery Park’s growth programme for early stage businesses, ‘Discovery Spark’. This offers support for new businesses working in FemTech and women’s health, with tailored mentoring and learning. Open for applications now, accepted companies will compete to win a support package worth over £50K, including 1 year of lab or office space at Discovery Park, alongside invaluable support from healthcare partners, Barclays Eagle Labs and six specialist prize partners. 


Summit speaker Dr MaryAnn Ferreux, Medical Director at Health Innovation KSS, said: “Collaboration will be key to designing and delivering revolutionary healthcare for women. The summit showcased the vibrant healthcare innovation ecosystem in Kent and Medway, from students and clinicians, to academics, to start-ups like Adora and Feebris and big companies like AWS. Discovery Spark is the next step in this journey, providing valuable support to promising start-ups improving health outcomes for women.” 


To enter Discovery Spark, start-up companies must be working in FemTech or addressing Women’s Health with a demonstrated proof of concept and have raised less than £1 million in investment. The programme is open to both male and female founders. The deadline for applications is 5th April, with the next cohort beginning on 21st May. 


Applicants should enter on the Discovery Park website, which also includes terms and conditions. https://discovery-park.co.uk/lp/discovery-spark/

FemTech and Women’s Health start-ups urged to join Discovery Park’s growth programme, offering a support package worth over £50K

The Special Edition of the ‘Discovery Spark’ growth programme was announced at Kent & Medway Women’s Health Innovation Summit

Discovery Park, Kent’s thriving life science community, has launched a special edition of their growth and support programme, Discovery Spark, for start-ups in FemTech and Women’s Health. 


The programme was unveiled at Kent & Medway Women’s Health Innovation Summit, which brought together NHS leaders, clinicians, patients, academics and innovators to revolutionise women’s health and close the gender health gap. The event highlighted menopause, mental health and cardiovascular care as areas of unmet need, with women twice as likely to die after a heart attack compared to men. Despite living longer, the average woman spends nearly a quarter of her life in poor health compared with a fifth of men. A lack of research and data is a driver for the gender health gap, with five times more research conducted on erectile dysfunction, which affects 19% of men, than on premenstrual syndrome, which affects 90% of women


Igniting the growth of early-stage businesses solving women’s health challenges, the special edition Discovery Spark programme is now open for applications. The programme offers tailored mentoring and support for start-ups, preparing founders for success in investment pitches. Companies will compete to win a support package worth over £50K, including 1 year of lab or office space at Discovery Park, alongside invaluable support from healthcare partners, Barclays Eagle Labs and six specialist prize partners. 


Discovery Spark is led by Dr Renos Savva, Head of Innovation at Discovery Park and a recognised scientist, entrepreneur and venture development lead. Speaking about the new programme, Renos said: “Discovery Spark gives early-stage start-ups the tools for healthy business foundations, providing expert advice and personal development, all designed with securing investment in mind. The UK has the largest female gender health gap in the G20, so it’s important to supercharge exciting businesses aiming to solve challenges in female health.”


Organised as three immersive sessions held between May and July, Discovery Spark takes place at Discovery Park and includes overnight accommodation for those taking part. Each session lasts for two-days, covering people, teams and brand, presentation and communication, and business metrics and markets.  


Dr MaryAnn Ferreux, Medical Director at Health Innovation KSS, a partner of the FemTech and Women’s Health Special Edition Discovery Spark, said: “Collaboration and partnership will be key to designing and delivering revolutionary healthcare for women. The summit showcased the vibrant healthcare innovation ecosystem in Kent and Medway, from students and clinicians, to academics, to start-ups like Adora and Feebris and big companies like AWS. Discovery Spark is the next step in this journey, providing valuable support to promising start-ups improving health outcomes for women.” 


To enter, start-up companies must be working in FemTech or addressing Women’s Health with a demonstrated proof of concept and have raised less than £1 million in investment. The programme is open to both male and female founders. The deadline for applications is 5th April, with the next cohort beginning on 21st May. 


Applicants should enter on the Discovery Park website, which also includes terms and conditions.



Discovery Park is committed to supporting women in business and innovative organisations transforming women’s health. Contact Discovery Park for more information on business support and investment opportunities currently available.

Neobe Therapeutics raises over $2m for synthetic biology enabled tumour microenvironment remodelling

Neobe Therapeutics, a pioneering synthetic biology startup at the forefront of immuno-oncology innovation, is thrilled to announce the successful closure of a $2.34M financing round. This significant financial milestone was achieved with the support of new investors Pioneer Group and 2048 Ventures, alongside existing backers Deep Science Ventures*, Cancer Research Horizons*, and Discovery Park Ventures. Additionally, the round received a non-dilutive grant award from UKRI’s Innovate UK Future Economy Investor Partnership Programme.


Neobe has built a synthetic biology platform to engineer safe microbial strains to disrupt the microenvironment of solid tumours, without affecting healthy tissues. These programmable microscopic trojan horses enable immunotherapy responses by breaking down barriers to immune infiltration locally. Since its inception Neobe has successfully engineered two differentiated proprietary products aimed at enabling immunotherapy efficacy in patients with colorectal, pancreatic and breast cancer, with demonstrated pre-clinical efficacy.

Neobe was founded by Pedro Correa de Sampaio and Annelise Soulier in 2021, from a venture creation alliance between Deep Science Ventures and Cancer Research Horizons established to help founder-type scientists build high-impact ventures in oncology, using DSV’s proven approach to ideation-based innovation. Neobe was created specifically to address the key issue of existing barriers created by the local microenvironment of solid tumours which prevent the infiltration of cancer reactive immune cells. This “immune exclusion” is a key contributing factor in why about 80% of patients with solid tumours still do not respond to life changing immunotherapies.


This latest injection of capital will accelerate the development of Neobe’s lead programme, combining extensive pre-clinical safety and efficacy studies with initial regulatory validation.


“We are immensely grateful for the continued backing of our existing investors and thrilled to have Pioneer Group and 2048 Ventures join Neobe’s journey”, said Pedro Correa de Sampaio, CEO and co-founder of Neobe. “The trust and support of all our investors as well as Innovate UK truly validates our innovative approach, harnessing synthetic biology to build safer and more effective strategies to enable therapeutic efficacy in cancer patients. Our mission continues to be to transform cancer treatment through engineered live biotherapeutics, and with this support, we are one step closer to making that a reality.”


This investment will be instrumental in advancing Neobe Therapeutics’ research and development efforts, expanding its talented team, and bringing its novel therapies closer to clinical development. It will be accompanied by an expansion of Neobe’s board of directors, with Julie Wolf from 2048 Ventures and Imelda Juniarsih from Pioneer Group joining as investor directors. Neobe’s board is led by Keith Blundy, former CEO of Cancer Research Technology and STORM Therapeutics, who joined as non-executive director and chairman in 2023.


Imelda Juniarsih, Investment Director at Pioneer Group said “Supporting Neobe in addressing previously untreatable cancers is truly exciting. Their pioneering approach holds immense promise in broadening access to immunotherapies, potentially transforming treatment and importantly preserving life for many patients. We’re honoured to welcome Neobe to our portfolio and recognise the pivotal role they play in advancing this vital mission of making cancer treatment more accessible.”


Julie Wolf from 2048 Ventures said “At 2048 Ventures, we look to invest in platform plays that solve huge healthcare challenges. Neobe’s stromal remodeling microbes represent the best application of a synbio platform, which is using biology to engineer life-saving therapies for cancer patients. We are excited to partner with Neobe and join their mission in unlocking immunooncology treatments for all patients.”


“Neobe is on a mission to unlock the full potential of immuno-oncology therapeutics,” said Tony Hickson, Chief Business Officer at Cancer Research Horizons. “Since its inception from one of our venture creation programmes, we have been impressed by the entrepreneurial activities of the Neobe team. We are excited to continue to work with Neobe’s innovative team to support the company’s next phase of growth and realize its full potential to deliver much needed therapeutic solutions for patients.”

Celebrating International Women’s Day and tackling inequality at Discovery Park

With female founded start-ups still struggling to access funding and a lack of women investors, there remains much to do to create an equitable environment for women in business. The femtech industry is a clear example of this gender bias, with male femtech founders consistently raising more capital despite over 70% of femtech companies being founded by women.


Less than a quarter of all UK female-led companies accessed external capital in 2022/2023. Building a supportive network and demonstrating the success of women in these industries is vital to overcome these challenges. To share stories of success, build connections, and discuss potential solutions to the obstacles that remain, Discovery Park will host a morning full of talks and panel discussions on International Women’s Day, Friday 8th March, featuring a line-up of innovative women at all stages of their careers. From breaking barriers to fostering innovation, the discussions will touch upon various aspects of business navigation and leadership. This is a free event and is open to all interested in driving positive change.


The event will be opened by Jane Kennedy, Chief Business Officer of Discovery Park, followed by two keynote speeches from Laura Bloomfield, Global Head of TELUS International, on ‘Leading the way: A CEO’s Inspirational Journey’, and Vineeta Tripathi, Founder of Vitarka Therapeutics, on the ‘Inspiring Journey of Female Founder’. It will also include a panel discussion on Leadership, Diversity, and Business Insights, and a fireside chat on the Challenges & Opportunities in Entrepreneurship with Julie Richards, Head of Assay Development, Psyros.


The day will feature the inaugural presentation of the Discovery Park Inspirational Women Awards, showcasing inspiring women as chosen by the Discovery Park community. To reserve your place and access the full agenda visit: https://discovery-park.co.uk/internationalwomensday/.


As well as disparities in business, the gender health gap is still hindering women’s access to healthcare. A combination of a lack of understanding of women’s physiology and a lack of clinical trial data is resulting in worse treatment outcomes. Alarmingly, the UK has the largest gender health gap in the G20.


This gap will not be closed without a concerted, collaborative effort. Making up 51% of our population, women offer a multitude of ideas and expertise to build a more equitable society. To champion this, Discovery Park is partnering with NHS Kent and Medway, Kent and Medway Medical School and Health Innovation Kent, Surrey and Sussex to host Kent & Medway Women’s Health Innovation Summit on 6th March. This event will bring together clinicians, patients, students, academics, innovators and system partners from across the Kent & Medway health community who are dedicated to revolutionising women’s health through innovation, leadership, inclusivity and systemic change. This event will be held in the Pears Building at the Kent and Medway Medical School from 12pm to 4:30pm. For more information please visit: https://discovery-park.co.uk/femtech-forward-pioneering-womens-health-and-future-possibilities/


Discovery Park is committed to supporting women in business and innovative organisations transforming women’s health. Contact us for more information on business support and investment opportunities currently available.

Cross-country collaboration vital to shape the UK into a life science superpower

Paula Rogers-Brown, Head of Communities & Ecosystem Engagement, Connect: Health Tech, shares her perspective on the challenges facing the UK health tech community and how with collaboration and a unified voice, we can overcome these to build the UK into a thriving health tech hub and life science superpower.


What are the major challenges facing health tech businesses in the UK?


The UK’s health tech ecosystem is rather fragmented, stemming from a positive trend for organic growth. As a consequence, this has fostered poor interconnectivity. It is well known that interdisciplinary collaboration is key for the success of most innovative industries, and this is just as true for health tech. To facilitate more collaboration, we need to overcome this fragmentation and build more connections. Locally, removing siloes will help complementary teams interact, but this should not be done at the expense of pan-regional collaboration as we need to harness the wealth of expertise available throughout the UK for long term growth.

At the interface of health, technology, engineering and AI, health tech faces its own language barriers: clinicians are unfamiliar with common tech terms and technology specialists are untrained in medical terminology. This challenge is not insurmountable, but it is easy to underestimate the time frames needed to overcome this and work well together on product development and commercialisation.

Another challenge is a lack of knowledge around entrepreneurship in the research community. There are incredible scientists and clinicians with potentially transformational ideas, but without a knowledge of routes to progress their innovation, and an understanding of aspects like IP, commercialisation, funding and regulation, their ideas may never reach the public. It is therefore vital that we share knowledge and resources about where these entrepreneurs can start, what do they need and where can they find more information?

To improve navigation across the ecosystem, Connect: Health Tech proactively aids these connections, collaborating with innovation hubs like Discovery Park, and forming a national network where ideas and information can be shared.


What do we need to do to support the UK health tech industry?


We need to build an industry with a porosity in knowledge exchange. Fellowships could be a good way to encourage this area – not just academic but industrial too – as they can be used to foster knowledge exchange between industries and different locations.

It’s also important that we invest in the infrastructure to develop both physical and digital communities that support these connections. Events and in-person connections form a cornerstone of all collaboration. Science parks like Discovery Park provide an ideal environment to bring together a diverse mix of stakeholders including academia, clinical innovators and industry for knowledge exchange and interdisciplinary innovation. We’ve also learned over the past few years that online communities can provide significant additional benefits, allowing these collaborations to continue between different locations in between these events, enabling existing ideas to develop and new opportunities to be identified.

I would also draw attention to the visibility of role models within the health tech community. We have an incredibly diverse population with different healthcare experiences and health technology has the potential to make real changes for everyone, but if the diversity of the population is not reflected in those developing innovative research and technologies, then solutions will have a limited market. To build this diversity into research and leadership teams, we need to highlight role models that are already there – after all, you can’t be what you can’t see.


Investment and development have often been targeted towards certain areas of the UK. Are there risks in focusing development within specific regions?


Co-location is a really powerful tool when it comes to sharing ideas and building a rich talent pool, but this shouldn’t be done at the expense of collaboration elsewhere. The UK punches above its weight scientifically. We are a relatively small country geographically and with the right networks, both regionally and nationally, we could strengthen our impact and attractiveness.

Another important consideration is ensuring research and innovation development is inclusive. Different regions within the UK have different demographics and we need to understand and incorporate that into our recruitment strategies. There is no one route for developing a new innovative med tech device, for example, and the health tech ecosystem needs to embrace employees from all backgrounds. That way we can be sure we are not missing opportunities to harness and develop talent on our doorstep which can lead to rich innovations we can all benefit from.

Science and research parks have a really important role in doing this as they are directly embedded in their local communities and can therefore work closely with schools, colleges and universities to promote STEM, the opportunities available, and develop their own talent pipeline.

As an example, Discovery Park provides a thriving community to build connections and exchange knowledge, including a Skills Hub that brings together the expertise of Kent Universities, colleges and industry to help businesses collaborate to overcome skills shortages. Adding in an online collaboration hub to these can extend those opportunities across the four nations – and internationally.


The NHS is a unique resource for the UK, what are the opportunities that this can bring?


At Connect: Health Tech, we support clinician-led innovation. The UK’s clinician base is a unique resource that has a truly in-depth understanding of the healthcare needs of our population. Through our community and digital platform, we are proactively working with clinicians to develop a suite of resources that supports their innovation journey. Supporting innovation from this community to ensure we are at the forefront of producing solutions that meet actual needs is really important to us at Connect: Health Tech.

Working with local NHS teams can be a huge asset to technology developers to ensure their technology is solving a genuine need. It can also result in superior product development by incorporating relevant data sets and ensuring optimisations are made with input from clinicians and patients alike. Research campuses like Discovery Park leverage relationships with their local NHS Trusts to facilitate collaborations with industry to drive purposeful innovation.


What other opportunities do you see for the UK health tech industry in the next five years and how can we help to deliver these?


Pan-regional collaboration is a fantastic opportunity that we are seeing a real shift towards, and we need to continue to develop this to see more of this kind of collaboration at scale. We’ve already seen the formation of a cross-regional innovation cluster between Cambridge and Manchester which will facilitate the sharing of expertise between these two knowledge-rich communities. Building relationships with other knowledge exchange hubs like Discovery Park allows further development of pan-regional collaboration to unlock even more opportunities for growth.

I was delighted that the government recently accepted all the recommendations from the independent review of university spin-out companies, including providing greater understanding of entrepreneurial skills in the academic setting. There is huge potential still to be realised from our wealth of successful academic institutions and we need to develop this potential by providing support, advice and training for founders wishing to commercialise their discoveries. Initiatives like the Eagle Lab at Discovery Park can provide fantastic support for fledgling businesses through programmes, mentorship and investor networking.


What do we need to do to ensure these opportunities aren’t missed?


We need to invest! The opportunities are clear, but they require investment, and these investments require some risk-taking on experimental technologies. We also need to invest in developing the right infrastructure, taking our communities with us through enablers like Connect: Health Tech, and building strong foundations for growth, as creating a solid health tech ecosystem reduces the risk of missed opportunities.


Paula Rogers-Brown

Head of Communities & Ecosystem Engagement, Connect: Health Tech

University of Cambridge

Paula leads on the strategic development and management of Connect: Health Tech, an interdisciplinary community of practice for health tech professionals bringing together a diverse range of stakeholders to build and integrate a thriving business and enterprise community.

Biotech start-up BugBiome secures investment for pioneering research in sustainable pest protection

  • BugBiome raises £310k in pre-seed investment from Cambridge Angels and Discovery Park Ventures
  • Investment enables a £330k Engineering Biology Grant from Innovate UK for cutting-edge agri-tech research leveraging the microbiome and engineering biology approaches.

Cambridge, UK, 12th February 2024: BugBiome, a biotech harnessing nature’s microbial defences for pest protection to benefit human and planet health, has successfully closed a pre-seed funding round, securing £310k from Cambridge Angels and Discovery Park Ventures.


This investment will support BugBiome’s mission to address agricultural and human pest protection with naturally derived solutions harnessing the microbiome as a sustainable source of alternatives to synthetic and bio-accumulative chemicals. It also provides matched funding for a £330k Engineering Biology Grant from Innovate UK, to identify new methods to control aphids in crop protection. The 12-month project aligns with BugBiome’s focus for sustainable, insect control solutions that do not compromise biodiversity, including a pipeline of targets across human and agricultural pests.

Following the investment, Emma Palmer Foster of Discovery Park Ventures and James Thomas of Cambridge Angels join the Board as Investor Directors.


Dr Alicia Showering, co-founder and CEO of BugBiome, said: “We are delighted to announce a successful pre-seed funding round with the support of Cambridge Angels and Discovery Park Ventures. This investment enables our non-dilutive Innovate UK grant and will help us to advance our pipeline of innovative microbial solutions for pest protection, offering an effective alternative to chemicals. With this new funding, we are expanding our team, accelerating the development of our microbial products against pests.”

Dr Andy Richards, founder member of Cambridge Angels, added: “We have been impressed by the entrepreneurial acumen of the BugBiome team, who have achieved such a lot in a short time. The microbiome is increasingly being seen as a vitally important aspect of biological systems. The team at BugBiome have identified that the interaction between the microbiome on a surface, be that human skin or a plant surface, plays a vital role in the attraction of insects which can impact on human health and on the environment. We look forward to helping them on their journey to exploit these learnings.”

Emma Palmer Foster, Director, Discovery Park Ventures, said: “BugBiome’s ground-breaking research addresses a critical aspect of the global focus on feeding the population sustainably and enhancing crop protection. Our investment in BugBiome makes it our tenth portfolio company and underscores the company’s potential to make a significant and sustainable impact in the agricultural sector and human health.”

Why are the health benefits of 51% of the population so often overlooked?

Women’s health has historically faced challenges and disparities, with issues often overlooked across all sectors. Not only with regards to conditions solely affecting women, but also understanding the different physiological responses that women have in areas such as cardiac disease and immune responses. It is also known that women use health technology differently to men, presenting clear opportunities to deliver measurable health benefits to over half of the population, as well as a huge market opportunity for businesses to target.

Femtech and women’s health innovation are increasingly growing areas, however there is a risk that the promise of these areas is not realised without recognising the challenges that remain. Dr MaryAnn Ferreux, Medical Director at Health Innovation Kent Surrey Sussex (HIKSS), and Melissa Ream, Specialist Commercial Advisor, HIKSS, share their perspectives on the potential opportunities in femtech and women’s health, and how we can work together to reap the benefits.


What are the major challenges facing women’s health in the UK?

MaryAnn Ferreux – The main challenges in women’s health stem from decades if not centuries of gender bias and discrimination. In the past, many women’s health complaints were attributed to being emotional or hysterical and these gender stereotypes often led to doctors mistreating women’s symptoms as a mental health condition, rather than a physical condition.

While that has changed, much of this inherent gender bias remains, with many clinical trials and research studies not assessing the impact on women.1 We have recognised that there is a gender-based data gap but now we need to overcome this. Data sets are very rarely analysed by gender, and yet it is almost universally recorded, so the disparities in how genders respond in different disease groups could and should be analysed routinely.


Melissa Ream – We often think about women’s health in terms of women’s conditions, be that menstrual health, maternity or menopause. But women’s health care is general health care too. The cardiac symptoms and risks for women are different to men, yet these are not widely known. And this comes down to under representation of women in data sets as well as unconscious bias in the wider world. If you search for images of people having a heart attack on Google, most of the images will be of men. Cardiovascular disease in women is a bigger killer than breast cancer2 and we need to start taking this more seriously, looking at how our clinical services are designed, delivered and promoted.


MaryAnn, you mentioned data sets. Do you think AI has the power to change this or do these concerns remain?

MaryAnn Ferreux – AI has a lot of potential to improve the health experiences of women, but there is a risk of building in more inequality if we do not address gender bias in data sets. More and more innovators are wanting to use AI in their technologies but some of them are not thinking about bias until it’s too late. A global analysis of AI systems found that 44% demonstrated a gender bias.3 We need to ensure that the data sets used are comprehensively analysed and shown to be relevant to the target population and this comes down to the decision makers asking the right questions, whether that’s innovators, regulators, funders or purchasers. I’m also concerned about a lack of leadership in AI regulation and who is at the decision-making table. Without diversity at that top level, it is unlikely that the right questions will be asked early enough – retrofitting later on just won’t work!

Learning from experience presents a huge opportunity, but one that we haven’t been previously good at. As an example, a lack of ethnicity data incorporated into skin algorithms resulted racial bias in pulse oximetry, ensuring that the device was not as effective for black and ethnic minority people.4 This disparity has been observed since the 90s5 and yet the device was still used during the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in worse outcomes for black and ethnic minority people. We didn’t address the problem when we had the chance, and we need to ensure this doesn’t happen again.


So, what do we need to do to support equality in healthcare?

Melissa Ream – As MaryAnn says, having people at the decision-making table is vital to ensure that equality is incorporated into our systems. There is still a shortage of women in leadership roles even in the femtech industry and this needs to change, from more women at C-level, to more women investors. With women making up just 22%3 of AI workers, we need active engagement from all sides to help make this change. Role models are a powerful tool; if you can’t look above for inspiration then you’re unlikely to move in that direction. It’s therefore so important that we build networks to support this. Innovation hubs like Discovery Park play a powerful role in this, providing a network to support women in leadership positions and a platform that draws attention to the issues and also to those overcoming them. When we see good practice, let’s talk about it!


MaryAnn Ferreux – To make change happen, we need to use both a stick and a carrot. There must be something built into our structures and processes that sets out expectations and ensures compliance with health equity. But we also need to use financial levers as a carrot, with investors and purchasers demonstrating an interest in this area and making decisions that reflect a commitment to reducing health inequalities.


What would be on your women’s health manifesto to help guide this change?

MaryAnn Ferreux and Melissa Ream – There are three areas to focus on that we believe will see real results:


  • Leadership – Women currently make up just 20-25% of leadership in digital, tech and AI.6 This needs to change to reflect the wider population and their health care needs. We also need to promote and support women innovators to enter Femtech and maximise commercial opportunities that improve women’s health.
  • Policy and Commissioning – Those determining the focus of our health and care policies need to be inclusive and incorporate diversity requirements, ensure that a wide range of women’s voices are heard, and that commissioning reduces gender health gaps.
  • Data sets – Data sets need to reflect their target audience and not exclude minority groups. Existing data sets may not be inclusive, so trials and data sets need to be designed and analysed with this in mind. This also presents an opportunity where having a comprehensive understanding of the data can result in the development of more tailored care including personalised interventions with the potential to reduce health inequalities.


You’re both based in Kent. How important do you think local networks are to support these changes?

Melissa Ream – Change doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it takes work across the entire system, and local hubs are an excellent starting point. By working together locally to understand the problems and bringing together groups to address these problems, we can see real impact. There are important roles for everyone within the industry, from the NHS to individual companies, hubs like Discovery Park and national networks like Barclays Eagle Labs and Health Innovation Networks. If we collaborate, we can make health care more equitable, close the gap and reduce inequalities.


MaryAnn Ferreux – Discovery Park is in an exciting position, embedded in the start-up community but with close links to the NHS and academia, there is opportunity to set a standard and drive this campaign forward. Discovery Park Ventures is already investing in women led femtech companies, and I enjoyed joining the team at Giant Health to discuss the challenges and opportunities in this space.


Discovery Park recently hosted a panel at Giant Health on ‘Unlocking Opportunities in Women’s Healthcare’. The panel was moderated by Sylvia Stevenson, Founder, Absolute Diversity, and featured Dr MaryAnn Ferreux, Medical Director, Health Innovation Kent Surrey Sussex, Lina Chan, Holland & Barrett General Manager Wellness Ventures and CEO, Founder at Parla, Melisa Guven, Associate, Monograph Capital and Karina Vazirova, Co-Founder & CEO, Femtech Lab.



Image (L-R): The Discovery Park panel at Giant Health on ‘Unlocking Opportunities in Women’s Healthcare’ with Lina Chan, Dr MaryAnn Ferreux, Melisa Guven, Karina Vazirova and Sylvia Stevenson.

JP Morgan Healthcare Conference: highlights and industry outlook

Mayer Schreiber, CEO of Discovery Park, and Chris Broom, Head of Business Development at Discovery Park, recently attended the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco to build global connections and raise awareness of the opportunities in the UK for the biotech industry, as well as exploring opportunities for Discovery Park Ventures and its portfolio companies. The conference brought together thousands of industry experts from across the globe to discuss the biggest challenges and opportunities for 2024 and beyond.

The outlook from the conference for 2024 was cautious optimism, though overall, very positive. Several large deals were announced at the end of 2023, showing positive signs for the biotech industry. While the market is still in a downturn, brilliant science and innovation will still attract funding to create opportunities for the industry.

There were interesting discussions about what the innovation landscape will be like this year, including the short-term GLP-1 agonist success, and what new innovative drugs we can look forward to in the next decade. Also discussed at the conference was innovation around RNA technologies and the delivery of those — an area Discovery Park tenant and investee company, Vitarka Therapeutics, is active in.

The prominence and opportunity around AI for healthcare was a big topic at the conference, including how AI will help identify targets with specificity using genetic data. Big Tech is pushing more into generative AI for drug discovery to increase efficiency of clinical trials and regulatory approvals. Another common theme among panel discussions was cell and gene therapies. This was no surprise, with the conference coming just a month after the FDA’s approval of two gene therapies for sickle cell disease.

Also discussed were neuroscience, antibody drug conjugates and the importance of women’s health. Supporting the inclusion and empowerment of women is a priority for Discovery Park. Many of Discovery Park Ventures’ investments have gone to female-led businesses. For example, Discovery Park investee BoobyBiome, a UK biotech start-up developing products that deliver vital microbes to support infant gut flora and boost early immune system development, was founded by an all-female team of scientists.

There was a strong presence of UK companies at the conference, representing the UK’s expert capabilities both in academia and in translation. The Department for Business and Trade also attended the conference to promote inward investment opportunities, build confidence in UK life sciences, and connect companies with global investors and partners. Being part of the vibrant atmosphere at JP Morgan demonstrated the potential opportunities that can be gained by enhancing global networks in order to grow the sector.

There is a growing trend for biotech companies to outsource the development and manufacture of drugs in order to benefit from specialist knowledge and lower costs. This paired with increased demand for small molecule drugs presents a significant growth opportunity for CDMOs, evidenced by strong interest from the global CDMO industry in Discovery Park’s Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) and drug product manufacturing facilities. CDMOs require advanced facilities integrating the latest technologies to take advantage of this growing demand and Discovery Park presents a promising option for those companies looking to expand their capacity and remain competitive.

Despite the challenging wider economic landscape for the biotech industry, there was a great sense of optimism at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference. Finance will still be a challenge for the industry, but biotech innovation will always be important due to its impact on people’s lives. Collaboration and forging closer relationships both nationally and internationally will support the UK’s strength in this space.

Photo: Chris Broom and Naz Bashir. With thanks to Michaela Joy Photography and Perkins Coie.

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