Almac Group awarded R&D grant to accelerate enzyme discovery

Invest NI’s R&D support is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund under the EU investment for Growth and Jobs Programme 2014-2020

Almac Sciences has secured £2m of support from Invest Northern Ireland (Invest NI) to accelerate a programme of enzyme research.

The company previously established a biotechnology platform for enzyme chemistry and biology through two rounds of R&D investment supported by Invest NI. This investment, awarded by INI and supported by the European Regional Development Fund, will further develop the program to establish the INSIGHT platform (IN Silico Informed metaGenomic Harvesting Technology), built with research from computational, metagenomics, biology and chemistry methodologies.

Routes of synthesis for most drugs are amenable to biocatalytic intervention. The INSIGHT project aims to improve the enzyme discovery process to allow more robust enzymes to supersede multi-step chemical routes currently used to produce pharmaceutical intermediates and products.

The project involves the development of an enzyme identification platform based around the company’s existing metagenomic data mining using enzyme modelling / engineered lead diversity screening married with its industrial focus.

This technology is aimed to benefit not only Almac, but also the wider pharmaceutical industry by offering simpler, lower cost and less polluting enzymatic processes. The company claims INSIGHT will deliver metagenomics, computational and engineering platforms for the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, life sciences and fine chemicals sectors.

Dr Stefan Mix, Almac Sciences’ Head of Biocatalysis, will lead a team to complete the project and deliver the foundations for future commercialisation. The project will span six work packages which will run over 36 months once recruitment has been secured.

Professor Tom Moody, VP Technology Development and Commercialisation, Almac Sciences and Arran Chemical Company commented: “This project, and the related INI support, will be vital to ensure we can achieve our aspiration of becoming a global leader in biotechnology. The ambitious project will bring together each of the critical elements to accelerate enzyme identification and discovery and will de-risk the enzyme development pipelines for Almac. As a result of this unique project there will be both major academic and commercial benefits, providing significant growth opportunity for the NI Bio-economy and the wider economy.”

Welcoming the investment, Kevin Holland, CEO of Invest NI said: “Almac has long been one of Northern Ireland’s most successful companies within our thriving life & health sciences sector and has worked hard to build an impressive global reputation for ground-breaking work in the global pharmaceutical industry. It recognises the benefits of investing in cutting edge R&D and is making this new investment to build upon the foundations from previous R&D and capital investment over the last number of years.

“Invest NI has developed a strong collaborative partnership with Almac over the years, offering support for job creation and highly successful R&D projects. Our £2million ERDF funded offer of support for this new investment will further cement the company’s world-renowned reputation and enable it to expand its biocatalysis capability creating a new, greener and more cost-effective solution to industry. The development of this new technology enhances Northern Ireland’s global reputation in the field.”

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