University entrepreneurs scoop prizes at Innovator of the Year Awards

Two initiatives developed by University of Manchester-based entrepreneurs have won £10,000 each from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) at a national awards ceremony.

Dr Neil Gibbs, founder of University of Manchester spin-out Curapel won the Commercial Impact Award and the University’s Ben Dolman and Dr James Winterburn won the Early Career Impact Award in recognition of the development of a more cost efficient process for producing insoluble lipids. The winners received £10,000 each to further their technology businesses.

Curapel is a skin healthcare company developing innovative, patent-protected products based on naturally-occurring ingredients under its brand name, Curapella. Curapel currently has a portfolio of products undergoing pre-clinical development and dermatological testing.

Curapel’s first product on the market is Pellamex, a dermatologically tested, liquid food supplement containing naturally-occurring ingredients that contribute to the maintenance of normal skin barrier function in those with eczema.

Neil commented: “I am delighted that Curapel has been recognised by this award; the support of UMIP and the BBSRC was crucial to commercialise our academic research and bring safe healthcare products to people with skin conditions.”

Ben Dolman’s and Dr James Winterburn’s work at Manchester has enabled the development of a gravity based separation technology which dramatically reduces the cost of production of lipid bioproducts, particularly biosurfactants, which have potential as green replacements for petrochemical products in many applications. Ben has now founded start-up Holiferm as a vehicle to commercialise this technology.

Ben commented: “We are thrilled to have won the Early Career Innovator of the Year award from BBSRC. Our work at The University of Manchester has led to the creation of Holiferm, a company that aims to dramatically reduce industrial production costs through the use of this holistically improved fermentation technology. Huge thanks to UK Research and Innovation for putting on such a great event,and to all of our collaborators whose efforts made this possible!”

The awards, now in their 10th year, were held at The Mermaid London on Wednesday 16 May and were presented by Professor Malcolm Skingle, Director of Academic Liaison, GlaxoSmithKline Ltd and Professor Melanie Welham, Executive Chair of BBSRC.

Both winners were supported by The University of Manchester Intellectual Property (UMIP) which is a division of The University of Manchester Iᶟ Ltd, The University of Manchester’s agent for intellectual property commercialisation.

UMIP’s role is to bring as much of the University’s ground-breaking inventions and software, as is relevant, into the commercial world. This is done by attracting entrepreneurs, investors and corporate venture partners to the campus and Innovation Centre and then, through engagement with academic colleagues, licensing or spinning out companies.

Dr Rich Ferrie, Director of Operations at UMIP, added: “I am delighted that Neil, Ben and James’s work has been recognised by the BBSRC in this way. I know just how much work, effort and commitment has been shown by all three in moving their innovations towards commercial success and real world impact, and I feel sure that many more accolades are on the way.

“This was a great evening too for us at UMIP and I thank my UMIP colleagues for supporting these projects on behalf of The University of Manchester.”


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