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Innovative nucleic acid chemistry for industry and academia

Copyright: MIKI Yoshihito on Flickr by CC 2.0

Interdisciplinary BBSRC-funded research into nucleic acid chemistry – the building blocks of DNA – has underpinned the development of a suite of innovative technologies.

The technologies, created by Professor Tom Brown now at the University of Oxford, led to the creation of three spin-out companies and two innovations commercialised by other companies. "Our work was funded by the Research Councils, mostly BBSRC," says Brown, who has received substantial BBSRC funding since the 1990s. "That provided us with the expertise and knowledge required to start to look at applications in diagnostics and DNA analysis in general."

Data breakout

£12M Price that company Primer Design sold for in 2016
US$120M Price that spin-out DxS was acquired for by Qiagen in 2009
US$100M Value of annual sales of Scorpion primer diagnostics in 2013

ATDBio was founded by Brown in 2005 to continue designing and selling modified nucleic acids to researchers and to the biotech and pharma industries.

Primer Design, also founded in 2005, developed diagnostic kits using modified nucleic acids, which are used to detect bacteria and viruses such as Ebola and swine flu. The company sold for £12M in 2016.

Brown was also co-inventor of Scorpion primers and HyBeacons, commercialised by AstraZeneca spin-out DxS and by international life science measurement company LGC, respectively.

Much of Brown’s research takes place at the interface of chemistry and biology. "We were able, through BBSRC funding, to move into these interdisciplinary areas which are so fruitful in terms of discovering new things," Brown explains.

In 2016, Brown was the overall winner of BBSRC's Innovator of the Year competition, which aims to reward researchers who harness the potential of their research.

Read the full impact evidence report:

Innovative nucleic acid chemistry for industry and academia (PDF 1.60MB)

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Header image copyright: MIKI Yoshihito on Flickr by CC 2.0