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Brunel biotech spin-out earns Dragon's Den-style coaching

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A Brunel-born business that safety tests gene therapies is one of 10 life science start-ups to win £15,000 worth of mentoring at healthcare tech hub, Discovery Park.

Started in 2017, by Brunel University London’s Professor Susan Jobling and Dr Michael Themis, TestAVec will get guidance to grow its business from the hub’s Reactor Programme.

TestAVec is the world’s first human stem cell testing service for gene therapy treatments, which can cause harmful side effects. It aims to replace animal testing models that can give biased results.

“TestAVec are incredibly excited to be starting this programme, aided by mentors who are world leaders in this sector,” said CEO, Professor Susan Jobling.

“Gene therapy is arguably the most exciting, fastest growing area of biotechnology and medicine. It works by delivering corrected copies of defective genes directly into the genome of patients suffering from a genetic disease, like cystic fibrosis.

“One of the most significant challenges for gene therapy today is ensuring both product and patient safety by removing the risk of cancer-causing (genotoxic) side effects of gene therapy before the therapies enter the clinic.”

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The ‘incubator programme’ will see TestAVec benefit from eight weeks of mentoring from key figures in the biotech and investment industries. The whole team will learn more about the commercial side of their business so they can grow the company.

"We’re confident that we’ve selected companies with growth potential to be part of the first Reactor programme and we look forward to helping them turn their development plans into positive action,” said Discovery Park chair, Martino Picardo.

“The Reactor programme will go some way to transforming Discovery Park into a world-class hub for the translation of life sciences research, where innovation and collaboration are driving forward the next generation of healthcare initiatives and discoveries.”

Discovery Park, in Sandwich, Kent, is home to more than 160 science-based companies, including drugs giant Pfizer.