Atelerix is a spin out from Newcastle University and pioneers in the storage and transport of cells at room temperature. This technology was developed right here in Newcastle and is helping to improve lives right across the world.

We talk to CEO, Mick Mclean about their future, why they chose The Biosphere as a location for their business and what the recent £267,000 Innovate UK Grant funding will mean to them.

So, who are Atelerix and what exactly do you do?

Atelerix has a transformative technology for the storage and transport of viable cells at room temperature, overcoming the barriers and limitations presented by the current need for cryo-shipping. We do this through our patented process of encapsulating the cells in a natural hydrogel for safe shipment and storage. This protects them from biochemical and physical damage during storage and shipment. We can hold cells and tissues at room temperature for up to two weeks, effectively placing them into a state of hibernation. Just like the African pygmy hedgehog named Atelerix! We were founded in 2017 and our headquarters are in Cambridge and our R&D and manufacturing operations based in Newcastle at The Biosphere.

Give us an example how this transformative technology works?

Our products are derived from seaweed, and we can use this to form beads to contain cells that can be stored up to two weeks at room temperature. In India, one of our customers uses a cell therapy for the treatment of blindness, but these cells can only stay alive for a few hours, meaning they could only treat people within their city. Now using our technology, they can now treat patients across the whole of India.

You’ve just been awarded a grant of £267,000 from Innovate UK, with collaborators Rexgenero and the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult. What will this mean to Atelerix?

The grant will be used to develop our gel stabilisation technologies, with the first objective of extending the shelf-life of Rexgenero’s cell-based therapies for storage and transport at room temperature. The project will initially focus on developing a stabilisation technology that will give increased flexibility to physicians who treat diabetic patients who have chronic limb threatening ischemia. For us it’s not just about commercialising our technologies, it’s about improving lives.

We’re excited to be part of this collaboration with Rexgenero and the team at the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, and we deeply appreciate the support of Innovate UK to bring us together for this important project. The critical logistics of getting viable cell therapies to the patient are often overlooked and extending the shelf life of therapies will open an entirely new approach for this sector. We are very proud to be part of this life changing project.

Why did you choose the Biosphere as a location for your business?

The Biosphere offers a perfect environment for us to expand our team and grow our operations in new facilities. It is excellently positioned with good access to transport links and proximity to the University. Being in a hub with other biotech companies will be a catalyst for new ideas and opportunities.

Why did you choose Newcastle as one of the locations for your business and what was the biggest driver?

Being a spin-out from Newcastle University, Atelerix was keen to continue to be in Newcastle to benefit from the expertise and connections that the city and surrounding area offers. The life science sector is growing fast. We are so proud of the city’s world-leading research, support network and assets that support the commercialisation of academic discoveries.

How would you describe the life science and business community in Newcastle?

Newcastle has a number of exciting biotech companies producing disruptive technologies. It also has a great reputation for its cell and gene-based therapy units producing progressive treatments. The combination of novelty and expertise makes Newcastle a great place for a growing biotech like us.

This is such an exciting time for the region’s life science sector and for Atelerix. We are very excited about the future.

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