Headquartered in The Biosphere, LightOx develops drugs and treatments for early-stage oral cancers, wound care and skin applications.

We spoke with Dr Sam Whitehouse, CEO of LightOx to find out his ambitions for the company and how The Biosphere supports the growth of the health and life sciences eco-system in Newcastle.

Tell us a bit about LightOx and what difference are you trying to make in the world?

Oral Cancer is life changing for sufferers as there are very few treatment options. Generally, when diagnosed with oral cancer, for example your tongue, the surgeons can either remove the tissue surgically, or wait to see if it develops. Due to the nature of surgery, 50% of patients do not return to work, and their quality of life is massively reduced. Patients often require help learning to swallow, speak, and communicate.

LightOx’s mission is to develop solutions to improve long-term patient outcomes. We are currently developing drugs for the treatment of early-stage oral cancers, wound care and skin applications and have a number of drug targets that are going into clinical trials in the coming months; the lead of which is a topical gel that can be directly applied to an oral lesion in the mouth and kill the cancerous cells.

Why did you choose to locate in The Biosphere?

LightOx was founded in Durham, and as there is little incubator space available in the city, we moved the team to Newcastle just after the pandemic. The Biosphere allowed us to integrate our chemistry and biology teams in the labs here. The building has a lot of companies working in epithelial disease and related scientific work, so it’s a good community to be part of.

How do you feel about the future of the health and life sciences in the region?

I am positive that the region continues to produce good quality science and therefore good quality companies. We have a long track record for not only innovation, but also manufacturing and producing scale-up companies too. We have shown that it is possible to take a drug from concept to clinic within the North East and even carry out the clinical trials in the North, so I think it is very positive.

I would love to see more commercial investment in our companies in the area, as I feel we have often seen companies suffer from under investment.

What advice would you give to other companies looking for commercial lab space in the city?

We still suffer from a lack of available grow on space at the moment with the second phase of The Biosphere set to be developed in the coming years. It would be great to get more commercial landlords involved in the city, and to make space for scientific grow on companies to move to so that the cluster can become one of high-growth for the region.

What are your ambitions for LightOx in 50 years’ time?

50 years’ time? In five years’ time I would hope we have had the drug approved and used by patients all around the world. I might then be developing the next drug through to the market!

In 50 years I can see the drugs we develop now being in common use all over the world, and the science being built upon by others looking to develop their own technologies from the platform.

Want to find out more about LightOx? Visit https://lightox.co.uk/