Drug discovery innovator wins national entrepreneurship prize

Published: 3 July 2012

A cutting-edge system to improve the drug discovery process has won its creator a leading engineering entrepreneurship award.


A cutting-edge system to improve the drug discovery process, which could save companies and research institutes significant time and cost, as well as improve the probability of success from R&D activities, has won its creator a leading engineering entrepreneurship award.

Dr Margaret Anne Craig from the University of Glasgow scooped the £40,000 Royal Academy of Engineering ERA Foundation Entrepreneurship Award for her research into new optical instrumentation, bespoke software and microsystems technologies for evaluating new drugs validation and testing their toxicity.

The CellOPTIQ system is designed to make it easier for pharmaceutical firms to assess the efficacy of new compounds as potential medicines and reduce late-stage failure of candidate drugs as they move from the lab into later stage trials.

Stricter regulatory requirements, escalating R&D costs and a 90% rate of failure of drugs in development are threatening the pharmaceutical industry’s ability to bring new drugs to market. Average development costs for a successful compound are in excess of $1billion, forcing pharmaceutical companies to seek new technical solutions. The prize-winning system provides a solution for pharmaceutical drug discovery and offers scientists the ability to work with a range of cells in one platform. It also makes use of new stem cell technologies that reduce the experimentalists’ dependence on animal testing and in vivo drug models.

Dr Craig was invited to the Royal Academy of Engineering's annual Academy Awards ceremony at London's Royal Opera House on 26 June. There, she collected a £10,000 personal prize, with a further £30,000 to invest in the development of her winning idea. The award recognises efforts to extract entrepreneurial promise from academic research, specifically in the field of electro-technology.

Dr Craig said: “Current drug discovery methodologies are labour intensive, technically demanding and expensive. We believe our tools will save companies involved in drug discovery significant time and money. They will also provide decision-makers with early access to critical information on which compounds to develop.”

Sir Alan Rudge CBE FREng FRS, Chairman of the ERA Foundation, said: “I congratulate Dr Craig on her selection for this prestigious prize and believe her research will have a significant beneficial impact in the field of drug discovery and to the growth of theUK economy. The ERA Foundation is delighted to be associated with the Royal Academy of Engineering in recognising and rewarding talented entrepreneurs.”

First published: 3 July 2012

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