Ten projects get Proof of Concept backing

Issued: Wed, 20 Mar 2002 00:00:00 GMT

The University has secured ten of the 38 awards distributed by the Scottish Executive in the third round of Proof of Concept grants.

The Proof of Concept awards aim to turn Scottish innovation into new businesses and give a competitive edge to existing Scottish firms. It supports projects with commercial potential in Scotland's universities, research institutes and NHS Trusts. The PoC fund is run by Scottish Enterprise.

Details of the successful Glasgow projects are as follows:

1. NOVEL TREATMENTS FOR ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE AND OTHER NEURODEGENERATIVE DISORDERS

Alzheimer's disease is a devastating disorder of the brain characterised by loss of memory, profound confusion and, ultimately in many cases, physical incapacitation. Only a handful of drugs are currently available, and these have very limited activity.

This project seeks to explore three new approaches to drug development for Alzheimer's disease and related disorders involving neurodegeneration such as Parkinson's disease and stroke. The project is based upon novel molecules already in our possession for two of these approaches, but these need proof that they are effective in suitable test models before they can be progressed further as potential drugs for human use.

One further approach is based on unique insights into a completely new molecular target site in the brain cell for the development of drugs but this requires proof that compounds acting at this target will be effective "cognitive enhancers" for use in Alzheimer's disease. Compounds which act on this target will be obtained by screening the diverse chemical collection in the natural product library in the Strathclyde Institute for Drug Research at the University of Strathclyde. This library contains a huge range of plant extracts, gathered from many parts of the world, which can be used for screening to identify active compounds which may provide new medicines, or leads in the discovery of medicines. The additional information required will be obtained by subcontracting to test organisations within Scotland and elsewhere.

Commercialisation Manager: Ian Murphy
Phone: +44(0)141-330 3944 Fax: +44(0)141-330 4035
Email: i.murphy@enterprise.gla.ac.uk

Principal Investigator: Prof. Trevor W. Stone B.Pharm., Ph.D., D.Sc.
Phone: +44(0)141 330 4481 Fax: +44(0)141 330 2923
Email: T.W.Stone@bio.gla.ac.uk

2. STORYBOARDS AND ANIMATICS FOR THE WEB

This proposal would revolutionise the preparation of animated sequences such as cartoons by providing a previsualisation tool which would offer designers a "Right First Time" facility which would save production time and money.

The tool marries up storyboard entries and sound track to give a sense of the finished product in the form of a so-called 'animatic' (timed storyboard entries shown against the soundtrack). This allows not only the designer but potential funding partners and others to have a quality preview of the finished product. Uniquely the process starts by laying down the sound track to which visual sequences are added, reversing the normal and less satisfactory policy of laying sound track over existing images.

Specific technological issues which need to be addressed include the automatic vectorisation of the types of artwork normally produced by animators - that is, producing images more closely resembling the artist's original drawing rather than the short lines and dots making up the image. Surprisingly this is at best addressed poorly, if at all, in commercial systems.

This is a subtle application which could have wide take-up if, as is intended, the tool has a interface which semi-professionals and domestic users can make good use of. It could be used as an authoring system in its own right because its use of network bandwidth would be far lower than completed animation, even if vectorised. Accordingly most users would be able to see something which had something of the characteristics of a reasonably-sized movie even at low network connection bandwidths, and which was designed to exploit this particular style.

A substantial problem with existing cartoon animation systems is that they are designed for professional rather than mass markets so assume that professional users will work round their limitations. They also tend to offer no concessions to the less than fully professional user and require training even for domain experts. This application is sufficiently focused that it can be structured so that its use is intuitive to non-experts and this aspect hopefully sustained through to future developments.

Principal Investigator: Dr J. W. Patterson
Phone: +44(0)141 330 5323 Fax: +44(0)141 330 4913
Email: jwp@dcs.gla.ac.uk

Principal Investigator Dr N. Bailey
Phone: +44(0)141 330 4912 Fax: +44(0)141 330 6004
Email: n.bailey@elec.gla.ac.uk

3. ENABLING DRUG AND GENE DELIVERY: NOVEL PLATFORM TECHNOLOGIES FOR THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY

There is a significant need within the pharmaceutical industry for new drug delivery systems that can enhance pre-clinical / clinical development candidates (drugs of potential use) and/or improve existing products including drugs produced by generic manufacturers once patents have expired.

This project demonstrates the use of a toolbox strategy to create new polymer-based drug delivery systems customized to provide improved efficacy and increased safety for applications with insoluble compounds and gene delivery. The system will initially be targeted to provide solutions within the cancer field, where there is presently significant interest in technologies that can improve the solubility of cytotoxic (chemotherapy) compounds and the safety of gene therapy approaches.

The drug delivery market offers a huge commercial opportunity and is estimated to be worth $40bn with an annual growth rate of between 15%-20%. These technologies have the potential to impact significantly on this market. The outcome of this PoC programme may lead to the creation of a new venture aimed at commercialising this technology on a global basis.

Commercialisation Manager: Mel Anderson
Phone: +44(0)141 330 4266 Fax: +44(0)141 330 4035
Email: mel.anderson@enterprise.gla.ac.uk

Principal Investigator: Andreas Schatzlein
Phone: +44(0)141 330 4354 Fax: +44(0)141 330 4127
Email: A.Schatzlein@beatson.gla.ac.uk

MITRAL VALVE DEVELOPMENT

The most common reason for mitral valve replacement is the presence of end-stage rheumatic valvular heart disease. The preferred option of valve repair is frequently not possible. Any current mitral valve replacement is associated with major health problems with anticoagulation and repeat surgery often impractical. This is especially true in the developing world where rheumatic fever is more common and often leads to surgery in teenage or early adult years.

At present no purpose-built device exists which can replace the mitral 0 valve and perform its function. As a compromise aortic-type-valves are being adapted for use but this is a less than satisfactory solution. With basic research and design complete we can now build a prototype mitral valve. This means developing a prototype synthetic mimic of the natural human mitral valve. This will be tested in a specially redesigned simulator to allow simulation of physiological function of the left ventricle of the heart and the valve to be developed accordingly.

Commercialisation Manager: Brian McGeough
Phone: +44(0)141 330 3120 Fax: +44(0)141 330 4035
Email: b.mcgeough@enterprise.gla.ac.uk

Principal Investigator: Prof. David Wheatley
Phone: +44(0)141 211 4730 Fax: +44(0)141 552 0987
Email: d.j.wheatley@clinmed.gla.ac.uk

5 VECTORISING PHOTOGRAPHIC IMAGES

Image and video formats are a key element of networked technologies including the World Wide Web. This proposal aims to demonstrate the capabilities of a revolutionary new format which, in essence, will involve the vectorisation of photographic images. That is, it will put photographic images (which are made up of a multitude of dots) on the same basis as line drawings so that they can be animated in the same way as line-drawn cartoons.

The new format will do this by making photographic images accessible to vector formats like Flash and the W3C open format SVG (Scalar Vector Graphics), and to processes which only work on vectorised images (like cartoon in-betweening). 'Flash' in particular is popular because it is a compact format yet allows scale-independent artwork to be transmitted over the web. The aim is to do the same for photographic images.

The vectorised image format would have uses in its own right but will be most effective as part of a vectorised video encoding/ decoding system (a codec) which would allow scalable video to be transmitted. This project aims to demonstrate the key attributes which the vector image format requires to be part of a viable video format. The project also aims to demonstrate that graphics accelerator cards now included (cheaply) as standard on PCs for the purposes of rendering out 3D models for computer games at high speeds, can be converted straightforwardly to allow real-time image rendering.

Other image and video codecs have to rely on special-purpose accelerator chips of their own, and these, when available, usually only speed up common image functions and not motion sensing or reconstruction which are equally time-consuming (motions sensing more so). A fully hardware accelerated codec requires an entire card of high-performance chips which can cost as much as an entire PC. We aim to demonstrate that this vectorised codec would not need dedicated acceleration functionality.

Principal Investigator: Dr John Patterson
Phone: +44(0)141 330 5323 Fax: +44(0)141 330 4913
Email: jwp@dcs.gla.ac.uk

6. ADVANCED 3D DATA COMPRESSION USING VECTOR QUANTIZATION

The aim of the project is to develop compression techniques for 3D data. The technology will be developed as an encoding/decoding system under the WindowsTM environment for the compression of 3D microscopy data from confocal and time sequence systems, and for medical diagnostic images obtained from MRI and CT scans.

By compressing such data, storage requirements can be reduced and more scans can be held online on fast access databases. An additional advantage would be to use the compression techniques to enable faster image transmission, allowing remote image evaluation and diagnostics, whereby scan data obtained at a distant site could be transmitted to centres of excellence for analysis (e.g. teleradiology).

As part of the project, potential applications will be considered within other markets requiring 3D data, such as geological survey and video sequences. The key factor in many applications will be evaluating the image quality after compression and decompression. To this end, expert advice will be obtained from users of the data in the fields of microscopy, MRI, and CT during the project.

Principal Investigator: Paul Cockshott
Phone: +44(0)141 330 3125 Fax: +44(0)141 330 3119
Email: wpc@dcs.gla.ac.uk

7. OPTOELECTRONICS MANUFACTURING EDGE-EMITTING LASERS

The Optoelectronics Group at the University of Glasgow have made significant progress in developing a simple, reliable and reproducible generic technology which has the potential to improve the performance and ease-of-manufacture of high-speed Indium Phosphide (InP)-based electronic, optoelectronic devices and photonic integrated circuits. We envisage low-complexity, high-volume, low-cost, high-yield, planar manufacture using the techniques we have developed to form native oxides in the InP-based material system.

With the Proof of Concept (PoC) funding provided by Scottish Enterprise, we aim to realise, within a short timescale, the commercial potential of this technology. Using the expertise and resources of the Optoelectronics, Nanoelectronics, and Molecular Beam Epitaxy research groups, we will build the state-of-the-art III-V semiconductor oxidation system needed to optimise the processing parameters, characterise the native oxides formed, and harness the technology to make new long-wavelength optoelectronic devices. The ultimate aim of this project will be to use the technology to create a range of low-cost, high-speed optoelectronic products aimed at the market for components for use in optical-fibre networks for the internet.

Indium Phosphide-based Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers (VCSELs) are very attractive for optical communications applications at 1550 nanometres - about one hundredth the diameter of a human hair. However these devices have been much more difficult to realise than conventional Gallium Arsenide-based VCSELs. By applying our new technology we will enable production of highly-manufacturable, high-performance VCSELs emitting at 1550 nm. We will also employ the native oxide in InP-based edge-emitting lasers emitting at 1550 nm. The use of native oxide in the construction of the laser will reduce the number and complexity of the fabrication steps (such as photolithographical alignments, regrowths, dry etching) and lead to more planar device manufacturing; this in turn will afford higher yields and lower production costs.

The demonstrator devices developed under the PoC will be used to attract investment from Venture Capitalists to create a strong spin-out venture. The new venture will utilise the unique research base and skilled workforce available in Scotland to further develop and manufacture a wide portfolio of optical products. We aim to build a high value, Scottish-based development and manufacturing company that will create local employment opportunities exceeding 50 in the first year. By capturing real market share the company will generate significant wealth for Scotland, invest in the research base, promote entrepreneurship and add significantly to the creation of a Scottish Optoelectronics Cluster.

Commercialisation Contact: Gordon MacMillan
Phone: +44(0)141 330 3889 Fax: +44(0)141 330 4035
Email: g.macmillan@enterprise.gla.ac.uk

Principal Investigator: Dr. Corrie Farmer
Phone: +44(0)141 339 8855 Ext.0609 Fax: +44(0)141 330 6002
Email: c.farmer@elec.gla.ac.uk

8. FUNCTIONAL ASSAY SYSTEMS FOR CARDIOVASCULAR DRUG DISCOVERY

The High Throughput Screening (HTS) market within the pharmaceutical industry is growing at over 25% per year. This activity is being driven by the needs of major organisations to increase the rate of new compound introduction into the world markets.

The technology in this project represents new discovery tools that will enable companies in this market to improve and speed up the discovery process with consequent benefits in performance. This project will develop the new discovery platform with an initial application in the HTS screening for new cardiovascular disease therapeutics. The output from this program will illustrate the benefits of the approach and its significance for the pharmaceutical industry. Potentially these tools can provide a generic solution that meets a range of discovery needs.

Cardiovascular disease is the largest cause of death in the western world and analysts suggest that the market for cardiovascular drugs will reach almost $60bn by 2003. It is expected that the route to market for this project will be the formation of a new Scottish-based company that will commercialise this technology through partnerships with existing pharmaceutical companies and in-house drug discovery programs.

Commercialisation Manager: Mel Anderson
Phone: +44(0)141 330 4266 Fax: +44(0)141 330 4035
Email: mel.anderson@enterprise.gla.ac.uk

Principal Investigators:
Professor Jon Cooper
Phone; +44(0)141 330 4931 Fax: +44(0)141 330 4907
Email: j.cooper@elec.gla.ac.uk

Prof Godfrey Smith
Phone: +44(0)141 330 5963 Fax: +44(0)141 330 4612
Email: g.smith@bio.gla.ac.uk

9. DISCOVERY AND DEVELOPMENT OF NEW CANCER THERAPIES

The pharmaceutical Industry is now recognising that proteins provide a wealth of targets for drug development. Known as ' proteomics ' this emergent activity is predicted to grow from $561Million in 2000 to $2.77Billion by 2005.

A major challenge facing this sector is the ability to effectively screen for drugs that disrupt the interactions between proteins that promote the growth and spread of cancer. This project is aimed at validating new discovery tools for this purpose and validating this approach against new cancer targets.

The aim of cancer therapy is to generate tumour-specific treatment strategies to provide effective and efficient cancer cell kill without the harmful side effects associated with conventional cancer drugs. Two key features of cancers cells distinguish them from their normal counterparts; loss of normal growth control and acquisition of cellular immortality. The combination of these events leads to the lethal nature of cancer. An understanding of the regulatory mechanisms and pathways determining the acquisition of the immortal and metastatic phenotype allows identification of targets for therapeutic intervention that will specifically kill cancer cells whilst sparing normal cells.

Dr Keith and Professor Kolch have identified, cloned end characterised key molecules involved in signal transduction pathways essential for cancer cell immortalisation, and tumour spread. This research has formed the focus for developing novel high throughput screening strategies and therapeutics targeting protein/protein interactions which transmit the signals controlling the behaviour of cancer cells.

In pursuit of developing these therapeutics they have identified new protein complexes and have been using this data to validate which of these complexes are targets for small molecule therapeutic intervention. This project will validate the generic applicability of the discovery tools as generic tools for screening protein: protein interactions and identifying lead compounds. It will also identify candidate compounds that will provide the basis for developing highly-cancer specific drugs.

Commercialisation Manager: Mel Anderson
Phone: +44(0)141 330 4266 Fax: +44(0)141 330 4035
Email: mel.anderson@enterprise.gla.ac.uk

Principal Investigators:
Dr Nicol Keith
Phone: +44(0)141 330 4811 Fax: +44(0)141 330 4127
Email: n.keith@beatson.gla.ac.uk

Professor Walter Kolch
Phone: +44(0)141330 3983 Fax: +44(0)141 942 6521
Email: w.kolch@beatson.gla.ac.uk

10. RADIO FREQUENCY MICRO-ELECTRO-MECHANCIAL SYSTEMS

The design and construction of precision components for use at extremely high frequencies in excess of 30 GHz is a considerable challenge for electrical engineering. Because the wavelength of the propagating signals is small, it is particularly hard to control frequency and phase in a reliable manner. As a result, those components that are available are extremely costly and extremely delicate. The availability of components drops off rapidly as the frequency increases towards 100 GHz, to the point where, in the teraHertz band, there is little or no practical usage of the spectrum because of the unsolved difficulties.

In this project we will develop RF MEMS structures - very small components for radio systems built using silicon micromachining - that are based on quasi-optical devices. Traditional quasi-optics are well understood, in widespread use and are sufficiently reliable to be used in space systems. Recent work by researchers at the University of Glasgow and Canterbury University (New Zealand) have demonstrated that a novel micromachined phase manipulation device called a retarder can be made and operated at 100 GHz. More recent work has lead to the invention of a tuneable filter based on similar techniques.

All of these components are essential ingredients of future communications and imaging systems - such as broadband wireless or medical imaging systems. The retarder has already been demonstrated and its operation lends itself to a range of devices that rely on accurate phase control. Filters are essential tools in any communications system. Furthermore, tuneability is a highly desirable characteristic, since it reduces system cost and improves manufacturing efficiency.

The device that will be built in this project uses a technique based on photonic bandgap (PBG) technology. PBGs have become an established wavelength-discriminating technique in recent years, and they are currently being investigated for use in a range of applications for optical communications systems. The dimensions of a PBG increase in scale with the wavelength, hence micromachining lends itself very well to building millimetre-wave and THz PBG structures. The device is very well suited to RF MEMS fabrication methods, and will ultimately be a small, cheap and flexible system component.

The present project seeks to consolidate the know-how that we have accumulated and perform full experimental verification of designs targeted at the telecommunications sector. Once we have demonstrated correct operation we will develop methods of manufacture and integration so as to build a demonstrator prototype. Using the resources and support of Scottish Enterprise we will be able to develop a more comprehensive market survey. Our present targets are in mobile communications and medical imaging. The market analysis data will be used to identify exploitation routes including licensing and start up companies.

Commercialisation Manager: Brian McGeough
Phone: +44(0)141 330 3120 Fax: +44(0)141 330 4035
Email: b.mcgeough@enterprise.gla.ac.uk

Principal Investigator: Dr Dave Cumming
Phone: +44(0)141 330 6023 Fax: +44(0)141 330 4907
Email: d.cumming@elec.gla.ac.uk

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