BioHub Birmingham develops new incubator space to meet increasing demand for biomedical facilities

19 September 2018: The BioHub Birmingham® is constructing 5,000sq ft of self-contained laboratory and office suites to meet an increasing demand for biomedical incubator space.
The BioHub opened in 2015 and its shared facilities on the ground floor are now operating at capacity.
It is managed by University of Birmingham Enterprise and is located at the Birmingham Research Park, which provides incubation services and facilities, as well as commercial office space for biomedical and hi-tech companies.
The Birmingham Research Park is on the University campus – and the University has invested significantly to create a formidable landscape for medical innovation. In last year alone, the University has opened: the Healthcare Technologies Institute, where experts in chemical engineering, biomedical science, computer science, applied mathematics, chemistry and physics work collaboratively on translational projects; the Centre for Custom Medical Devices, which works in collaboration with Renishaw and uses additive manufacturing (3D printing) to speed development in the medical devices supply chain; and the Medical Devices Testing and Evaluation Centre which helps remove the regulatory blockages encountered by small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs).
The University ranks 4th in the UK for the production of Intellectual Property (patents) and much of its medical innovation comes from interdisciplinary research, where scientists who apply engineering or chemistry know-how to solve problems in medicine.
This collaborative landscape has attracted increasing attention from international business, and the University currently has over 200 industrial partners, spanning all business sectors, who use its facilities and research expertise.
The BioHub is one part of this landscape, and its current tenants include diagnostics, precision medicine, and biotechnology companies, who share laboratory and office space.
The new development will create laboratory / office suites with sizes starting at 600sqft/55m2. The enquiry list for the new suites is now open, for further details or a tour of the facilities contact Angie Reynolds, Birmingham Research Park Manager,

Lunch and Learn on Laboratory and Scientific Apprenticeships

Midlands based CSR Scientific Training is hosting a lunch and learn session at the Birmingham Research Park on Laboratory and Scientific Apprenticeships on Thursday 27th September.
The event is suitable for anyone who is responsible for the management of laboratory staff, involved in their recruitment or their learning and development, and who might consider employing an apprentice in a laboratory technician role.
CSR Scientific Training is the largest scientific apprenticeship provider in the UK ,and is now in its 8th year of delivering scientific apprenticeship training to new and existing staff in the biotechnology sector.
Employing an apprentice can be very rewarding for lab-based organisations. Employment costs are low, it’s a great development opportunity and there are significant grants available from government to help "grow your own".
The lunch and learn will run from 1.00pm-3.00pm and will cover:
- The different levels of apprenticeships available
- The qualifications the apprentice will work towards
- How CSR can help you employ and attract an apprentice
- How to embed an apprentice programme in your organisation
- The funding available to support training
- How we deliver the training
Lunch and refreshments will be provided.
The event is free of charge but admission will only be available for people who have booked on Eventbrite

Vacuum packing for 100k specimens now available at Heartlands

Vacuum packing has gone live at Heartlands Hospital, part of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB), the lead organisation for the West Midlands Genomic Medicine Centre (WMGMC).
The TissueSAFE vacuum packing solution is available from Menarini Diagnostics, who have also provided training and support for UHB staff.
There are several benefits to vacuum packing, including the fact that samples are preserved better due to the airtight bags. This also means the samples can be easily transported from operating theatres to pathology, and a greater number of samples are likely to pass quality control.
The process of vacuum packing also removes the need to use formalin to preserve samples, therefore reducing the risk of formalin spillages. Several hospitals in Wales have gone entirely ‘formalin free’ and there is a long-term aim to rollout vacuum sealing across all Trusts nationally.
Vacuum packing will continue as genomic testing moves into routine NHS care, when the pioneering 100,000 Genomes Project morphs into a national Genomic Medicine Service.
Vacuum packing could potentially be used for all sample collection in the future, providing benefits to all patients.
Dominic Hassett, Clinical Educator for Theatres at Heartlands, said: “We are very pleased to introduce vacuum packing for our 100,000 genome project specimens and look forward to the possibility of reducing the use of formalin in theatres even further in the future…" Read the full article here

E-cigarette vapour disables key immune cells in the lung and boosts inflammation

Research led by the University of Birmingham has found that vapourised e-liquid fluid has a similar effect on the lungs and body that is seen in regular cigarette smokers and patients with chronic lung disease.
The research, published in Thorax and funded by the British Lung Foundation, shows that e-liquid that has been vapourised through the use of an electronic ‘e-cigarette’ boosts the production of inflammatory chemicals and disables key protective cells in the lungs that keep the air spaces clear of potentially harmful particles.
They found that vapour impairs the activity of cells, called alveolar macrophages, which are key to the immune response within the airways. Alveolar macrophages engulf and remove dust, bacteria, and allergens that have evaded the other mechanical defences of the respiratory tract.
The findings have prompted the researchers to suggest that, while further studies are needed to better understand the health effects of vaping on people, e-cigarettes may be more harmful than we think.
Professor David Thickett, of the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, said: “Cigarette smoking is associated with the cause of almost every lung disease – lung cancer, asthma, COPD and fibrosis.
“It has been suggested electronic cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes, and this narrative is increasingly supported by tobacco companies that have established research institutes devoted to generating supportive data.
“E-cigarette users have been given advice based on relatively little information. We hope that by disseminating this data as widely as possible the public can at least make an informed choice; the public must be aware that these devices are not harmless.
“We hope this information will be taken on board by advisory bodies when considering their public advice strategy. We also hope this highlights the need for dedicated funding and research to determine the long term effects of e-cigarette usage.”
Dr Aaron Scott, also of the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, said: “Several previous studies have examined the effects of unvaped e-cigarette liquid however, it is well established that the vapourising process changes the chemical composition of the liquid.
“The use of vaped liquid in our study makes this a better reflection of the exposure of the user, allowing us to examine whether e-cigarettes have a negative impact on the viability and function of cells called alveolar macrophages, which are key to the immune response within the airways.
“Our work clearly shows that vapourised e-cigarette fluid is toxic to living cells; increases the production of inflammatory chemicals; and inhibits the function of cells that are key to the immune stystem.
“Importantly, we found that exposure of these cells to e-cigarette vapour induced many of the same cellular and functional changes in function seen in cigarette smokers and patients with COPD.
"While further research is needed to fully understand the effects of e-cigarette exposure in humans in vivo, we suggest continued caution against the widely held opinion that e-cigarettes are safe.”
To find out the impact of vaping e-liquid, the researchers devised a mechanical procedure to mimic vaping and produce ‘condensate’ from the vapour.
They extracted alveolar macrophages from lung tissue samples provided by eight non-smokers who had never had asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
A third of the cells were exposed to plain e-cigarette fluid, a third to different strengths of the artificially vaped condensate with and without nicotine, and a third to nothing for 24 hours.
The results showed that the condensate was significantly more harmful to the cells than e-cigarette fluid and that these effects worsened as the 'dose' increased. Read the full article here

New hospital to create 250 jobs for Edgbaston Medical Quarter

Next summer will see the opening of a new hospital by Circle Health in the Edgbaston Medical Quarter, creating a total of 250 jobs.
Opening in June, treatment at the £50m Circle Birmingham Hospital will be for a varied range of conditions, from digestive problems to hernias, and pain in bones and joints.
There will also be a rehabilitation centre with 120 rehabilitations beds at the new hospital, which will open a couple of months later and will specialise in supporting those recovering from major surgery including hip replacements, as well as strokes and sporting injuries.
The first hospital by Circle was opened in 2008 in Nottingham, with additional sites located in Reading and Bath.
Read the full article here

Medilink Midlands is launched to provide Midlands wide support to the Life Sciences sector

Medilink Midlands, a pan-regional strategic alliance between the Medilinks in the East and West Midlands, has recently been established to bring the collective expertise of the two organisations together to preserve the interests of over 1,700 Life Science organisations within the region and stimulate growth to support this vital element of the Midlands economy.
Since their incorporation over 15 years ago, Medilink West and East Midlands have established comprehensive local connections, and through this partnership Medilink Midlands has a combined network of over 8,000 contacts in over 1,700 organisations within the Life Sciences sector, including the NHS, the AHSN network, major universities and a range of multi-nationals and high value start-ups.
Medilink Midlands has been created to further utilise the skills, knowledge and expertise resident within the current organisations and will provide a more strategic focus on influencing Midlands-wide initiatives that affect the Life Sciences industry, such as the Midlands Engine, as well as wider national initiatives such as the Accelerated Access Review. This will be alongside the operational work of the existing regional organisations that includes skills training, business and innovation support, market access support, R&D collaboration and access to business networks.
The launch of Medilink Midlands follows the announcement of the UK’s Industrial Strategy: government’s long-term plan to boost the productivity and earning power of people throughout the country. One of the five core foundations of the strategy is ‘places: prosperous communities across the UK’. Working alongside the Midlands Engine and other strategic alliances, Medilink Midlands’ sole aim is to help stimulate additional and value-added growth of the Midlands as a prosperous community for Life Sciences.
Lord Henley, Business Minister, said:
“Through our Industrial Strategy and the Life Sciences Sector Deal, we are committed to ensuring the UK is at the forefront of this burgeoning field and we will build on the strengths of our established clusters of excellence.
The new alliance formed through Medilink Midlands will play a vital role in delivering this vision in the Midlands, ensuring that the region plays a leading role in the life sciences revolution while bringing together the collective expertise of the NHS, the huge number of life sciences SMEs and universities in the region.”
Dr Darren Clark, Director Medilink Midlands, commented:
“The UK’s medical technology sector is the third largest in Europe and 98% of the sector is made up of SMEs, the largest regional cluster of which is located in the Midlands. The Midlands is also home to a wide supply chain serving the Medical Technology, Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology sectors. In recent years, Medilink East Midlands and Medilink West Midlands have been increasingly working together, and the formal establishment of Medilink Midlands is a natural extension to continue to help the sector grow on a pan-regional basis.“
Grant Thornton UK LLP has come on board as a strategic partner of Medilink Midlands. Grant Thornton is one of the world’s largest professional services network of independent accounting and consulting member firms; to find out more information please visit
You can find out more about Medilink Midlands by visiting the website
1 HM Government (2016) Strength and Opportunity 2015: The landscape of the medical technology
and biopharmaceutical sectors in the UK, pp. 52
2 UK Trade & Investment and Office for Life Sciences (2016), Strength and Opportunity: the data behind the charts, table at MedTech Regional 1 tab

Edgbaston MP Visits Local Mental Health Charity

Preet Kaur Gill MP for Edgbaston has paid a visit to a leading counselling provision in Birmingham to discuss how the city’s mental health offering could be improved.
50-year-old charity Open Door welcomed Preet Kaur Gill MP to discuss its plans for a campaign to encourage policy makers to invest sufficiently in mental health services in Birmingham, and to ensure patients receive the right services at the right time.
Over the past 12 months, Open Door has received just under 1,500 referrals, with three quarters of those going on to attend counselling with the charity. It currently has 500 people on its waiting list to be helped, and even its urgent list is four weeks long.
Carmel Mullan-Hartley, Chief Executive of Open Door, said: “We were pleased to welcome Preet Kaur Gill MP to talk to her about the issues around current mental health provisions, and the desperate need for investment in services, within Birmingham.
“Budgets are so stretched that young people are having to wait up to five months after an initial referral to receive treatment. By this point, it’s likely that their mental health will have deteriorated further, resulting in their issues becoming more complex and often resulting in an increase of self-harming and suicidal thoughts and feelings. The standard six sessions will then often be insufficient to meet their needs….” Read more

GBSLEP Annual Conference – September 2018 (free to attend)

Greater Birmingham & Solihull’s regional economy has thrived over the past year. The area has cemented its position as the leading core city region for economic growth. Thousands of private sector jobs are being created, major infrastructure projects are underway and new educational and training centres have been opened.
To hear about how we can all build on the region’s recent successes to create a stronger economy for all – from Cannock Chase to Redditch, Wyre Forest to Birmingham, Tamworth to Solihull – make sure you attend the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) fifth Annual Conference on the 26th September at The REP in central Birmingham.
At this pivotal point for our city region, the conference will provide an update on current economic issues, review what has been achieved during the last year, and consider what the future holds for the LEP and the region overall.
The agenda will feature esteemed speakers from Greater Birmingham & Solihull’s high growth sectors: Creative Industries; Business, Financial & Professional Services; Life Sciences; Advanced Manufacturing and Energy Technologies. Each speaker will provide an insight into the future of their industries, and what we must invest in as a region to continue to grow our vibrant economy. The speakers line-up is as follows:
Tim Pile: Chair of GBSLEP
Andy Street: Mayor of the West Midlands
Steven Knight: Creator and Executive Producer of Peaky Blinders
Anita Bhalla: Chair of Performances Birmingham plc
Matthew Rhodes: Chair of Energy Capital
Katie Trout: Director of GBSLEP
Michael Mychajluk: Purchasing Manager at Jaguar Land Rover
Carmen Watson: Managing Director of Pertemps, recently named IoD West Midlands Director of the Year
Ken Garner, CEO of Dignio Ltd
The event will also highlight a range of projects that GBSLEP has supported – from assisting and advising local high growth businesses, to funding major regeneration schemes, and providing education providers with new spaces and equipment.
You will be able to ask questions of GBSLEP’s Chair, Tim Pile, meet the wider LEP Board and executive, and network with other senior stakeholders from across the region.
It is a free event for the private, public and third sectors. To register please visit the event webpage:

New database launches in a bid to develop new drugs in the fight against antimicrobial resistance

A new and first of its kind database has been launched listing compounds that could be used to develop new antibiotics in a bid to tackle the global issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
The new resource, outlined in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, is the result of a collaboration between the University of Birmingham, the John Innes Centre and the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.
It comes after the World Health Organization in 2009 declared AMR one of the biggest threats to mankind and, if not addressed, by 2050 it could kill millions of people – more than from cancer or road traffic accidents.
The free, open-access, searchable database called AntibioticDB brings together antibacterial compound discoveries that were once-promising leads from the past 40 years which have, for various reasons, been dropped or stalled, and may otherwise be overlooked by drug-development companies.
Lead author Professor Laura Piddock, of the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Microbiology and Infection, said: “Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) threatens the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi.
“New resistance mechanisms are emerging and spreading globally, threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases, resulting in prolonged illness, disability, and death.
“One answer to the crisis seems simple: to generate new antibiotics. However, it can take up to 15 years and cost up to $5 billion from the discovery of a compound to progress through pre-clinical and clinical development before a medicine can be licensed and then marketed.
“There is no doubt that the antibiotic pipeline needs revitalization; however, the answer may be not only the development of new drugs, but also re-investigating compounds previously discontinued.
“For this reason, we have developed and populated an easy to use database of antibiotics that can be accessed for free by anybody; we hope this will help both academia and commercial companies with their drug-discovery efforts.”
The database includes links to data on discovery, research and clinical trials, compounds awaiting approval and discontinued compounds, providing a platform for future research, antibiotic discovery and development in the hope this will inspire the lifesaving drugs of tomorrow.
While other pay-per-view resources exist for researchers, AntibioticDB is the first free database designed to appeal to small and medium-sized enterprises or academia.
Read the full article here.

NASA uses antibodies developed at the University of Birmingham to assess the impact of space flight on the immune system

Antibodies developed at the University of Birmingham have been used by NASA to assess how long duration space flight affects the immune system.
The antibodies are part of a medical test called Seralite®-FLC ELISA, which was used in the year-long study of astronauts from the International Space Station to examine the effect of space flight on B cells, the white blood cells that make antibodies to help fight infection.
Reduced immune function during spaceflight has long been a concern for NASA, which has the ambitious goal of manned space flights to Mars by the 2030s.
The study measured free light chains (FLCs) in plasma and saliva of 23 astronauts, using samples taken before, during and after spending 6 months in space. FLCs are of interest because these proteins provide a near ‘real-time’ indicator of B cell function.
The sensitive measurement provided by the Seralite®-FLC ELISA test allowed researchers to monitor changes in the activity of blood cells before, during and after the mission. The samples analysed in the study were taken at baseline (5 months before launch), three times during the mission, immediately on return, and after 30 days back on Earth.
Preliminary findings, presented at the American College of Sports Medicine, indicate that the competency of plasma cells (white blood cells circulating in the blood and produce antibodies) is maintained in microgravity, and indicates that the risk of infection may not be magnified in space missions of this duration.
The Seralite®-FLC ELISA is a sequential sandwich assay used to measure FLC in biological fluids for research and is available from Abingdon Health Ltd.
Abingdon Health does its early stage R&D at the University of Birmingham’s bio-incubator, the BioHub Birmingham®. The company announced in May that it is developing a rapid diagnostic test for mastitis in dairy cows.