Invest to Grow: Developing diagnostics capability in collaboration

Abingdon Health

This case study is part of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce’s Invest to Grow campaign. Invest to Grow aims to inspire and inform businesses around investment in R&D, innovation, technology and machinery and how it can help boost productivity through case studies, expert opinion pieces and briefing information. Click here to find out more and don’t forget to join the conversation on social media with #I2G18. Part 1 of Invest to Grow focuses on investment in innovation and research & development and is sponsored by the University of Birmingham.

Abingdon Health Ltd (‘Abingdon’) is a diagnostics company that makes hand-held rapid diagnostics for medical, agriculture, food and biosecurity settings. Abingdon built its business by acquisition funded by investment from Intellectual Property Commercialisation Companies (IPPCs), which specialise in bringing patented technologies to market, and grants from research funding bodies.

We do all our early stage R&D at the BioHub in the Birmingham Research Park, which is run by University of Birmingham Enterprise. It was in Birmingham that we developed our flagship product, Seralite®-FLC, the world’s first rapid test for multiple myeloma (a blood cancer), which sells in over 70 countries. 

Seralite®-FLC resulted from a marriage of technologies: antibodies developed by researchers at the University, and a low-cost, lab-quality, lateral flow diagnostic device and associated patent protected state-of-art reader technology for medical testing.  

The work involved in bringing these technologies together was a prime candidate for investment from IPCCs. 

We had four investment rounds between 2012 and 2017 and three of these rounds resulted in funding from Touchstone Innovations, an IPPC that is now part of the IP Group. 

The first round, in 2012, allowed us to invest in our diagnostic assay developments and purchase an optical detection company, which brought expertise which, coupled with the Birmingham antibodies and in-house diagnostic device expertise, allowed development of our first diagnostic device.  

Further funding allowed the acquisition of Forsite Diagnostics Ltd, complete with its own manufacturing facility in York – allowing Abingdon to manufacture our own diagnostic tests and offer contract manufacturing services

The final acquisition preceding the launch of Seralite®-FLC was Serascience Ltd, a company set up by Abingdon and the University of Birmingham to develop rapid tests for myeloma using the Birmingham antibodies.  At this point we raised funds from the founders of Abingdon Health, Business Angels, Touchstone Innovations - and also became the first company the University of Birmingham invested in.

Abingdon has evolved from a development-phase company to a fully integrated rapid-test diagnostics company.  We’re now entering a revenue growth phase so our investor base will also evolve and the early investment in R&D is now expected to result in significant uplifts in sales of our rapid tests and associated instrumentation systems. 

Meanwhile the contract manufacturing facility provides opportunities to collaborate with other Universities, and these open the door to grants via public funding streams such as FP7, H2020, Innovate UK, Biomedical Catalyst, MRC, and BBSRC.

To other high tech or biotech companies I’d say don’t overlook collaborations with Universities, which open the door to funding streams, facilities and expertise that can expedite product development and growth.

About Abingdon Health

Abingdon Health is a UK-based developer and manufacturer of lateral flow immunoassay tests and readers

Internally Abingdon Health is focused on developing lateral flow assays in partnership with key opinion leaders that meet currently unmet needs. In addition, Abingdon Health offers development and manufacturing services for customers looking to develop new assays or looking to transfer existing laboratory-based assays to a lateral flow format. Abingdon take projects from initial concept through to routine and large-scale manufacturing. Abingdon’s patented lateral flow reader, the ADxLR5®, is CE marked and FDA registered and can be fully customised to meet the needs of clients looking for a quantitative solution for a lateral flow assay.

Chris Hand
Chairman and co-founder
Abingdon Health