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Ethical mission

Funding helps Ten Bio pursue animal testing switch

Dr Michael Conneely and Dr Robyn Hickerson 

A near-£1 million investment will help University of Dundee spinout company Ten Bio commercialise its alternative to testing products on animals.

The company raised £911,000 from Tricapital and Scottish Enterprise to pursue its mission to transform the testing of new pharmaceutical and cosmetic products.

Pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies test their products rigorously before they are administered to humans. Ten Bio believes there is an unmet need for technologies that will generate reliable safety and efficacy data on their effects on human skin.

Building on years of research, the company’s founders Dr Robyn Hickerson and Dr Michael Conneely from the University’s School of Life Sciences have successfully created a patented, human skin culture system that closely mimics intact, living skin.

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TenSkin stretches human skin to an optimal tension to mimic the mechanobiology that exists in skin on our bodies. This provides a state-of-the-art tool for skin biology research and pharmaceutical and cosmetics testing.

Initial launch of the company’s brand will be in the US, where the majority of potential customers are based. 

In addition, Ten Bio’s research and product development programmes benefit from grant funding provided by Innovate UK.

Ten Bio has already signed research contracts with global companies, and it is anticipated that its first products will soon be available in the US market.

“The response to our technology from major dermatology and cosmetics companies has already been incredible,” said Dr Hickerson. “They have been waiting years for a solution like TenSkin, which provides a reliable, consistent way of testing their products in an ethical manner.”

Moray Martin, CEO of TRICAP, said: “Ten Bio’s in vitro science and technology offers a reliable and credible alternative to some usage of animal testing and thus a more accurate testing of products en route to market for both pharma/biotech and cosmetic companies.

“This is an innovative company with an exciting commercial future that we are honoured to be sharing with them.”    

Ten Bio is headquartered in Dundee and is opening a laboratory in Kannapolis, North Carolina from where it will serve its US-based customers. The investment will enable Ten Bio to continue the roll-out of its service business and to develop further product offerings.

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Ten Bio was one of the winners of last year’s Scottish EDGE competition, and Dr Hickerson was runner-up in the Converge Challenge category of Converge 2020, a company creation programme designed for staff, students, and graduates of universities in Scotland.

Dr David McBeth, director of research and innovation services at Dundee, said: “Dundee is rightly becoming recognised as a really exciting UK location for life sciences and health-related spin-out companies and this transformational investment in Ten Bio is one of several investments in University spin-outs that we expect to see complete this year.

“We have a renewed focus on supporting entrepreneurs among staff, students and alumni, and, via our participation in the Tay Cities Deal, we hope to grow a life sciences innovation district here in Tayside where companies like Ten Bio can thrive.”

Ten Bio was advised by MBM Commercial and TRICAP was advised by Anderson Strathern in respect of the investment.

New protein degradation centre 

A new translational research centre will bolster the University of Dundee’s world-leading position in a field of chemical biology that is revolutionising drug discovery, while helping to facilitate the development of high growth companies and create skilled jobs.

The Centre for Targeted Protein Degradation (CeTPD) will be housed at the Technopole site adjacent to Dundee’s School of Life Sciences, with a fundraising target of £5 million being met by a mixture of public and private sources as well as University funds.

The existing two-storey building will be fitted out with state-of-the-art facilities to allow Professor Alessio Ciulli and colleagues to expand their pioneering work in an area that has attracted billions of pounds of investment globally in the last five years.

The core team working on targeted protein degradation at the University will grow from around 25 currently to 50 when their labs are relocated to the new Centre, with further expansion planned as work in this exciting field of biomedical research develops.



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