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Beyond genetics

Pioneering scientific research is to be expected of Oxford University. However, making R&D commercially applicable is more of a challenge. Brian Bollen reports on a spinout that not only has the potential to be a global game-changer, but one that is going for growth after a listing on AIM.

On 6 December 2016 the £136m AIM flotation of Oxford BioDynamics (OBD) thrust the arcane world of epigenetics into the spotlight. To explain epigenetics, OBD’s CEO Christian Hoyer Millar says genes are like “a library teeming with books you might want to read, but don’t quite know where to start”. Epigenetics is the skilled librarian who can point the aspiring reader to the right shelves. OBD’s plan is to become the tech platform of choice, as the personalisation of drugs becomes more important and more routine as a result of biomarkers. “In the world of personalised medicine, if you could prescribe therapeutics tailored to the patient’s predicted response or risk of the disease, you could save money and improve patient care,” explains Hoyer Millar. Arguably of greater importance to drug manufacturers is the commercial opportunity that could present them with. By enabling them to differentiate their products better they could charge higher prices.

Hoyer Millar, a former investment banker, venture capitalist and corporate strategy consultant, says OBD has two revenue streams: “We earn revenues from service fees predominantly from biomarker projects in the US and diagnostics in Asia. We have had 24 contracts with pharmaceutical and biotech companies in recent years and have worked with seven of the world’s pharma top 10.”

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