Oxford COVID-19 Update

As we near the end of a full month of the extreme measures that have altered our lives so much, a number of our portfolio companies and researchers in Oxford have been busy with efforts to assist in fighting COVID-19.

We at OIC are fortunate to be able to operate remotely without interruption and are ensuring that we fully compensate for the lack of being able to shout questions at each other over the top of our office computers by holding daily team calls and keeping the follow-up fast and furious. We have continued to complete the new deals and follow-on investments that were planned on time, and will shortly announce these more formally.

Meanwhile, we are delighted that several portfolio companies are actively contributing to the fight against COVID-19:

  • Caristo Diagnostics is currently researching how its imaging-based diagnostic ctechnology may be applied to early detection of the hyperimmune response seen in higher risk COVID-19 patients.
  • Navenio is making its infrastructure-free indoor location and workforce AI solution available to hospitals. The solution can assist in alleviating the pressure upon healthcare systems caused by the virus by reducing or constantly changing types of available staff to help.
  • Zegami has developed a new machine learning model that uses X-rays of COVID-19 infected lungs, AI techniques and data visualisation tools to help identify Coronavirus cases more effectively.
  • Oxford Flow is contributing to the fight against COVID-19 by 3D printing full face masks for delivery to NHS workers at Derby Hospital ICU.
  • ONI is currently directing all collaborative and R&D efforts towards tackling COVID-19. The company’s imaging technology is ultrasensitive, allowing amplification-free detection of proteins and nucleic acids, enabling deeper insights into virus-cell interactions. Further, new automated sample preparation techniques can offer fully remote operation.
  • NiTech Solutions is exploring how its oscillating baffle reactors can be used for continuous drug production should there be a shortfall due to disrupted supply chains.
  • Sphere Fluidics’ systems for the rapid screening and characterisation of single cells can take up to three months off the cell line development process, which can speed up vaccine discovery. The company was honoured last week with a prestigious Queen’s award for Enterprise for Innovation for its flagship Cyto-Mine® single-cell screening platform.

While not every company in our portfolio is able to directly help tackle COVID-19, we take this opportunity to applaud the efforts all our companies are making to conserve cash and avail themselves of the new government programmes that are offering assistance. We are also extremely grateful that several of our investors that have been in touch in support of us and our efforts to take a constructive and measured approach to the current circumstances.

Elsewhere in Oxford, we are pleased to see many efforts being made in the fight against the virus. The first volunteers have been enrolled for the trial of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine, an attenuated cold adenovirus containing the Covid-19 spike glycoprotein genes necessary for infection, which generates a strong immune response but is unable to replicate. The trial is a collaboration between the University’s Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group clinical teams, and will recruit up to 1,112 volunteers aged 18-55. Oxford is also co-ordinating the national Recovery (Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy) trial, the largest global treatment trial for coronavirus. This trial, comparing five different drugs: hydroxychloroquine (anti-malaria), lopinavir-ritonavir (anti-HIV), azithromycin (antibiotic), dexamethasone (steroidal anti-inflammatory) and tocilizumab (anti-inflammatory/interleukin-6), opened on 19 March and recruited 1,000 patients from 132 hospitals in the first 15 days alone.

We look forward sharing further news of these groundbreaking initiatives and the progress of our portfolio companies in due course.