Edinburgh biotech to use £2.2m funding to improve disease detection in cattle

A biotech business based just outside Edinburgh will use a £2.2 million funding injection to support the roll-out of its rapid disease detection technology.

The new funding in Biotangents comprises £1.6m from the UK government’s Innovate UK innovation loans programme and £600,000 from a funding round led by investment syndicate Kelvin Capital with Scottish Enterprise participation.

The company secured £1.2m in August 2021 in a successful funding round also led by Kelvin Capital, following an initial £1.5m in May 2019. Kelvin Capital represents private investors in the UK, Europe and the US.

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Biotangents is based at the Pentlands Science Park just outside the Scottish capital and was founded in 2015 by Dr Andy Hall-Ponselè and Lina Gasiūnaitė to apply the expertise they had developed in gene technologies to improve the sustainability of traditional industries.

The firm’s isothermal technology can be applied to the rapid detection of a wide range of diseases in animal health including bovine viral diarrhoea and mastitis.

Current testing requires a sample to be sent to an external laboratory whereas Biotangents’ new technology will provide a specific pathogen diagnosis that can be carried out immediately, either on the farm or in a veterinary clinic, enabling rapid and targeted treatment for infected cattle.

In addition to the funding, the business has confirmed the appointment of Fiona Marshall as chief executive and Ross McDermid as director of commercialisation to the company’s board.

Both are said to have successful commercial careers in the animal health and veterinary sectors and strengthen the existing board and senior management team. In addition, Professor Richard Hammond has joined the board as non-executive director.

John McNicol, director at Kelvin Capital, and Fiona Marshall, chief executive at Biotangents.John McNicol, director at Kelvin Capital, and Fiona Marshall, chief executive at Biotangents.
John McNicol, director at Kelvin Capital, and Fiona Marshall, chief executive at Biotangents.

Ian Hamilton, chairman at Biotangents and holder of several senior positions within the agricultural industry, said: “Rapid diagnosis on the farm and in the veterinary clinic is a step change in the treatment and prevention of mastitis and the consequent improvement in animal husbandry.

“Critically it allows vets to promptly decide on the most effective treatment programme including the correct antibiotic to be administered and length of treatment period, and lets farmers implement prompt procedures to minimise further infection within the herd.”

John McNicol, director at Kelvin Capital, said: “We have supported Biotangents since 2017 and are delighted to continue that and welcome the strengthening of the existing operational team and the company’s board.

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“This disruptive technology will bring additional benefits to the global dairy sector and wider agri-tech sector because rapid diagnostic technology brings financial benefits to farmers and dramatically improves animal welfare.”

Kerry Sharp, director of entrepreneurship and investment at Scottish Enterprise, said: “Scotland is globally renowned for its strengths in life sciences, owing that reputation in part to innovative biotechnology businesses such as Biotangents.

“Working alongside companies in this sector to progress ground-breaking diagnostics technology, and in turn investing in Scotland’s wider rural economy, is a priority for Scottish Enterprise.”

Chief executive Marshall added: “In addition to our forthcoming lab based AmpliSpec BVD and mastitis products, the new funding will enable the next phase of our product development.”

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