University of Edinburgh start-up to set up lab and grow team with £1m funding

A University of Edinburgh start-up has secured £1 million of investment to help revolutionise the field of microbial culturing, set up a new lab and grow its team.

OGI Bio has received the capital injection from TriCapital, which led the investment round alongside Apollo Informal Investment, Old College Capital, which is the University of Edinburgh’s in-house venture investment fund, Sapphire Capital Partners in conjunction with Queen’s University Belfast’s QUBIS Innovation Fund, Merleview (Capital), and Scottish Enterprise.

The funding will help the fledgling firm establish a new laboratory and manufacturing facility, expand its team and ramp up sales of the company’s automation systems to the microbiology and biotechnology sectors.

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The automated device developed by OGI Bio is said to improve processing capability, cost effectiveness and data analytics thereby facilitating and increasing research and development capability.

Founded by chief executive Alex McVey, a physics graduate from the University of Edinburgh and Royal Society of Edinburgh Fellow, and chief science officer Professor Teuta Pilizota, an internationally renowned expert on microbial physiology and chair of Biophysics at the university, in 2020, OGI Bio started shipping its first customer orders this year.

McVey said: “Our aim is to ultimately have one of our devices on the bench of every microbiologist and biotechnologist, enabling them to innovate more productively, flexibly, and sustainably.”

Pilizota added: “Our products can be used by anyone who is growing microbes like bacteria, yeast, and algae, but we are focusing initially on biotech and microbiology companies, and academic research laboratories who are looking to accelerate their own development with low-cost automation and improved analytical tools.”

Moray Martin, chairman and managing partner of the TriCapital Syndicate, said: “OGI Bio has a world-class leadership team, an exciting product that is already achieving commercial success and coherent and realisable plans to extend its product range.”

Alex McVey, Michiel Smith, Teuta Pilizota and Moray Martin. Picture: Stewart Attwood

The base unit of OGI Bio’s automation system recently received UKCA and other UK and international certifications, which allows the company to market its products in the UK, Europe, North America and beyond.

Also this year, the firm received a Smart Scotland grant via Scottish Enterprise, and additional funding from the Higgs Incubation Centre.

OGI Bio was the inaugural winner of the IBioIC biotechnology category at the Scottish Edge awards in 2020, and was one of the companies selected for Scottish Enterprise’s Unlocking Ambition accelerator in 2020/21.

Kerry Sharp, director of entrepreneurship and Investment at Scottish Enterprise, said: “Scotland has a thriving industrial biotechnology sector and many of the innovative companies we invest in are university spinouts just like OGI Bio.

“We’ve been working with them for a while - through our Unlocking Ambition entrepreneurial development programme and with a range of advisory and grant support - so we’re pleased to be further supporting their ambitious plans for the future through our equity investment, which will lead to increased Scottish manufacturing capability and quality job creation.”

OGI Bio’s board is chaired by Stephen Roe, supported by investor directors Michiel Smith representing TriCapital and Apollo and Andrew Murphy representing Old College Capital.

Legal firms Anderson Strathern and Brodies acted for the investors on the investment round, while the company was advised by Vialex.

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