Available technologies

Licensing Cambridge innovation

Cambridge Enterprise works in collaboration with University of Cambridge researchers to market and license technologies ranging from the biosciences to engineering.

We have completed more than 1,000 commercial agreements.

We welcome contact from companies interested in licensing technologies from the University of Cambridge, and work with companies on an individual basis to identify specific areas of interest.

Image: The chromosome screening technology developed by University of Cambridge spin-out BlueGnome has shown to increase in vitro fertilisation (IVF) success rates by 65% over the current methods.

Computational method for rational antibody design

Life sciences Ref No: Ven-2875-13
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Antibodies can usually be obtained against a wide variety of antigens; however, weakly immunogenic epitopes such as membrane proteins, highly conserved proteins and disordered proteins still pose a challenge. This has particular relevance when developing antibodies against disordered proteins such as αβ peptide, α-synuclein and islet amyloid polypeptide which are associated with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Type 2 diabetes respectively. Using a computational approach a team of scientists led by Professor Michele Vendruscolo of the University of Cambridge, has developed a method which allows the design of antibodies to target specific epitopes within a protein, particularly disordered epitopes. Using this method, antibodies against αβ peptide, α-synuclein and islet amyloid polypeptide have been generated which bind with good specificity and affinity to the target protein. The method can be used to aid the development of therapeutics or probes directed against protein molecules of biomedical or biotechnological interest.

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Computational method to predict the solubility of proteins

Life sciences Ref No: Ven-2792-12
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Using a computational approach a team of scientists led by Professor Michele Vendruscolo of the University of Cambridge, has developed a neural network method that can predict the solubility of a protein from the amino acid sequence and propose specific amino acid substitutions and/or insertions which will alter the solubility of the protein, while preserving its structure and functionality. The output is a short list of mutational variants with predicted solubility, or aggregation propensity, better than that of the protein provided as input. This method allows rapid screening of tens of thousands of mutations decreasing the time, cost and risk associated with the selection and development of candidate therapeutics and is of particular relevance for the development of therapeutics for high concentration subcutaneous formulations.

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Cryopreservable stem cell scaffolds for bone repair

Life sciences Ref No: Sla-2993-14
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Bone fractures and osteoarthritis, particularly non-union fractures are of huge clinical and financial impact. Biomaterial grafts can aid bone repair, however, a clinical need persists for superior treatment of bone damage. Human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) could provide an ideal solution for bone repair, but for routine clinical use, cells must be stored and transported and current cryoprotection methods, such as freezing with DMSO, have raised toxicity concerns and may not receive regulatory approval.

Scientists at the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh have demonstrated that a new, non-toxic method of freezing hMSCs can successfully preserve cells when combined with a bone scaffold. This method therefore offers a potential new therapy for bone repair.

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Protein microcapsules

Physical Sciences Ref No: Kno-2949-13
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Encapsulation technologies can be used as delivery systems for a variety of applications in beauty, personal care, food and healthcare. Encapsulation provides a means of targeting delivery, protecting unstable actives from degradation, formulating incompatible actives and in controlling release and bioavailability. Using microfluidics emulsification a team of scientists, led by Dr Tuomas Knowles of the University of Cambridge, has developed a method of forming nanofibrillar protein microcapsules. These protein microcapsules have several advantages over existing encapsulation techniques:

  • the capsules are resistant to heat, pH, proteases and physical forces
  • the capsule formation does not use cross linking agents or synthetic polymers
  • capsule morphology and release characteristics can be controlled by adjusting production parameters
  • the capsules are biocompatible and biodegradable
  • the capsules can be formed from all types of protein.
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Silk microcapsules

Physical Sciences Ref No: Kno-2949-13
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The unique properties of natural silk, including strength, elasticity and biocompatibility have driven the development of functional silk-based biomaterials; however, native silk is a challenging substrate to process due to its high viscosity and propensity to aggregate and therefore current use of silk for biomedical application is based on recombinant or reconstituted silk. Using a microfluidics based strategy a team of scientists, led by Dr Tuomas Knowles of the University of Cambridge, has developed a method to pattern native silk into microgel structures. These silk microgels can be used as a means to store native silk for several months without aggregation, whereas currently native silk is only stable for a few hours. Native silk has direct uses in medical devices, beauty and personal care and textiles. The silk microgels could also be used as a biocompatible encapsulation method for delivery of active ingredients.

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Antibody-free magnetic cell sorting

Life sciences Ref No: Mat-2811-13
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Cell separation technology plays an important role in the fields of microbiology, biotechnology and bioscience, which have wide applications in the pharmaceuticals and healthcare industries. Existing methods suffer disadvantages of time, cost and scalability and, when antibodies are used to bind exogenous cell surface markers for magnetic selection, typically yield cells coated with antibody-antigen complexes and beads. A team from the University of Cambridge has developed a method for antibody-free magnetic cell sorting of transfected or transduced cells that has several advantages:

  • positive selection of ‘untouched’ cells
  • target gene overexpression or knockdown
  • enrichment following CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing
  • no requirement for antibodies
  • no restriction on cell type or species
  • simple, fast and cost-effective.

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Predicting the stability of amorphous drug molecules and formulations

Life sciences Ref No: Zei-2895-13
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Pharmaceutical drugs are typically either crystalline or amorphous. Thermodynamically, amorphous solids have a higher solubility and bioavailability compared to their crystalline counterparts, but they are inherently unstable and will crystallise with time. Ensuring high solubility of products is particularly important in the pharmaceutical industry. At present 40% of all lead compounds will not reach the market due to poor solubility. However, amorphous drugs are usually avoided, as it is impossible to reliably predict their stability using current technologies. Researchers at the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology have developed a spectroscopic method for quantitative stability analysis based on molecular dynamics at terahertz frequencies which could be used to predict the stability/shelf-life of amorphous molecules, thereby increasing the efficiency in selecting suitable lead compounds during the drug development phase.

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Monitoring embryonic vitality

Life sciences Ref No: Mog-2514-10
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Scientists at Cambridge have developed a new method for determining embryo viability for in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

This is a non-invasive and quantitative way of assessing key processes that affect embryo vitality, which could potentially improve the efficiency of IVF by identifying the best embryos to transfer to the mother.

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Polymeric heart valve

Life sciences Ref No: Mog-2514-10
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Scientists at the University of Cambridge have designed and manufactured a tri-leaflet heart valve made of polymers and mimicking for the first time the unique anisotropic properties of natural tissue valves. This technology combines the durability of mechanical valves and the haemo-compatibility and flexibility of natural tissue valves to offer new, improved heart valves.

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Virtual WDS

Physical Sciences Ref No: Ree-1001-95
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Program for synthesis of Wavelength-Dispersive Electron Probe Spectra. This program allows the synthesis of wavelength-dispersive spectra, using stored experimental spectra, to facilitate the selection of optimal positions for background measurements and assist in the choice of suitable counting strategies for specific analytical situations.

Further information can be found at the Department of Earth Sciences website and in the following publications:

  • Reed, S. J. B. and Buckley, A. (1996). Virtual WDS. Mikrochim. Acta (Suppl), 13, 479–483
  • Reed, S. J. B. and Buckley, A. (1998). Computer simulation applied to WD analysis. Microscopy and Microanalysis, 4 (Suppl 2), 236–237.

Licences to this software for both academic and commerial users are available for purchase by contacting us at software@enterprise.cam.ac.uk

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Electrolyte for fuel cells

Physical Sciences Ref No: Dri-2985-14
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Professor Judith Driscoll has developed a new electrolyte material that will enhance solid oxide fuel cells by allowing them to operate at much lower temperatures than is currently possible, allowing much more practical use. This electrolyte has an ionic conductivity two orders of magnitude greater than the current standard, while being simple and low cost to manufacture. We are seeking a partner to help us demonstrate this material in a fuel cell.

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Mass production of graphene

Physical Sciences Ref No: Kam-2908-13
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A new method for low cost, high yield and quality graphene has been developed. It is envisaged that the electrochemical method could be readily scaled up using a multi-electrode cell with planar electrodes to produce 10kg/day, which is more than current methods of chemical vapour deposition and exfoliation.

Key benefits:

  • cost per tonne could be reduced by over two orders of magnitude
  • very high production rate compared to existing methods
  • very high quality graphene as shown by SEM image below.

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Programming towards megakaryocytes

Life sciences Ref No: Ped-2635-11
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Cambridge scientists have developed a method to generate platelets in a test-tube from stem cells or iPS cells. These cells provide opportunities for research and clinical application.

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Cell cycle regulation and differentiation

Life sciences Ref No: Val-2729-12
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Scientists have developed a novel approach for directing the differentiation of embryonic stem cells by manipulating the cell cycle. Using cell cycle inhibitors in human pluripotent stem cells, this method gives rise to endoderm cells, which can further be differentiated into pancreatic beta cells or liver cells.

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iPS cells derived from circulatory endothelial progenitors

Life sciences Ref No: Mor-2564-11
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Scientists at the University of Cambridge have designed a new method of generating iPS cells using blood-derived endothelial progenitors as a substrate. This method proves to be far more efficient than traditional methods of iPS cell differentiation, allowing rapid expansion in culture and large scale production.

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Foregut stem cell generation

Life sciences Ref No: Val-2845-13
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Drs Ludovic Vallier and Nicholas Hannan have developed a novel, precisely defined and stepwise method to differentiate human pluripotent stem cells into a multipotent population of foregut stem cells. Not only can this culture system be expanded in 2D culture in the absence of a feeder population or scaffolds and is compliant with large scale production, but the pluripotent cells obtained are truly multipotent and can produce at least three different cell types: lung, pancreas and liver.

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Very thin coatings with electrically tuneable colour

Physical Sciences Ref No: Bau-2174-08
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Structural colour is the effect seen in opal gemstones, peacock feathers and butterfly wings, where a regular nanostructure within the material causes light of specific wavelengths to be selectively reflected. By contrast, traditional methods of generating artificial colour rely on dyes or pigments, which can be toxic, prone to bleaching by UV, or subject to other surface-level degradation.

Researchers in the Department of Physics have been exploring the behaviour of thin layers of noble metals such as gold, silver or copper coated onto elastomeric films containing nanometre scale voids. The interaction of these films with light results in selective absorption and hence structural colour which can be tuned by bending, stretching or applying an electric field. The techniques are believed to offer relatively low cost, scalable manufacturing processes which can be applied in a wide range of applications requiring novel colour behaviour in very thin coatings. These coatings could be applied to injection moulded items, fabric, films or any other solid format as described in this article.

The technology is protected by a granted US patent and is undergoing examination in Europe.

We are now looking for companies who wish to work with us to develop the technology into something more commercially applicable.

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Encouraging ‘grey-scale’ thinking

Humanities and Social Sciences Ref No: Sav-2730-12
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Many conflict situations, ranging from extremist activities to intra-organisational disputes, arise from an inability to engage with different viewpoints. Integrative complexity (IC) is a capacity which can be developed to enable individuals to move away from ‘black and white’ or ‘them and us’ thinking. Conflict as a zero-sum game is overcome by the IC method, developed as a means to expand the way people think while concurrently remaining true to their own values.

The ICthinking® team at the University of Cambridge (Dr Sara Savage, Dr Jose Liht, Dr Eolene Boyd-MacMillan and others) have developed a unique methodology (ICthinking®) for increasing the IC of an individual, through:

  • carefully structured courses developed for specific conflict environments
  • leveraging the ability for each participant to consider the conflict from a range of viewpoints while also increasing their awareness of the breadth of their own values.

All courses and training are research- and evidence-based, with findings on the whole range of different IC courses to date showing a consistent increase in participants’ IC level regarding ‘hot’ issues of conflict from black and white, polarised thinking to an ability to perceive some validity in opposing viewpoints, and to apply that to win/win problem solving after just 16 hours of ICthinking® training.

More information on the courses offered and research context can be found at ICthinking® or please contact us for information on how you or your organisation can work with the ICthinking® team.

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Novel encapsulation method

Life sciences Ref No: Rou-2841-13
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Researchers in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology have developed a novel method of encapsulating enzymes in a releasable manner. Using colloidosomes and a chemical shell, enzymes can be successfully encapsulated in a protective environment and released by shear or dilution, maintaining enzymatic activity. The capsule size and level of protection can be adjusted to allow triggered release when desired. This technology has been tested for the application of using enzymes in washing detergents with enzymes having been shown to be stable for long periods of storage. The method could have wider applications in the protection of other beneficial ingredients.

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Novel optical diffuser

Physical Sciences Ref No: But-2852-13
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Optical diffusers are typically either mass produced by sandblasting glass, resulting in low cost devices with roughly uniform diffusion, or engineered holographic diffusers offering beam shaping but at a higher cost point.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed a new optical diffuser material which offers a broader diffusion pattern (up to 30° Full Width Half Maximum) than the sandblasted device in conjunction with some degree of beamshaping using simple common manufacturing processes.

Performance is not significantly dependent on transmission wavelength in the visible wavelength range, with <5% variation in total transmitted light seen between 450 and 650 nm.

Fundamental thermal characteristics of the material also allow high temperature operation to ~500°C without the need for additional treatment such as chemical or UV protection.

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Inducible quiescence for low cost biorefining

Life sciences Ref No: Sum-2913-13
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E.coli is a key production host for chemical feedstocks based on renewable inputs. Achieving acceptable production economics is crucial. Introduction of a patented mutation enables induction of quiescence using indole to drive accumulation of any metabolite of interest rather than unwanted biomass. This process innovation enables biorefining at reduced cost of goods sold.

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Childhood Autism Spectrum Test (CAST)

Life sciences Ref No: Bar-2844-13
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Childhood Autism Spectrum Test (CAST) is a questionnaire developed by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen and colleagues at the Autism Research Centre and available for licensing. Consisting of 37 questions, it aims to identify children aged 4–11 years who are at risk of having Asperger Syndrome (AS) and related social and communication conditions. A suite of tests developed by the team for diagnosing autism is also available for licensing.

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The General Practice Assessment Questionnaire (GPAQ)

Life sciences Ref No: Rol-2617-11
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The General Practice Assessment Questionnaire (GPAQ) is a patient questionnaire that helps practices find out what patients think about their care. It specifically focuses on aspects of general practice that are not covered elsewhere in the Quality and Outcomes Framework – for example, access, inter-personal aspects of care and continuity of care.

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Printable inks based on layered nanomaterials

Physical Sciences Ref No: Fer-2710-12
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Printable electronics have to date been limited by the lower electron mobility and hence operation speed of organic materials compared to silicon, the production cost, processing requirements and performance of metal or carbon nanoparticle-based inks. Current generation transparent and electrically conductive layers are stiff and brittle and hence limit flexible electronic applications.

Professor Andrea Ferrari and his team in the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge have developed a novel method of ink production based on layered nanomaterials such as graphene. This technology overcomes the issues of current printable inks and can be printed by various methods on flexible substrates.

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