Commercialisation boost for the Institute’s fundamental research

Commercialisation boost for the Institute’s fundamental research

Commercialisation boost for the Institute’s fundamental research

The Institute is delighted that two of its commercialisation ventures are included in this year’s Accelerate@Babraham23 programme operated by the Babraham Research Campus. 

Aila Biotech, spun out from the Liston lab’s research at the Institute in 2022, and CytoCalx, developed jointly by Rachael Walker, Head of the Institute’s Flow Cytometry facility and Institute visiting scientist Diane Proudfoot, are two of the six winning ventures announced this week by the Accelerate@Babraham team. 


Aila Biotech – Co-Founders, James Dooley and Adrian Liston 

Aila Biotech is currently engaged in the development of an innovative biologic therapy demonstrating promising pre-clinical efficacy in the treatment of neuroinflammation. This efficacy has been extensively validated through rigorous experimentation involving multiple in vivo mouse models (e.g. traumatic brain injury, mouse models of multiple sclerosis, and age-associated cognitive decline). Aila Biotech's platform is built upon a distinctive and patented biologic delivery system, which facilitates the localised production of immune-modulating biologics specifically at the site of brain inflammation. This localised production mechanism serves to effectively mitigate cognitive loss associated with neuroinflammation. Importantly, the platform incorporates a sophisticated system where the production of biologic therapeutics is precisely regulated by a dose-responsive small molecule switch. This switch enables precise control over the administration of treatment, allowing it to be activated or deactivated as dictated by the treatment requirements. Consequently, this intelligent control mechanism significantly diminishes the potential occurrence of off-target effects in the long term.

Aila’s approach applies research developed at the Institute by the Liston lab and collaborators at VIB and KU Leuven in Belgium. The research was supported by a 2019 European Research Council Proof of Concept grant and the lab published research demonstrating the effectiveness of the approach in mice models of traumatic brain injury and in preventing diabetes. In spinning out Aila Biotech, the company’s co-founders worked closely with the Institute’s Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation team. 

CytoCalx – Co-founders, Rachael Walker and Diane Proudfoot  

CytoCalx is seeking to generate a blood test to estimate risk and severity of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and cardiovascular disease as a result of vascular calcification – a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. The test being developed aims to accurately measure a biomarker of active tissue calcification levels in blood samples so that decisions about treatment can be taken earlier and be better informed and so disease progression can be more accurately monitored.

Initially supported by an Institute award to develop projects with translational potential, CytoCalx brings together expertise in flow cytometry and on vascular calcification. The creation of CytoCalx has also benefited from dedicated support from the Institute’s Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation team. 


This year’s programme participants were selected following a rigorous interview process and presentation of their commercial business objectives and potential impact to the executive team of the Babraham Research Campus and the programme’s strategic partners.

Speaking about the 2023 cohort of the Accelerate@Babraham programme Kathryn Chapman, Director of Science & Entrepreneurship, Babraham Research Campus commented: “We were delighted with the calibre and quantity of Accelerate@Babraham applications this year, although it did make for an extremely difficult decision making process! Our 2023 cohort are a passionate group of new life science innovators and entrepreneurs, all of whom have the motivation to push themselves and their science as they engage throughout the programme.”

The Accelerate@Babraham programme combines a tailored programme of workshops, discussion and mentoring with commercialisation and entrepreneurial experts with provision of laboratory space to stress-test their commercial concept, a budget of £10,000 to support project development and access to investors. 

Commenting on their Accelerate@Babraham experience to date, Aila co-founder Dr James Dooley said: “The experience so far has been fascinating, and eye-opening! The programme has provided greater understanding into all different aspects around IP, leadership, fundraising, resilience and much more providing greater insight into the different areas we will need to become successful. I think the influence of support has helped us recognise the gaps in our approach; we are extremely fortunate to be in the Cambridge ecosystem and have the support of Accelerate@Babraham.”

For CytoCalx, this is the start of their commercialisation journey. Co-founder, Rachael Walker, explained: “We applied for the Accelerate@Babraham programme in order to advance the research we have been doing at the Institute. We are hoping to be able to meet investors and attract investment and also learn more about business and the ways in which we can progress our product commercially.”

Dr Simon Cook, Institute Director, said: “It’s very exciting to see these incredible ventures take their next steps and even more satisfying that this is as part of the Accelerate@Babraham programme. The Babraham Research Campus provides a rich and supportive ecosystem for innovation and opportunity to flourish. Having this tailored programme on our doorstep and our joint wider work in promoting entrepreneurship and commercial development of research means that the pipeline for success is there. The success of Aila Biotech and CytoCalx in being selected to join Accelerate@Babraham speaks to the effectiveness of this approach with important healthcare gains potentially being realised as a result of these concepts.”

Accelerate@Babraham 2023 is supported by strategic partners, AstraZeneca, Eisai, Biomed Realty, Kidney Research UK, Medicines Discovery Catapult, Triple Chasm and LifeArc. To discover more about Accelerate@Babraham visit:


Notes to Editors

Press contact:

For the Babraham Institute: Dr Louisa Wood, Head of Communications,

For the Babraham Research Campus and Accelerate@Babraham: Sarah Brereton, Director, Limewash, Cambridge. Tel: +44 (0)7796 583 223, email:

About the Babraham Institute

The Babraham Institute undertakes world-class life sciences research to generate new knowledge of biological mechanisms underpinning ageing, development and the maintenance of health. Our research focuses on cellular signalling, gene regulation and the impact of epigenetic regulation at different stages of life. By determining how the body reacts to dietary and environmental stimuli and manages microbial and viral interactions, we aim to improve wellbeing and support healthier ageing. The Institute is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, through Institute Strategic Programme Grants and an Institute Core Capability Grant and also receives funding from other UK research councils, charitable foundations, the EU and medical charities.

About Babraham Research Campus

Babraham Research Campus Ltd is responsible for the management and commercial development of the Babraham Research Campus. Babraham Research Campus is distinct in its co‐location of 60 bioscience companies with the Babraham Institute, a world‐renowned research organisation which receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The aim of the Campus is to support UK bioscience through academic research, but also with facilities and capabilities for early-stage and growing commercial organisations. The Campus provides companies laboratory and office space, networking and collaboration opportunities, together with access to outstanding scientific facilities in an ideal geographical location at the core of the Cambridge cluster.  

For more information please visit: and follow the Campus on Twitter @BabrahamUK.


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government. 

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by government, BBSRC invested £451 million in world-class bioscience in 2019-20. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. 

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