Press Release

Vaccine platform among Dundee’s Converge successes

Published on 11 May 2021

A novel vaccine production platform that could prove decisive in the battle against Streptococcus is among the University of Dundee innovations recognised in Scotland’s largest company creation programme for the higher education sector.

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Portrait of Helge Dorfmueller

A novel vaccine production platform that could prove decisive in the battle against Streptococcus is among the University of Dundee innovations recognised in Scotland’s largest company creation programme for the higher education sector.

The semi-finalists of Converge 2021 have been announced, with Dr Helge Dorfmueller from Dundee’s School of Life Sciences among those to have made it to this stage of the competition.

Dr Dorfmueller has created RhaPSeda, a platform that could prove decisive in the battle against the a contagious bacteria StrepA that kills 500,000 people annually, mainly from low-income countries. 

Despite a 100-year hunt for a vaccine, none currently exists with the pathogen showing increasing signs of antibiotic resistance. RhapSeda’s patented technology significantly reduces manufacturing costs, taking us a step closer to a worldwide solution to this global killer.

Eleven of the 90 academic entrepreneurs to have earned themselves a semi-final place in the various Converge categories are staff, students or graduates of Dundee, which can boast more semi-finalists than almost any other Scottish university.

Ten out of the 11 semi-finalists have competed in the University’s Venture competition, a process designed to prepare them for Converge.

Brian McNicoll, Head of Dundee’s Centre for Entrepreneurship, said, “The University is continuing to ride a wave of entrepreneurial growth and success from our innovative start-up and spinout businesses who are raising significant investment, creating high-value jobs and addressing some of the pre-eminent issues we are facing in the world right now.

“Converge is always a litmus test in terms of the number of high-quality business opportunities that are coming through an institution. The fact that Dundee is joint-second in Scotland based on the number of semi-finalists in this year’s competition is testament to the entrepreneurial ambition that is encouraged here. We are looking forward to continuing to support these entrepreneurs in the next stages of their business journeys.”

As well as Dr Dorfmeuller, the following members of the University community and their businesses have been recognised:

  • Abigail Johnstone (undergraduate student) – Bridging the Gap Academy
  • Dr David Martin (senior lecturer) – DyeKen
  • Dr John Foerster (senior lecturer) – Glen Clova Scientific
  • Dr Luigi Manfredi (research associate/fellow) – Softech
  • Jodie Sinclair (graduate) Theo Health
  • Dr Firas Bakri (graduate) – Xavier Bionix
  • Danielle White (graduate) – Savora Drinks
  • Dr Shahin Homaeigohar (lecturer) – ENerveC
  • Glen Craig (undergraduate student) – Glen Cycles
  • Jennifer Rao-Williams (graduate) – J-RAO Contemporary Apothecary

This year’s cohort will now attend intensive business training followed by a series of masterclasses from Converge’s network of professional advisors. The finalists of Converge 2021, who will be announced in early September, will compete for prizes totalling £290,000 in equity-free cash and in-kind business support.

Converge Director Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo said, “I’m always amazed at the inventiveness and creativity of the projects coming through Converge and, despite the difficult times we’re experiencing, this year is no exception.

“Starting a business right now might seem counterintuitive. However, as the history books show, difficult business environments can offer rich opportunities with moments of crisis serving as a powerful impetus for innovation. We can’t wait to get started and would like to congratulate all our semi-finalists on getting through to this stage.”

Converge exists as a pathway for university entrepreneurs, meaning that the innovators of the future receive the right support at the right time to ensure profitable businesses for Scotland.

A critical element is the collaboration between all of the universities to provide support and guidance to applicants and close working relationships with others within the entrepreneurial ecosystem. There are a number of ‘touch points’ to Converge via the Awards categories, outreach events as well as the website which is an active resource and the main portal for submissions and information about the programme - www.convergechallenge.com.

Enquiries

Grant Hill

Press Officer

+44 (0)1382 384768

G.Hill@dundee.ac.uk