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Orla recognises business impact of NEL partnership

A north east biotechnology company has recognised the positive impact that its long-term partnership with regional fund management firm NEL Fund Managers has had on the company’s development.

Originally founded in 2002 as a spin out from Newcastle University, Newcastle-based Orla Protein Technologiesprovides innovative solutions in biosurface design, and enables the integration of biological systems and physical devices through engineered protein interfaces.

The company’s development has been supported since 2004 by a series of investments from NEL, with chief executive Barrie Hensby acting as a non-executive director at Orla since 2006.

Last week, Orla announced that it has secured a combined £500,000 from a number of individual business angels from both inside and outside the region, and from the Finance For Business North East Growth Fund that is managed by NEL. The new capital will be used to expand the company’s activities in advanced protein technology and mobile medical diagnostic applications, and as a result, the company’s workforce is expected to double to around 20 over the next 12-18 months. NEL’s investment also assisted with the establishment ofOJ-Bio, a joint venture between Orla Protein Technologiesand leading Japanese electronics firm The Japan Radio Company Ltd (JRC), and Dale Athey, Orla’s chief executive officer, believes that this ongoing relationship has been a major factor in the business’s continuing growth and success.

He says: “Any business activity related to healthcare markets is, quite rightly, highly regulated, and this tends to mean that development and testing takes longer and costs more than it does in other industries.

“Having NEL’s backing at different times has helped to give us the confidence and capacity to keep moving forward towards the outcomes to which we believed our technologies would lead us, and the progress that we’ve be able to make shows that both our confidence in ourselves and NEL’s confidence in us was well-founded.

“Establishing OJ-Bio was a particular landmark for us and has opened up a wide range of new technological and commercial opportunities.

“The latest investment package we’ve secured, of which NEL is a part, will help us accelerate the commercial development of the business by expanding our sales and marketing activities on a global scale.”

Barrie Hensby adds: “Investments in specialist technology firms like Orla tend to take a good deal of time and a lot of support to realise, but the success that the company is now enjoying clearly shows the benefit of taking this approach.

“The commercialisation of technologies being developed both in our universities and by regional businesses is already playing an increasingly important role in the north east economy, and making flexible, accessible business investment options available to them will be key in creating and sustaining regional employment opportunities.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by NEL Fund Managers Ltd .

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