Life sciences company MIP Diagnostics has closed a Series A financing round, in which it raised £1.5 million for its pipeline of synthetic antibody alternatives.

The firm is a spin-out from the University of Leicester, set up to develop nanostructured molecularly imprinted polymers (nanoMIPs) which can replace antibodies in a variety of applications, including vaccines, medical research and diagnostics.

The production of antibodies can prove both difficult and lengthy. Cells are ‘challenged’ with an antigen or foreign molecule in the hope that the right antibodies will be produced, a process that can take months. By contrast, MIPs are created in laboratories in a matter of days and are more cost-effective to make. They also have a longer shelf-life than antibodies and can be used in conditions where antibodies cannot.

MIP Diagnostics plans to develop its own products, with its leading candidate being a nanoMIP for use in blood tests to diagnose heart attacks, and another designed for use in bioprocessing.

“Our technology has proven to be highly effective in a range of applications and with diverse targets from small molecules to viruses,” MIP Diagnostics CEO Dr Adrian Kinkaid said.

“This investment enables us to respond to the growing demand by increasing headcount and moving to new laboratories. I am particularly pleased that we can now start to develop our own high-performance MIPs to meet the needs of recognized high-value markets. These assets will be licensed to our partners in due course.”

The money raised in the financing round will be used to move the business from its current site in a university complex to a new facility in Colworth Park, Bedfordshire. It will also expand its team of five to ten, adding four laboratory staff and a business development manager.

The round was led by Mercia Fund Managers, and included a number of private investors.

“Recent research has highlighted the benefits of MIPs and blue-chip companies are starting to recognise their potential, in particular in applications where antibodies cannot be used,” Mercia investment director Dr Nicola Broughton said.

“This funding will allow MIP Diagnostics to make a step change in the business, by moving into its own premises and developing its own products to take advantage of the huge global market.”