Improved medical diagnostic kits, and a seaweed-based metal coating are among six projects to share nearly £1m in government funding, Science and Innovation Minister, Lord Sainsbury announced today.

The projects are part of the Department of Trade and Industry's BIO-WISE Programme, which encourages UK manufacturing and service companies to realise the economic and environmental benefits of biotechnology.

Randox Laboratories, Antrim, has been awarded £241K for a two-year project to scale-up production of new improved medical diagnostic testing technology. This new technology will provide clinicians with tests that are not currently available on any other diagnostic system, and thereby increase the number of tests that can be carried out on patients’ samples. This will improve patient care through the provision of a wider range of diagnostic tests and more accurate diagnosis for many diseases, including heart disease and cancer.

Lord Sainsbury said: “The BIO-WISE programme is a great opportunity for UK biotech companies to test their exciting new discoveries and proto-type products in large-scale industrial environments. These innovative projects highlight the potential benefits that biotechnology has to offer, both in terms of improvements to industry and the environment.

"Turning new ideas and innovation into jobs and prosperity is crucial to maintaining the strength of the UK's economy, and our leading position at the cutting edge of technology.”

Ian Pearson MP, NIO Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment said: “This support is a further and significant endorsement by Government of the global potential of pioneering diagnostic technology currently being developed by Randox, an enterprising and ambitious Northern Ireland company.

“It also signals our recognition that Northern Ireland’s fast developing biotechnology industry can become a key driver of future economic growth. I believe that Northern Ireland has a wealth of expertise and a commitment to innovation in companies and especially within the two universities to become an internationally respected biotechnology centre.”

1. The 6 awards represent Government funding of nearly £1 million towards a portfolio of 21 projects (£3 million in total). This brings total government/industry investment in BIO-WISE demonstrator projects to just under £9.5 million since 1999.

2. These grants are just one of the range of services that the BIO-WISE Programme provides to help UK companies realise the financial and environmental benefits that biotechnology can bring. BIO-WISE is run by the DTI’s Bioscience Unit.

3. BIO-WISE has run more than 100 workshops, site visits and conferences to raise awareness of the applications of biotechnology. These have led to over 30,000 enquiries to their Helpline. The Programme has provided specific advice to over 500 individual companies. BIO-WISE also provides support for the UK industrial biotechnology suppliers.

4. The contact details for the project are as follows;

Randox Laboratories
Project Manager: Lorna Lawrence
Diamond Road
County Antrim
Northern Ireland
BT29 4QY
Tel: 028 9442 2413
Fax: 028 9445 2912

5. Details of the other five new projects are:

· Recycling of metals in old computers and mobile phones – Currently, it is very expensive to smelt down the electronic circuit boards of old computers and mobile phones to remove the metals for re-cycling. C-Tech Innovation, Chester has developed a cost-effective way of dissolving metals from circuit boards, removing first the solder, then the copper, and finally the precious metals. This kind of technology will particularly be needed in two years time when a new EC Directive comes into force which makes producers of electrical and electronic equipment responsible for recycling their products. C-Tech Innovation has been awarded £111K to test their technology on an industrial scale in a 15-month project.

· An improved pre-wash coating for metal components – current industrial pre-wash coatings, used to prevent corrosion and increase paint adhesion, are made from chemicals that can be toxic. All finished 4U Ltd, Coventry has developed an environmentally friendly version derived from seaweed. They have been awarded £150K over two years to develop industrial scale production of this new bio-coating, which has potential use in many industries, particularly the car and aerospace industries.

· Hand-held water pollution testing kits - Ammonia is the most common pollutant in British rivers and is highly toxic to fish; sources include, water treatment plants for industrial and domestic waste, and farm animal wastes. Currently, laboratory tests on river water samples are expensive, and the results can take several days. Advanced Enzyme Technology, Pontypool, South Wales has designed a hand-held biosensor that measures in only four minutes the level of ammonia in the water. They have been awarded a grant of £188K to work with Gwent Electronic Materials and the Environment Agency to develop the large-scale manufacturing of this biosensor over the next two years.

· On-site toxicity testing equipment – currently the results of tests on contaminated land can take weeks to come back from the laboratory. With this new instrument the sample can be taken and tested on site within 2 hours. This new toxicity system, which makes use of naturally luminescent bacteria, was developed by Cybersense Biosystems of Oxford. They have been awarded £134K to conduct field trials in collaboration with seven well-know companies involved in the assessment and clean-up of contaminated land.

· Improved treatment of industrial and sewage waste water - many industries and sewage farms use huge tanks filled with pollutant-eating bacteria to clean their wastewater. The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology Oxford has developed an easier means of testing the toxicity of the water in the tanks, through developing a new luminescent bacteria which glows brighter when the water is no longer contaminated. The Centre has been awarded £105K to test the new technology on a larger scale.

6. Further details on BioWise available from:

Department of Trade and Industry
7th Floor
1 Victoria Street
London SW1H 0ET
Press enquiries +44 (0)20 7215 6140/6403
(Out of hours) +44 (0)20 7215 3234/3505
Public enquiries +44 (0)20 7215 5000
Textphone (for those with hearing impairment) +44 (0)20 7215 6740
Press Office Fax +44 (0)20 7222 4382