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US Investor Backs Ulster Biotech Pioneer

31 March 2011

A Silicon Valley biotech firm linked to the University of Ulster is in line for US private sector backing of $900k that will enable it to drive forward development of potentially market-leading products.

Belfast-based biotech company, SiSaf, which has its US headquarters at The Irish Innovation Center (ICC) in San Jose, California, has developed unique drug-delivery systems that seem set to capture a niche in the worldwide healthcare market and open up lucrative opportunities in other commercial sectors.

It is the first Silicon Valley investment for a Northern Ireland biotech company.

Professor Jim McLaughlin of the University of Ulster, who is the company’s Chief Scientific Officer, said: “This is a massive statement of faith by shrewd investors in America who recognise the potential of the SiSaf in the global biotech and biomedical markets.

SiSaf is a ‘spin-in’ company of the University of Ulster. The University’s innovation arm, Innovation Ulster (IUL), whose Director is Mr Tim Brundle, has an equity stake in it.

“The company is obviously fast becoming a flagship of the world-class expertise that Ulster is keen to support,” said Professor McLaughlin, who is Director of the Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials Institute and NIBEC, at the Jordanstown campus.

“Internationally-acknowledged innovation like this immeasurably heightens Northern Ireland’s technology world profile.”

Links recently forged between SiSaf and the influential Irish Technology Leadership Group (ITLG), an independent organisation of high-level technology leaders in Silicon Valley who are Irish or Irish-American, have been instrumental in securing the investment.

In a statement from its San Jose HQ, SiSaf said it has secured $600k from US investors and expects to secure a further $300k by the end of the year. SiSaf has developed delivery systems that utilise nanoparticles – which are micro elements invisible to the naked eye – to facilitate the release drugs into the body in a highly innovative targeted and controlled way.

Dr. Suzanne Saffie-Siebert, Founder and CEO of SiSaf, who is a Visiting Professor at Ulster said: “SiSaf’s drug-delivery platform technology is a game-changing technology and unlike any other technology in the current dermatology market.

“It not only enhances the efficiency and localisation of active compounds, it is also bioactive, biocompatible, and absolutely safe – a key issue for both medical and skincare applications.

“The Si-Safe™ delivery system technology will enable the full development and registration of products that have failed to reach the market due to issues of stability, bioavailability and/or toxicity.  This opens up the commercial potential for an enormous number of products that to date have been unable to be produced or marketed.” Dr Saffie-Siebert concluded.

John Hartnett, ITLG President and Founder of the IIC: said “We are delighted that Suzanne and SiSaf have now closed this funding round that will allow them to rapidly scale their revolutionary drug-delivery technology.”