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The evolution of an innovator

James Field, winner of BBSRC Early Career Innovator of the Year 2017, has recently secured $3.66 million in investment for his company LabGenius and features in American magazine Forbes’ list of the 600 most influential people in the world under age 30.

Field and a group of fellow Imperial College London PhD students created LabGenius in 2012 to commercialise their ground-breaking new technology: the ability to produce trillions of variations of gene sequences, which can be used to engineer high-value proteins. The company uses artificial intelligence to predict which gene mutations will improve a biological design, enabling scientists to produce new therapeutics or advanced materials such as adhesives, catalysts and sensors.

It was a grant from BBSRC and Innovate UK that allowed Field and his team to perform the initial research and development underpinning LabGenius. Field believes that this support from BBSRC, and his Innovator of the Year title, played a vital role in attracting the seed funding LabGenius needed to get the company off the ground.

James Field says: “Being able to say we had received the BBSRC Innovator of the Year award definitely added confidence to invest, because what we are working on is a really cutting-edge technology and it is difficult to explain the nuances of what we are doing to investors.”

“BBSRC support, from an investor’s perspective, de-risks the whole investment, and that was particularly important as I am still at an early stage in my career.”

LabGenius now employs ten people and has three contracts with Dstl to produce new defence materials, including improved body armour and adhesives.

Professor Petra Oyston, Dstl Technical Fellow, Molecular Microbiology and Synthetic Biology says: “LabGenius has been a vital part of the Dstl's protective materials programme and their technology has been successfully deployed across several projects ranging from lighter body armour to programmable adhesives.”

The success of LabGenius has led Field to be named in Forbes’ prestigious ‘30 under 30’ list of the world’s brightest young entrepreneurs and innovators, and given him the opportunity to present at several high impact events around the world.

Karen Lewis, Executive Director, Innovation at BBSRC says: “BBSRC Innovator of the Year aims to recognise and reward BBSRC funded researchers including PhDs and early career scientists that have taken forward their research to deliver impact. Dr James Field won the 2017 Early Career Impact category”.

“The progress and recognition achieved by LabGenius and Dr Field is testimony the drive and hard work of the team, building on funding from BBSRC and Innovate UK, and supported by the prestige of this BBSRC competition”.

Applications for BBSRC’s Innovator of the Year 2018 are open until 7 February 2018, 16:00.

Find out more about LabGenius.


Tags: innovation people genetics skills and training news funding