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The University of Southampton

New company represents chemistry at the cutting edge

Published: 19 May 2004

Ilika, a new scientific company exploiting cutting edge developments in combinatorial research techniques, has been spun-out from the University of Southampton. The company has secured initial finance from the SULIS University seed-corn fund and specialist financier IP2IPO (

Ilika is a science-based materials discovery company, which uses high-throughput technologies, developed by Professors Mark Bradley, Brian Hayden and Mike Hursthouse and Dr Samuel Guerin from the University's School of Chemistry . The techniques embrace use of robotics, informatics and inter-disciplinary approaches to preparation and screening to provide a high speed and low cost route to the commercial development of new products.

The technology will be invaluable for many major multinational companies that specialise in bringing new products to market in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Applications will initially include fuel cells, piezoelectric materials, catalysts, novel pharmaceuticals and therapeutic materials.

The new company's CEO is Graeme Purdy. He was previously Chief Operating Officer at Avantium Technologies and earlier worked for Shell in a variety of technical and commercial roles.

Graeme Purdy commented: "Ilika is off to a flying start thanks to the impressive array of high throughput technology developed at the University of Southampton in recent years. Ilika's team is highly motivated to build on the considerable success already enjoyed through the commercial collaborations established by the founding academics."

Over the last four years, the academic groups of the founders have attracted over £10m of research funding including approximately £5m from industry.

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Notes for editors

  1. Digital images available. Contact Karen Woods on 07775 694266.
  2. Ilika is the Greek word for 'materials'.
  3. Combinatorial chemistry techniques were initially used to screen large molecular libraries for the discovery of new drug candidates. The techniques have since been further developed for the discovery and development of a broad range of new materials. The high throughput techniques derived from combinatorial chemistry have been demonstrated to accelerate the pace of research and deliver greater innovation at a reduced cost. One of the challenges of applying high throughput technologies is the integration of a range of disciplines covering chemistry, robotics, software, analytical techniques and statistics. There is a growing trend for large organisations to outsource research and development efforts to specialist enterprises like Ilika, which excel in the deployment of inter-disciplinary teams for the efficient execution of research programmes.
  4. The School of Chemistry is among the top ten chemistry departments in the UK. It has distinctive world-leading research in combinatorial chemistry and high-throughput technology. It has consistently achieved grade 5 in Research Assessment exercises. It is made up of 37 academic staff and over 30 support staff and there are more than 150 postgraduates in its graduate school. In addition to combinatorial chemistry, the School also leads in University-wide initiatives at the life sciences interfaces and with materials science and engineering.
  5. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University has over 19,200 students and 4,800 staff and plays an important role in the City of Southampton. Its annual turnover is in the region of £250 million
  6. Sulis is an investment fund available for investing in the early stage of promising business opportunities arising from the Universities of Southampton, Bristol and Bath. The money in the fund is provided by the universities themselves, the Wellcome Foundation and the DTI through the Universities Challenge Fund. The fund is owned by the three universities and is professionally managed by Quester investment managers.
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