Almac researcher receives £1.5m UK innovation grant

Further investment set to expand Sciences’ continuous flow platform at Craigavon firm

A researcher at Craigavon’s Almac Sciences has been awarded a UK government-funded grant worth £1.5 million.

Dr Megan Smyth, a team leader for custom and flow chemistry, has secured a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Leaders Fellowship (FLF).

The FLF was set up to support universities, businesses, and other research and innovation environments to develop their most talented early career researchers and innovators.

Dr Megan Smyth, a team leader for custom and flow chemistry

Funded over four years, the grant will support Dr Smyth in delivering a platform technology to expand Almac Sciences’ service offering in oxidative chemical continuous processing for the benefit of its global customers. Aerobic oxidations are extremely atom efficient, however fall into a unique category of reactions which are difficult to perform in batch at scale due to safety concerns.

Through horizon scanning it was identified there is a need to the develop an industrially useful oxidative flow platform using air as oxidant. This FLF project will address this need and is necessary for CDMOs like Almac to lead competitively here in the UK.

Dr Megan Smyth, said: “Using flow technology opens up many opportunities to replace traditional stoichiometric oxidants with inexpensive, green and abundant oxygen. Through this grant, my team and I will exploit innovative approaches such as ultrafine bubbles and 3D printing to streamline chemical processing resulting in cost savings for our customers. This oxidative platform will allow us to back integrate raw material synthesis into our manufacturing assets in the UK and Ireland resulting in more secure supply chains.”

Prof Tom Moody, VP technology development & commercialisation, added: “The overall impact of the project will be diverse and will positively affect the environment, economy and society. It will aid in supporting the competitive edge for the UK chemical manufacturing industry, to securing high skilled jobs for Northern Ireland which will undoubtedly have a multiplier effect. It will also lead to improving sustainability metrics and lowering environmental burden by the essential reshoring of key chemical manufacture to minimise our reliance on Asia.”

Along with exceptional scientific advancements from the innovative research, the Fellowship is a unique programme designed to allow businesses to attract, retain and develop the very best early career innovators delivering new knowledge and understanding and tackling some of the greatest challenges of our time.

Megan added: “I am thrilled to receive this Fellowship which will equip me with a cutting-edge combination of research excellence and transferable management skillsets. The FLF will help to address future economic and societal challenges at Almac Sciences and for the UK. My ambition is to lead a technology platform, driving increased business revenue beyond proof of concept, to manufacture and subsequent supply of chemicals here in the UK. It is an exciting time for me, my team and Almac Sciences.”