by Richard Buckley, Editor, Business Eye

Almac Sciences, part of the Almac Group, has secured £2million of support from Invest Northern Ireland (Invest NI) to accelerate a programme of enzyme research. Almac Sciences had previously established a cutting-edge biotechnology platform for enzyme chemistry and biology through two successfully completed rounds of R&D investment supported by Invest NI.


This investment in R&D, awarded by INI and supported by the European Regional Development Fund, will further develop the program to establish IN Silico Informed metaGenomic Harvesting Technology (INSIGHT™), a platform built from multi-disciplinary research bringing together computational, metagenomics, biology and chemistry methodologies.

Routes of synthesis for most drugs are amenable to biocatalytic intervention. The INSIGHT project aims to improve the enzyme discovery process to allow more robust enzymes to supersede multi-step chemical routes currently used to produce pharmaceutical intermediates and products.

The unique project involves the development of an enzyme identification platform based around the exploitation of Almac’s existing metagenomic data mining using enzyme modelling / engineered lead diversity screening married with the company’s strength on industrial focus. This combination approach has never been developed to accelerate enzyme discovery and their subsequent application in the past and is a significant research and development programme.

This new technology will bring significant benefit to, not only Almac, but also to the wider pharmaceutical industry as it will offer simpler, lower cost and less polluting enzymatic processes. Specifically, INSIGHT will deliver new, best-in-class metagenomics, computational and engineering platforms for the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, life sciences and fine chemicals sectors.

Dr Stefan Mix, Almac Sciences’ Head of Biocatalysis, will lead a team of experts to complete the project and deliver the foundations for future commercialisation. The INSIGHT project will span six work packages which will run over 36 months once recruitment has been secured.

Professor Tom Moody, VP Technology Development and Commercialisation, Almac Sciences and Arran Chemical Company commented: “This project, and the related INI support, will be vital to ensure we can achieve our aspiration of becoming a global leader in biotechnology. The ambitious project will bring together each of the critical elements to accelerate enzyme identification and discovery and will de-risk the enzyme development pipelines for Almac. As a result of this unique project there will be both major academic and commercial benefits, providing significant growth opportunity for the NI Bio-economy and the wider economy.”

Welcoming the investment, Kevin Holland, CEO of Invest NI said: “Almac has long been one of Northern Ireland’s most successful companies within our thriving life & health sciences sector and has worked hard to build an impressive global reputation for ground-breaking work in the global pharmaceutical industry. It recognises the benefits of investing in cutting edge R&D and is making this new investment to build upon the foundations from previous R&D and capital investment over the last number of years.

“Invest NI has developed a strong collaborative partnership with Almac over the years, offering support for job creation and highly successful R&D projects. Our £2million ERDF funded offer of support for this new investment will further cement the company’s world-renowned reputation and enable it to expand its biocatalysis capability creating a new, greener and more cost-effective solution to industry. The development of this new technology enhances Northern Ireland’s global reputation in the field.”

Invest NI’s R&D support is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund under the EU investment for Growth and Jobs Programme 2014-2020.

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Professor Tom Moody, VP Technology Development and Commercialisation, Almac Sciences & Stefan Mix, Head of Biocatalysis, Almac Sciences

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