How University of Bristol student will become one of UK’s richest men overnight

A University of Bristol student is set to become one of the UK’s richest people after his chemistry company was sold for hundreds of millions of pounds.

Co-founder Dr Harry Destecroix will be among the country’s wealthiest after Ziylo was snapped up by the global healthcare company Novo Nordisk.

The huge deal, which is one of the biggest in the university’s history, is thought to be worth around $800million (£623million), Bristol Live reports.

And total payments could even exceed this.

While the deal will comfortably put the firm in the top 10 rich list for the South West , it could also bring brilliant news for diabetes patients.

Ziylo, set up by Dr Destecroix along with Professor Anthony Davis and businessman Tom Smart, has developed synthetic glucose binding molecule technology.

And Dr Destecroix, a PhD student and CEO of the company, says its acquisition "brings hope of a truly ground-breaking treatment to diabetes patients".

It is thought the deal could lead to the development of the world’s first glucose-responsive insulin and transform the treatment of diabetes.

The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 382 million people worldwide – including 4.05million people in the UK – have the condition.

Everyone with Type 1 and some people with Type 2 diabetes need to take insulin, either by injection or pump, to control their blood glucose levels.

Dr Destecroix said: “Novo Nordisk, as the leader in the diabetes field, is the ideal company to maximise the potential of the Ziylo’s glucose binding molecules in glucose responsive insulins and diabetes applications, and it brings hope of a truly ground-breaking treatment to diabetes patients.”

Scientists in the Davis Research Group in the School of Chemistry had been working on the problem for many years before Ziylo was established as a start-up company in 2014.

The university spin-out firm has now developed a platform which could be a key component to enable the next generation of insulin that is able to adapt to glucose levels in the blood.

This could eliminate the risk of hypoglycaemia and lead to better metabolic control for those living with diabetes.

Ziylo’s glucose binding molecules are synthetic molecules that were designed by Prof Davis, who has been at the forefront of research into synthetic sugar receptors for the past 20 years.

The Professor of Supramolecular Chemistry, also Director & Co-Founder of Ziylo, added: “The glucose responsive insulin we will develop with Novo Nordisk combines a natural molecule (insulin) with an artificial component (Ziylo’s glucose binding molecules).

"This combination of natural and unnatural could be a new approach to biodesign.

“These unique molecules were inspired by nature and work in much the same way as natural glucose receptors. A group of chemists, called supramolecular chemists, have been working on this problem for many years.

"Often, they make molecules which behave quite like natural molecules, but usually they don’t work quite well enough for real-world applications.

“The success of the Ziylo molecules shows that, with persistence, the problems can be solved and that biological molecules can be matched as well as mimicked.”

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Under the new deal, Novo Nordisk has full rights to Ziylo’s glucose binding molecule platform to develop glucose responsive insulins.

The development of glucose responsive insulins is a key strategic area for the company in its effort to develop this next generation of insulin which would lead to a safer and more effective insulin therapy.

Certain research activities have been spun out of Ziylo to a new firm, Carbometrics.

It has entered into research collaboration with Novo Nordisk to assist with ongoing optimisation of glucose binding molecules for use in glucose responsive insulins.

Carbometrics has licensed rights to develop non-therapeutic applications of glucose binding molecules, with a focus on developing continuous glucose monitoring applications. It will stay at the Unit DX science incubator in Bristol and remains closely associated with the university.

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Bristol, said: “The university is proud of its cutting-edge research which has potential to generate major societal impact.

"It is gratifying to see our research being developed to the point where it has the potential to make a real difference to people’s lives.

“The acquisition of Ziylo by Novo Nordisk will allow this technology to take the next leap forward – well done to the team at Ziylo and to Professor Davis and his team at the university for getting to this exciting point.”

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