Oxford to exploit inventions in spin-offs

December 4, 1998

The University of Oxford has launched two more spin-off companies, bringing the total to four this year. The latest companies are developing a new form of computer tool and a new class of medical drugs.

Embedded Solutions designs computer tools that allow software experts to develop hardware solutions to problems. For example, software tools could reconfigure the display of a cellphone to show a virtual reality map of a city centre rather than mere telephone numbers, according to Ian Page, a director of Embedded Solutions and reader in computing science at the university.

"If you were lost in the middle of Budapest, you could use the tools to download the capability to see the map," he said. "The market for these tools must be massive and include a large fraction of the existing digital market."

The tools represent a similar breakthrough to the invention of compilers, said Roger Gook, managing director of Embedded Solutions. Before compilers were introduced, computer programmers had to know exactly how a processor worked. This is no longer necessary.

Richard Farleigh, a private investor in the high-tech sector, put venture capital in the company last week. The company has five staff and intends into recruit another five shortly.

The second company launched designs drugs to treat hepatitis B and C. Called Igx Oxford Hepatitis, the company is the result of a collaboration between researchers at the Glycobiology Institute at the university and Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

Monsanto gave a generous endowment to fund the Glycobiology Institute, and the company is also backed by the United States biotechnology company IgX. The major beneficiary of the project, however, will be a Philadelphia-based charity, the Hepatitis B Foundation.

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