Tooth decay and sharks bag £6m for Scots

April 5, 2002

A dental decay detector and a library of shark antibodies are among 38 research projects to win £6 million in backing from Scotland's innovative proof of concept fund.

Dental researchers at Dundee University and textile experts at Heriot-Watt University are working together on a device that measures the electrical resistance of teeth and could detect decay in its earliest stages.

Chris Longbottom of Dundee said: "The technique is expected to be faster, safer and more accurate than X-rays, which is good news for patients, dentists and the health service, where it has cost-saving implications. By picking up the disease at an early stage, it will also be possible in many cases to stop or even to reverse the decay, thus saving more teeth."

Andy Porter is leading an Aberdeen University team investigating shark antibodies. Sharks, one of the most ancient species alive, are believed to owe their success in surviving to their ability to avoid serious infections.

The Aberdeen team aims to discover antibodies that could fight disease in humans.

Enterprise and lifelong learning minister Wendy Alexander said the unique fund "supported dedicated academics in turning their inventive minds to help yield commercial success". And she revealed that a proof of concept funded project at Glasgow University has just turned into an optoelectronics spin-off company, Essient Photonics, backed by £5 million of private equity capital.

The scheme was launched in 1999 as a three-year, £11 million fund, but on the strength of its early successes, it was boosted to a six-year, £33 million fund. It supports 82 ventures and has created 207 jobs.

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