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Business and innovation

Oxford HighQ

Oxford HighQ is a spin-out company building on more than a decade of quantum technology research from the University of Oxford. The company is developing unique nanoparticle sensing instruments using micro-scale optical microcavities. The first product addresses a crucial application in nanomedicine to provide single particle measurement of drug loading.

A wide range of novel sensors and instrumentation are spinning out of quantum technology research around core objectives in telecommunications and quantum computing. 

Oxford HighQ was formed to bring to market such spin-off technology called optical microcavity analysis (OMCA) for application in nanoparticle and chemical sensing. 

Man sitting over machinery.

Optical microcavities amplify signals; these micrometre-sized devices provide a step change in sensor sensitivity and can operate with a sample of just a handful of molecules.

Optical microcavity sensors for use with liquid samples will meet increasing demand for new tools in pharmaceutical and medical research, food and water monitoring and security and defence.

High demand for compact systems that require smaller quantities of samples matches well with the properties of these remarkable and tiny devices. Furthermore, microcavity components are robust and inexpensive, and can be readily manufactured in volume.

The initial application chosen addresses crucial unmet need in bringing new drugs to market, with particle-by-particle measurement of the quantity of active drug loaded into drug delivery nanoparticles.

The nanomedicine market this technology will serve is estimated to be ~$80bn globally with a 22% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). This invention unlocks barriers both to development and to regulation, by measuring the refractive index of nanoparticles in fluids, essentially looking inside particles at their chemical composition. 

Whilst this critical analysis can be achieved with a chain of extremely expensive and complex equipment, the optical microcavity solution is practical, robust and delivers results in real time at much lower cost: an ideal solution for online quality assurance in the manufacturing of advanced therapies.

This compelling narrative has led to substantive support from grant funding and private finance bodies, allowing the company to rapidly advance to delivering early demonstration models to potential users during the first half of 2020.