Crystal cash

A US technology investment company has put nearly $2 million into a business spun out from research at DurhamUniversity.

New York-based Amphion is backing Durham Scientific Crystals (DSC), formed in 2003 to commercialise technology developed in the Physics Department, with a $1.8m dollar stake.

DSC produces improved and more cost effective semiconductor materials for detectors used in medical, security and defence digital x-ray imaging. These materials have the potential to revolutionise the medical x-ray imaging market, as well as dramatically improving the screening of baggage in airports and railways, and enabling the manufacture of in-demand handheld scanners.

DSC had a strong founding team led by Dr. Arnab Basu, as Chief Executive. It includes Prof. Brian Tanner and Prof. Max Robinson, who had considerable experience in high tech start up ventures with previous IPO successes, and Dr. Ben Cantwell and Dr. Andy Brinkman with international expertise in the technology and related fields.

The diagnostic imaging market is a $70 billion industry in the US, representing approximately 10% of all expenditures for medical care. X-ray based systems dominate the market in terms of growth and revenue, with over a 50% share, so the transition to digital X-ray imaging represents enormous market potential.

Amphion has focused principally in the US and this investment in the North-East of England marks Amphion’s first investment in any UK based university spin-out since their recent London AIM flotation.

Amphion’s senior management team however played a key role for Medisense, one of the UK’s most successful University spin-outs, sold to Abbott for $900 million in 1996, and based on technology from Oxford and CranfieldUniversities. Amphion will be seeking a few further highly select UK investments and have now opened a UK office and recently floated on the AIM market in London.

Amphion’s investment in DSC represents the first fully external round of funding, after an earlier angel funding round by members of the management team. Other shareholders are DurhamUniversity and DSC’s founders. This investment will allow DSC to further develop its technology and patent portfolio, building up its management and marketing teams. Amphion’s participation will also accelerate access to key US markets.

DSC’s initial products are in the area of Cadmium Telluride based x-ray detectors. Dr. Basu said: “Cadmium Telluride has long been accepted as the electronic x-ray detection material of choice in many key applications. We are the first in the world to develop a process for producing predictably high quality and large area material for detectors with high yields and greatly improved production economics. Our unique technology arrives as our target international markets are moving to digital detection.”

DSC is situated in the purpose-built NetPark Incubator facility at Sedgefield in CountyDurham, an initiative of County Durham Development Company (CDDC).