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Financial support helping companies adapt and innovate

 

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IN THE LABORATORY: Professor Helen McCarthy.

IN THE LABORATORY: Professor Helen McCarthy.

IN THE LABORATORY: Professor Helen McCarthy.

The UK Government has announced an unprecedented package of support to protect jobs and support business across the whole UK during the coronavirus outbreak.

The financial support is helping firms across the nation to adapt, innovate and protect jobs. Here is how some companies have been helped, and what is available.

Phion Therapeutics

A BELFAST-BASED spin-out company from the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s University in the city, received a £50,000 Fast Start grant through the UK Government’s Innovate UK programme. Phion Therapeutics Ltd was established in 2017 and employs 10 staff in the development of drug delivery technology, specialising in viral injections.

The Innovate UK grant will be used by the company to develop a drug to combat Covid-19, as a part of a six-month project which kicked off on June 1.

Professor Helen McCarthy is the chief executive officer and founder of Phion Therapeutics. She said: “Vaccine therapies are working towards preventing people getting the disease, but for those people that have got the disease and the virus is replicating uncontrollably, we need something to help tip the balance in favour of the patient.” Coronavirus enters cells through a key receptor, ACE-2. Phion Therapeutics’ proof of concept study, is designed to see if it can “reduce expression of the ACE-2 receptor”.

Professor McCarthy said it will be six months before the company will know whether it can “knock down” the ACE-2 receptor and for how long. There will then be 12 months of pre-clinical development work, followed up by a toxicology study before going into Phase 1 in patients.

Company chief operating officer Darach Neeson said the grant offers the company a great opportunity to get the initial proof of concept data.

He said: “This will then allow us to leverage private investment for the further development of the treatments.”

‘We’ll be stronger than ever’

iSensing

A BELFAST-BASED tech company is preparing to emerge from the coronavirus lockdown stronger than ever, after securing a major UK Government grant through the Fast Start initiative.

Established less than two years ago, iSensing was awarded a £50,000 grant which has allowed it to continue developing its state-of-the analytical products.

The iSensing products are used by public bodies to improve transport networks. The company’s global partnership director Harvey Beilinsohn, said being based in the UK has given his company an important advantage.

He said: “I am thankful that I am based in the UK because talking to our teammates in the USA, Mexico and Brazil, when it comes to the financial support in the UK they are just lost for words.

“They can’t believe you can get this level of support - through the furlough scheme, through the loans or even this kind of grant.

“I am very, very thankful to be based in Northern Ireland and for the help from Westminster.”

The Covid-19 emergency has temporarily slowed down iSensing’s business operation but the young company is using the disruption to refine some of its existing technology.

Harvey said: “Our business is focussed on transport and we now know transport is not going to be the same. So it was really about us repurposing our products, and to do that it required some money.”

The iSensing technology analyses data with a view to helping local authorities identify trends. Harvey said: “As a small company we can do a lot with £50,000.

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BIG ADVANTAGE: Harvey Beilinsohn.

BIG ADVANTAGE: Harvey Beilinsohn.

BIG ADVANTAGE: Harvey Beilinsohn.

 

Protecting jobs and keeping firms afloat

 Here are some examples of the support available for businesses and workers:

• The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has enabled businesses to put employees on a period of temporary leave (furlough) and apply for a UK Government grant to cover 80 per cent of those workers’ usual monthly wage costs, up to a £2,500 a month.

• The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will allow eligible self-employed individuals to claim a taxable grant of 80 per cent of their average monthly profits, up to £7,500.

• UK VAT-registered firms have been given the option to defer VAT payments until the end of June. There will be no interest or penalties on any amount deferred. 

• Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of coronavirus will be protected from eviction.

• The UK Government’s Bounce Back Loans Scheme provides loans of up to £50,000 to small businesses, with a 100 per cent UK Government-backed guarantee for lenders.

• The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is available for loans or finance of up to £5m. The UK Government will provide the lender with an 80 per cent guarantee to support the lending.

• The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme will repay employers the current rate of Statutory Sick Pay they pay current or former employees for sickness starting on or after March 13 2020

• The Future Fund will issue loans between £125,000 to £5 million to innovative companies which are facing financing difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Details of the support available to businesses across the UK can be found at www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support

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FINANCIAL AID: Boris Johnson.

FINANCIAL AID: Boris Johnson.

FINANCIAL AID: Boris Johnson.