Belfast Telegraph

University biotech firm boosted by major investment from Silicon Valley

By Heather McGarrigle

A Belfast biotech firm is set to receive US private sector backing of $900,000 (£558,000).

Based at the Northern Ireland Science Park, SiSaf is linked to the University of Ulster and also has US headquarters at the Irish Innovation Center in California.

The company has developed drug delivery systems, specialising in the treatment of skin conditions, and it is hoped the additional finance will allow it to drive forward product development.

The technology uses nanoparticles to allow treatments to be absorbed more effectively into skin layers.

This is thought to be the first Silicon Valley investment for a Northern Ireland company.

SiSaf partnered with the Irish Technology Leadership Group, an independent organisation of technology leaders, to secure the initial £372,000 from US investors.

They expect to secure a further £186,000 by the end of 2011.

The firm is essentially a start-up company under the supervision of the University of Ulster, or a 'spin-in'.

The university's innovation arm, Innovation Ulster (IUL) has a stake in the business.

Professor Jim McLaughlin is SiSaf's chief scientific officer and is also director of the Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials Institute at the university's Jordanstown campus.

He described the investment as "a massive statement of faith by shrewd investors".

He said: "The company is fast becoming a flagship of the world class expertise that Ulster is keen to support. Internationally acknowledged innovation like this immeasurably heightens Northern Ireland's technology world profile."