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Oxford scientists Professor Philipp Kukura, Professor Justin Benesch, Dr Gavin Young, and Daniel Cole have pioneered a new technique known as mass photometry (MP). MP is a revolutionary new method of analysing molecules. It enables the accurate mass measurement of single molecules in solution, in their native state and without the need for labels. This approach opens up new possibilities for bio analytics and research into the functions of biomolecules, with new applications in the world of gene and cell therapy.
The early project demonstrated the technical feasibility and explored the market demand for a single molecule mass measurement device by producing a prototype. This was a near market-ready version of the technology, and enabled the founders to raise external investment in just a short period. With support from Oxford’s innovation ecosystem and specialist innovation teams at OUI, this led to the formation of a new company, Refeyn.
Refeyn launched in 2018, and grew rapidly. Within a year of starting operations, Refeyn raised additional funding led by Foresight Williams and Oxford Science Enterprises (OSE). This allowed it to expand its development pipeline and scale up production of its first product – the OneMP (2nd generation Refeyn TwoMP). Since then, they have developed three more instruments- SamuxMP, TwoMP Auto, and SamuxMP Auto- as well as a line of mass photometry consumables — thanks to the help of further funding rounds (series A in 2020 series B in 2022), supported by a new lead investor, Northpond Ventures. As of July 2023, Refeyn has raised over $90 million (£70 million) in investment.
Professor Justin Benesch, Department of Chemistry, University of Oxford, said: ‘The support from Oxford colleagues with experience in spin-out success and the University’s innovation team was a major factor in us being able to obtain investment and found Refeyn.‘
Refeyn’s first instruments were installed in Q4 2018 to early adopter customers in academia. Those, and many other customers, have published over 250 papers using the technology since. The vast majority of the world’s top pharmaceutical companies have also shown strong engagement, which now is responsible for a substantial proportion of Refeyn’s revenue. The EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account project has thus led to broad impacts through job creation, providing a new technology to researchers and pharmaceutical companies, and applications in diagnostics.
With headquarters in Oxford, UK as well as offices in the US, Refeyn is a growing, global company with a team of over 170 employees. The company and its first product, the OneMP, have received several awards and honours including: the 2019 Royal Society of Chemistry Emerging Technologies Competition Award, being featured first in The Scientist magazine’s Top 10 Innovations of 2019, an R&D 100 award (R&D World magazine, 2019), and the University of Oxford MPLS Division’s Commercial Impact Award (2020).
In general, UK companies are underrepresented as suppliers in the life sciences instrumentation market (<3% of global sales) with no major player being headquartered in the UK. Refeyn’s technology is putting the UK back onto the life sciences instrument map, and helping reinforce the UK’s reputation as a global hub for the life sciences.
Professor Philipp Kukura, Department of Chemistry, University of Oxford, said: ‘We are absolutely delighted to see the broad adoption of mass photometry across academia and industry, a technology that came to life only 5 years ago but has been shown to provide unique insights into bimolecular structure, interactions and dynamics.’
Philipp Kukura, Justin Benesch (University of Oxford)
Daniel Cole, Gavin Young (University of Oxford, now Refeyn)
Funders: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, European Research Council