15 Jun 2024

Light-activated chemotherapy for cancer treatment

Lab scientist at LightOx

A medtech innovator has announced it has accelerated its R&D and manufacture of its groundbreaking cancer treatment, after funding from Innovate UK’s Analysis for Innovators (A4I) programmeLightOx, based in Newcastle, says it has developed a UK-first solution for early-stage mouth cancers using light-activated chemotherapy.

The treatment involves a gel being applied to the affected area and the drug activated with light. It is undergoing preclinical testing, is quick, simple and non-invasive with fewer side effects than surgery and significantly improves the overall patient experience.

Through Analysis for Innovators (A4I), a grant funding programme run by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, LightOx was able to access expertise and an unparalleled range of state-of-the-art laser technology at Central Laser Facility (CLF), an institution of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (SFTC), near Oxford.

As a result, the company says it has been able to further explore the potential design and manufacturer of its solution, which has the potential to revolutionise light-based therapeutic markets globally.

Simon Yarwood, Knowledge Transfer Manager – Industrial Technologies, A4I, said: “The main mission of A4I is to allow companies to ramp up their productivity and competitiveness by solving hard technical analysis problems. We introduce them to some unique partner organisations that have world class skills and cutting-edge facilities.

“The programme provided funded access to cutting-edge R&D and expertise to accelerate LightOx’s capacity to raise the bar on every aspect of the operations and product development. We are seeing many similar success stories along the same lines with innovators across the UK in fields of biomanufacturing and manufacturing across sectors.”

Prof. Carrie Ambler, Chief Scientific Officer at LightOx, said: “Our new technologies fundamentally change the way in which light-based therapies are delivered to the patient.

“When one of our customers demonstrated our compounds were capable of something called two photon absorption 1, we had neither the equipment nor expertise to be able to study that exciting process. But with the help of CLF, we gained new insights into how to further develop these products, how to make them better, how to make them different and most importantly – how to make them more suited for different applications.

“The A4I partnership has empowered us to transform our business and enabled us to look at problems and develop solutions in a new way.”

The scientists at CLF collaborated with LightOx to bring different backgrounds and knowledge towards a common cause – to improve on the product. CLF enabled LightOx to capture new measurements, something that was not possible without the specialist equipment.

Prof. Ambler added: “The collaboration with A4I and CLF helped us characterise the photo-physical properties of our products on market. This information yielded new product applications that we can share with our customers as well as opening new commercial avenues.”


[1] Two photon absorption is when a material absorbs the combined energy of two photons of light, resulting in unique effects and applications.