A £2 MILLION investment has been made in an edge-of-science York company, whose research is helping to speed up drug development.

Xceleron Ltd, a University of York spin-out venture in the Biocentre at York Science Park, has received the backing from Close Venture Management and Foursome Investments to help it provide specialist contract research services to the pharmaceutical industry.

Professor Colin Garner, Xceleron's chief executive, pioneered the use of an Accelerator Mass Spectometry (AMS) facility.

The AMS is a 20-ton nuclear physics-based instrument which took two years and £2.75 million to build at the Government's Central Science Laboratory at Sand Hutton, York.

Tiny doses of experimental drugs are given to volunteers whose blood is then analysed by the machine which, by generating millions of volts, can measure isotopes atom by atom. The process speeds up by a year to 18 months the drug development process from idea to brand name, which otherwise would take between ten and 12 years.

The latest cash injection demonstrates the University of York's growing success in encouraging innovation and support for science-based and high technology businesses.

Xceleron is one of 17 spin-out companies established through the university, as part of the expansion of regional clusters of digital, chemical and bioscience industries.

Simon Newton, the head of the university's enterprise and innovation office, said: "This new investment is a clear demonstration of the way the university's research expertise is being translated into strong and effective businesses.

"The university has a core team of business development managers with industry experience to further develop the commercial opportunities from its world class research."

Graham Gilbert, the university's director of finance, said: "This funding is an important step for the company and also marks a key moment in the university's drive to use its research power to support innovation and economic growth.

"We are delighted to have Close and Foursome alongside us in this venture and hope to see more of such collaborations in the future."

The £2 million will be used by Xceleron to upgrade its AMS machine, increase the efficiency of its laboratory processes and finance the expansion of its sales activities.

Prof Garner said: "I am very excited about the future for Xceleron and, working with Close and Foursome, we aim to reinforce our position as the leading provider of AMS services to the drug development industry."

Ed Lascelles, of Close Venture Management, said: "There is significant pressure within the pharmaceutical industry to improve and accelerate drug development. Xceleron's novel approach is one way to do just this.

"We are delighted to have the opportunity to support a high quality management team in a niche industry with such potential."

Updated: 11:18 Wednesday, April 27, 2005