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Rich by degrees, student start-up sells for £622m

Studies pay off: Harry Destecroix PICTURE: SWNS

A FORMER PhD student is set to become one of Britain’s richest men after a company he helped start at university was sold for £622million.

Harry Destecroix, 31, is part of the team behind Ziylo, which has pioneered a new way of treating and managing diabetes.

Now Novo Nordisk, the world’s biggest maker of diabetes drugs, has agreed to pay $800million for the firm, a spin-off from Bristol university.

That’s where Dr Destecroix was finishing his doctorate in chemistry four years ago when he became co-founder and chief executive of Ziylo.

The firm has developed synthetic molecules that bind to glucose in the bloodstream to help diabetics control their condition. They eliminate the risk of hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar, which can ultimately prove fatal.

Dr Destecroix said: ‘Novo Nordisk, as the leader in the diabetes field, is the ideal company to maximise the potential of the Ziylo’s glucose-binding molecules in glucose responsive insulins and diabetes applications, and it brings hope of a truly ground-breaking treatment to diabetes patients.’ Danish-based Novo Nordisk could start clinical trials within three years, he said.

The glucose-binding molecules were designed by Anthony Davis, professor of supramolecular chemistry at the university, and co-founder of Ziylo. The team he led received £2million of funds from investors and government grants since Ziylo was formed in 2014.

Marcus Schindler, of Novo Nordisk, said the technology had the potential to ‘remove the risk of hypoglycaemia and ensure optimal glucose control for people with diabetes’.