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New biotech accelerator launched in Cambridge, UK

Start Codon aims to invest in 50 start-up companies over the next five years

Cambridge biocampus

Start Codon will tap into Cambridge's world-class life sciences cluster, in which the new Biomedical Campus is one of the key sites

A new strategic initiative aimed at helping foster a new generation of biotech, life science and health tech companies from Cambridge, UK, has been unveiled.

Start Codon – taking its name appropriately from a key messenger RNA (mRNA) sequence - will identify and recruit high potential companies from across the UK and beyond, drawing on the world-class resources of Cambridge’s life sciences cluster to propel them towards a Series A fundraising.

The accelerator says it will be the first in the Cambridge cluster to provide life science start-ups with significant investment, which it claims could reach up to £250,000 ($325,000).

Most UK and European life science start-ups attract a fraction of this total, and generally raise much less start-up capital than US biotechs, one of the factors that holds them back from more rapid development.

Start Codon will have a full-time dedicated team of experienced and active mentors, and office and lab space, to be located at the Milner Therapeutics Institute, part of the new life sciences campus in central Cambridge where AstraZeneca, Cancer Research UK and other leading research organisations are based.

Start Codon says it plans to invest in and support up to 50 start-up companies over the next five years.

The first five companies to take part in the initiative are now being recruited. Start Codon says it is looking for companies with disruptive innovations which can revolutionise healthcare, with platform technologies underpinned by strong intellectual property, with a particular emphasis on novel therapeutics, diagnostics, medtech and digital health.

The new venture will be led by Dr Jason Mellad, previously CEO of liquid biopsy company Cambridge Epigenetix, while Dr Ian Tomlinson will serve as its chairman.

Dr Tomlinson is also chairman of Apollo Therapeutics and the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst. He is best known for founding Domantis with Sir Gregory Winter, which was acquired by GSK in 2006 for $454m, then becoming a senior VP of business development at GSK.

Keystone investors in the venture include Cambridge Innovation Capital, Babraham Bioscience Technologies, Genentech (Roche’s biotech arm), Dr Ian Tomlinson and Dr Jonathan Milner, co-founder and deputy chairman of antibody research specialists Abcam.

Jason Mellad

Dr Jason Mellad

Dr Jason Mellad, CEO Start Codon, said: “Our ambition is to provide life science and healthcare companies with a unique combination of funding, facilities, mentoring and support to fast track their development and success. We are selecting the most exciting pre-Series A companies from around the world, and bringing them to Cambridge, helping to solidify the region’s position as a leading global cluster.”

Dr James Sabry, global head of pharma partnering, Roche, said: “We’re very pleased to support Start Codon in harnessing the best research from the region and fostering healthcare innovation at its earliest stages. We believe some of the most cutting-edge science in the world is happening in Cambridge, and this investment builds on our commitment to driving scientific advances within the UK and globally.”

Jonathan Milner

Dr Jonathan Milner

“In this golden age of biology, Cambridge stands out as the world’s centre for healthcare innovation and translation,” says Dr Jonathan Milner, co-founder and deputy chairman of Abcam.

“Start Codon’s innovative supercharged model will establish nurture and spin out the next generation of world class healthcare companies that will positively impact all our lives. I am super thrilled to be working with such an esteemed and experienced set of stakeholders to guarantee the success of Start Codon. We look forward to enabling the next generation of Cambridge healthcare unicorns.”

Article by
Andrew McConaghie

23rd April 2019

From: Research

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