The Babraham Research Campus reinforced its position as the preferred location for early-stage and scale-up companies at the forefront of life science innovation with the 10thBabraham Investor Conference (BIC) on Wednesday, May 15th; drawing a record 170 delegates to the campus’ conference centre in the Cambridge Building, all eager to hear from start-ups and scale-ups in the sector.
Derek Jones, Chief Executive of Babraham Bioscience Technologies, which manages and develops the Babraham Research Campus, opened proceedings with an overview of the Campus and its vision - to be the best place in Europe to start-up and scale-up a life science business. With over £300m investment raised by commercial companies on Campus in the last year and a total of around £1.2bn invested over the last 10 years the figures certainly support this ambition.
Derek said: “Providing appropriate space for ventures to start, develop and grow is just part of what we do. More important is the role of the campus in bringing together a community and network which provides mentoring, expertise and a level of support that you don’t easily get anywhere else, and an ability to access space from a bench to a building – develop a concept to company - on this single site.”
Derek then handed over to Anne Dobrée, Head of Seed Funds for Cambridge Enterprise.
Highlighting the Cambridge Enterprise Seed Fund’s success since its inception 20 years ago - £8m is now £32m in assets – Anne also stressed the importance of impact as a measure of success, saying:
“Our primary goal has been impact - to ensure that great ideas are put to use, for everyone’s benefit. Our aim is to support and nurture University spin-out companies. Cambridge research is world leading, Cambridge technology is world leading and our role, in addition to providing finance, is to work together with founders to build great companies.”
She added: “Cambridge is a world leading ecosystem for life sciences and the Babraham Research Campus is the heart of that ecosystem. The campus’ facilities, the support offered and the community that Babraham has built around it provides the perfect environment for success.”
Looking to the future
Delegates got a glimpse of what the future holds for med-tech with elevator pitches from early-stage companies, Amiri Health, ConcR, Spirea and Pentail Enzymes. All are looking to make their mark on the world whether by changing the way we detect cancer, developing software to predict treatment resistance in specific patients, sending drug payloads direct to a tumour or using multi-ethnic genome data to determine which populations would benefit from which medication.
The audience also had presentations from the 2018 inaugural winners of the Accelerate@Babraham competition – Antiverse, Kalium Diagnostics, Qkine, Oppilotech and VisusNano, demonstrating the progress they have made in defining their business and developing their science.
Catherine Elton, Chief Executive of Qkine, said her company was very appreciative of the support of the programme: “It’s been a fantastic experience, allowing us to take a step back and look at our business model, including our growth strategy. It has been a fantastic journey so far and mentors have been generous with their time and advice.”
The Babraham Research Campus: A genuine asset for the UK life sciences industry and ecosystem
The afternoon session gave a selection of more established companies the floor. Ablatus Therapeutics, RowAnalytics, Mursla, SomaNautix, Censo Biotechnologies, Microbiotica, F-Star, PredictImmune and Inivata detailed their journeys to date and took questions from the audience focused on further development plans and activities.
Across the day, elevator and company presentations were quick to highlight the fact that their innovations will create new products and therapies, improve patient outcomes, increase efficacy and, in many cases, reduce cost to the NHS. One of the keynote speakers, Tamsin Berry, Director of the Office for Life Sciences, detailed the importance of the life science industry to the UK and its financial impact, as well as the vision to bring innovation and technology into the NHS faster.
As the most productive sector in the UK economy and the largest life science cluster outside the US, the UK is already in a strong position. The vision of the life sciences strategy set out by the UK Government included further strengthening of the UK science base to support higher risk science; enhancement of clinical trials and translational science and facilitation of the scaling of innovative companies, as well as improving the adoption of innovation in the NHS.
Commenting on the impact the Babraham Research Campus has within the life sciences sector Tamsin said: “When you start to travel around the UK you realise there are some real clusters of amazing innovation and amazing science bringing everything together and the Babraham Research Campus is one of those places.
“Every time I come here I meet new exciting companies, see new facilities being used and speak to people at the forefront of science. The Babraham Research Campus is a genuine asset for the UK life sciences industry and ecosystem.”
Great science = great medicines: Is it really that simple?
Dr Ian Tomlinson, CEO, Apollo Therapeutics shared his views on the challenge to turn great science into great medicine and more specifically the need to evolve away from the traditional investment model - where the return on investment is getting more challenging. A collaborative venture between three world-leading UK universities (Imperial College London, University College London and the University of Cambridge) and three global pharmaceutical companies (AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson Innovation) Apollo Therapeutics’ role is to bridge the gap between academia, biotech and pharma, providing committed translational funding and drug discovery expertise for novel therapeutics, sourced from the best of British academic research, accelerating treatments towards the clinic.
Strong themes emerged throughout the day amongst those looking for investment, including personalised medicine, cancer (with many of the innovations looking at less invasive ways to treat or detect it) and the use of artificial intelligence and big data sets to get to the heart of disease with a view to providing tailored treatments.
Accelerate@Babraham 2019 Start-ups Competition Final
The day concluded with the 2019 Accelerate@Babraham Start-ups Competition which gives selected ventures a five-month programme of lab access, mentoring and workshops as well as £10,000 non-dilutive funding.
The winners were announced following each finalists’ five-minute pitch and Q&A in front of six judges and an audience of over 100, who also had the opportunity to vote for their preferred venture.
One of the judges and keen supporter of the programme, Dr Jane Osbourn, VP R&D at AstraZeneca and Chair of the BioIndustry Association said:
“The quality of all the pitches has been excellent and I think we have a strong cohort once again to build on the Babraham Research Campus community. It’s a mutually supportive community and it was particularly satisfying to see last year’s winning cohort present with such skill and enthusiasm earlier today. The fact they’ve obviously benefited from being part of the programme last year really shone through.”
The five winning ventures, covering the fields of new therapeutics, new diagnostics, and manufacturing innovations who will begin their Accelerate@Babraham journey in September are CC Bio, Reflection Therapeutics, MicrofluidX, Shift Bioscience and TroMega Therapeutics.
As Head of Seed Funds at Cambridge Enterprise, Anne has overseen strong growth in our investment activities, with Seed Funds investing over £5 million each year in young companies.
Dr Ian Tomlinson is Chairman of the Board of the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, Chairman of the Investment Committee of Apollo Therapeutics and is a member of the Major Awards Committee for the UK governments BioMedical Catalyst funding scheme.
Tamsin has recently taken over as the Director of the Office for Life Sciences, a joint unit part of the Department of Health and Social care and the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy.
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