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5 December, 2016 - 11:39 By Tony Quested

Search escalates for Life Science Innovation Award champion

Jane Osbourn MedImmune

AstraZeneca and its biologics division MedImmune are sponsoring the Life Science Innovation category of the Business Weekly Awards for the third successive year – another chance for our burgeoning biotechnology community to show how far it has progressed internationally.

The Award holds up a mirror to the quality of the East of England cluster and One Nucleus chief executive Harriet Fear, a life sciences adviser to the UK government, is again among the judges along with Shaun Grady of AstraZeneca and MedImmune’s Jane Osbourn (pictured above).

Life science businesses came relatively late to the party in the Business Weekly Awards with Essex pharmaceutical supplier Waymade Healthcare the first winner in 1998. Now we can boast that six Business of the Year titles have been won by companies in our sector – two of them by Horizon Discovery. Five of those titles have been won in the last 14 years.

Acambis was the first pure-breed biotech to take the Business of the Year crown – in 2002. The Award followed its appointment by the US government to create a vaccine against the threat of a potential weaponised smallpox attack by terrorists in the wake of 9/11.

Acambis went on to be sold for $546 million to Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of quoted French company Sanofi-Aventis. Cambridge Antibody Technology won the Business of the Year Award in 2005 and was soon to be acquired by AstraZeneca in a deal valuing the business at $1.3 billion.

Just four years later and the ‘Apple of antibodies,’ – Abcam – stepped up to win the title and has just announced plans to build a new 100,000 sq ft headquarters at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, where it will be a neighbour to AstraZeneca.

Two years later – 2011 – and Darrin Disley’s fast growing personalised medicines business, Horizon Discovery won the first of its two Business of the Year accolades. As it blossomed into a world-renowned gene editing powerhouse, Horizon won again in 2014 and in March of this year received the new Cambridge Torchbearer prize in the Awards – acknowledging Dr Disley’s role as a business builder in his own right and as a mentor to young biotechs.

Horizon is in the process of doubling its footprint at its Cambridge Research Park HQ as it explores further expansion in the US and Asia.

The two inaugural Life Science Innovation Awards sponsored by AstraZeneca and MedImmune have been won by MISSION Therapeutics and Owlstone Medical.

In February 2016, MISSION Therapeutics raised $86.37 million  in fresh money – taking its funding haul to date past the $125m mark. MISSION is another success for Professor Steve Jackson’s Cambridge team and focuses on selectively targeting deubiquitylating enzymes to treat cancer, neurodegenerative and other diseases.

Incidentally, AstraZeneca is predicting $2 billion a year sales for Lynparza – the first approved medicine in a comprehensive pipeline of compounds AZ is developing targeted at the DNA Damage Repair (DDR). The core IP emanated from discoveries made by Professor Jackson’s Cancer Research UK-funded lab.

Owlstone Medical has invented a breathalyser diagnostic device for early detection of cancer, asthma and other diseases and conditions. Since winning the Life Science Innovation Award in March, Owlstone has raised $7 million to scale its technology and headcount from its Cambridge base.

If your company has a good story to tell then the Life Science Innovation Award could be your route to fresh success. You can enter the awards at – the closing date for entries is 11.59pm on December 12, 2016.

The winners will be announced at an invitation-only presentation dinner at Queens’ College, Cambridge on Wednesday March 22, 2017.

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