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28 June, 2022 - 13:37 By Tony Quested

Cambridge payback as Illumina invests in £30m genomics venture fund

US genomics giant Illumina is injecting cash into a new £30 million fund that promises a huge payback for startups hooked into the company’s Cambridge Accelerator.

The Time Boost Capital I LP fund is dedicated to providing match funding to startups graduating from Illumina Accelerator Cambridge with the aim of advancing breakthroughs in human health. 

Illumina Accelerator, located in both San Francisco and Cambridge, is a company creation engine that partners with entrepreneurs to create genomics startups and advance innovative applications. 

Illumina joins a select group of US and European investors in the life sciences fund, including cornerstone investor LifeArc. 

Since opening in July 2020, Illumina Accelerator Cambridge has launched 13 startups focused on harnessing genomics applications to improve human health, including novel therapeutics, diagnostics, synthetic biology, research tools, and agriculture. 

Some 54 per cent of Illumina Accelerator Cambridge startups have been founded by women – by comparison, in 2020, only 20 per cent of all new startups over the previous year had female founders, according to CrunchBase. 

Amanda Cashin, cofounder and global head of Illumina for Startups, said: “Time Boost Capital Fund will further propel our Illumina Accelerator Cambridge startups and advance our mission to improve human health by unlocking the power of the genome. 

“Cambridge is a leading global hub for life science innovation and entrepreneurship and this dedicated venture fund will attract the most exceptional entrepreneurs from across the globe.”

Time Boost Capital’s £30m in capital commitments from select US and European investors include a £10m investment from LifeArc, a leading UK independent medical research charity as well as money from Illumina Ventures – an independent fund investing in genomics and precision health. 

Time Boost Capital will provide pound-for-pound match funding to every Illumina Accelerator Cambridge graduate that secures between £500,000 and £4m in new capital from qualified investors within 18 months of acceptance. The fund is advised by Time Partners, a private markets investment adviser focused on long-term investment solutions. 

Mark Florman, CEO of Time Partners Limited, said: “We are proud to partner with Illumina, a global leader in next-generation sequencing technologies. Illumina is making a significant commitment to supporting new growth in the field through Illumina Accelerator. 

“As an investment adviser to Time Boost Capital, we have the unique opportunity to back some of the most promising new genomics businesses in the world.”

During two 6-month funding cycles each year, Illumina Accelerator provides selected startups with access to seed investment, Illumina sequencing systems and reagents, business guidance, genomics expertise plus fully operational lab space adjacent to Illumina’s campuses in Cambridge and the San Francisco Bay Area. 

“Illumina Accelerator’s track record in building breakthrough genomics startups is unparalleled,” said Alex Aravanis, chief technology officer of Illumina. 

“The partnership with Time Partners to provide match funding to our graduates of Illumina Accelerator Cambridge will further advance innovative genomic discoveries that will benefit people around the world.”

Illumina Accelerator Cambridge alumni include Alchemab Therapeutics, a therapeutics company pioneering the next generation of antibody drugs, which successfully raised £60m in series A funding upon graduation. 

Another alumni is recent graduate Broken String Biosciences Ltd., a sequencing tools company focused on assessing the stability of the genome, which secured £3m in seed funding.

Illumina Accelerator is accepting applications for the next global funding cycle, which are due by October 1, 2022. Through a single, global application process, Illumina Accelerator will select up to five companies in each location.

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