Catalyst created for more Cambridge-US BioMedTech collaborations
The foundations have been laid for even greater collaboration between the BioMedTech communities of Cambridge UK and the US.
San Diego property powerhouse BioMed Realty and Babraham Bioscience Technologies plan to use a new alliance as a springboard for additional transatlantic initiatives.
The launchpad was BioMed @ Babraham, an event held to celebrate expansion of the Babraham Research Campus and the opportunity for more significant partnerships to drive growth through life science innovation on both sides of the Pond.
San Diego Congressman Scott Peters spelled out the two-way trade opportunities for the respective life science communities post-Brexit. He said regions must work together to establish their own links until international relationships sorted themselves out in a way that was trade friendly.
Given the current political climate on both sides of the Atlantic it was important that cities like his and Cambridge worked much more intentionally together.
“I’m a pro trade person,” he said. “I thought the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) and TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) would have been really helpful. That’s not going to be the backbone of this now; it’s going to be much more a case of intentionally working together.”
BioMed @ Babraham was arranged to celebrate the expansion of the Babraham Research Campus. BioMed Realty, which is already engineering major growth at Granta Park locally, is also now involved in new development at Babraham.
The Research Campus expansion will include two new buildings comprising 108,000 sq ft of lab and office facilities, allowing companies to scale up within the campus. It is a genuinely collaborative partnership between BBT, which develops and manages the campus, and BioMed Realty which itself is headquartered in San Diego and which entered the Cambridge market with the acquisition of Granta Park in 2012.
Babraham Research Campus currently houses some 60 scale-up and early stage life sciences enterprises alongside the world leading academic research from the Babraham Institute. The partnership incudes a £35 million investment in the campus by Biomed Realty. The buildings will be completed in the third quarter of 2019.
Introducing the partnership Derek Jones, chief executive of Babraham Bioscience Technologies, said: “One of the challenges we had as an organisation where we had supported early stage companies is that these young businesses hopefully grow.
“We’ve had a company here who came with six people and now have 180 and that’s provided challenges in terms of space because they want to remain on this campus and part of this community.”
The new UK-US collaboration was the result of two years of discussion with BioMed Realty about how the parties could make a relationship work, Jones said.
He added: “I’m delighted that after two years of discussion this is the result of that relationship. A very key point for us is you don’t have to be on campus to be part of the community and I hope over the next couple of years that the community will get bigger and stronger.”
Tim Schoen, CEO of BioMed Realty, said it was important to highlight that the partnership had been established post-Brexit.
“Our partnership shows we are continuing to build bridges – not walls – between our two biotech regions despite our current political environment.
“The most important reason for building BioMed@Babraham is connecting with the 60-plus scale-up companies here on the campus and the world-renowned researchers and resources of the Babraham Institute.
“The project is designed, built and managed to ensure research and business come together to promote innovation and strengthen links between academia and the commercial world.
“The shared passion of BBSRC and BioMed @ Babraham will continue to shrink the world and make Cambridge UK and the US closer together – just separated by a small stream.”
Sir Greg Winter, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, whose company Cambridge Antibody Technology was an early tenant of Babraham, said: “With tight purse strings we had no choice but to look for value for money premises such as offered by Babraham in those days.
“So Cambridge Antibody Technology started life on what I took to be an old goat shed – like a manger but with no wise men and no gold let alone frankincense and myrrh. But it was born.”
He said things had moved on at Babraham since. “Babraham no longer offers goat sheds for the value investor,” he said. “In fact startup companies are very decently accommodated. My latest company Bicycle Therapeutics has been based at Babraham for the last seven years and hopes to go into patients this year or early next.”
Cambridgeshire and Peterboough Mayor, James Palmer, said it was his job to make it easier for companies like those at Babraham to grow. “I’m prepared to be as inventive as possible to make sure we deliver for the future scientists and the future workers here at Babraham and, of course, in our other science parks across Cambridgeshire.
“Upscaling is one of the problems we have here, making sure businesses can go from these incubators to become the future AstraZenecas.”
One of his proposals was for a light railway and underground system for Cambridge, linking science parks to areas of housing growth.
“It seems the common sense thing to do, but we’ve not been not been able to do it before so my job is to make those physical changes to the infrastructure.
“It’s nice to to have a blank canvas and I also look forward to greater trade links with the US, for which our county is leading the way.”
• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Sir Greg Winter