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23 June, 2020 - 07:09 By Tony Quested

Illumina unveils first Cambridge cohort for global genomics accelerator

Two Cambridge companies fly the flag for the UK cluster in the first global cohort of Illumina’s genomics accelerator.

Alchemab Therapeutics and Tailor Bio are among three companies that comprise the inaugural funding cycle of Illumina Accelerator Cambridge UK.

Four more companies will join as part of the 11th funding cycle in the San Francisco Bay Area where the initiative was established and has thrived. 

The global company creation engine, focused on partnering with entrepreneurs to build breakthrough genomics startups, announced its global expansion last year.

As Business Weekly reported then, it is the first time the venture has been taken outside Illumina’s US heartland with the American genomics giant choosing its Granta Park Cambridge campus as nervecentre for the initiative’s UK bow.

Due to lockdowns and travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, Illumina Accelerator kicked off both funding cycles digitally this month, bringing all seven startup companies together for the first time.

During two, six-month funding cycles per year, Illumina Accelerator provides selected startups with access to seed investment, and Illumina sequencing systems and reagents, as well as business guidance, genomics expertise and fully operational, newly refurbished lab space adjacent to Illumina’s campuses in Cambridge UK or the San Francisco Bay Area. 

The newest companies to join Illumina Accelerator’s portfolio of genomics startups are as follows – in Cambridge:-

  • Alchemab Therapeutics, an antibody therapeutics company exclusively featured in Business Weekly recently, which is harnessing the naturally protective power of patient antibodies to keep people free from hard-to-treat disease in a unique approach to drug discovery and development.
  • Neurolytic Healthcare, a diagnostics company from Oxford focused on delivering digital, genomics-driven diagnostics and personalised treatment recommendations for neurological conditions.
  • Tailor Bio, a Cambridge oncology diagnostics company spun out of Cancer Research UK-funded research, which is developing a proprietary precision oncology platform to identify patterns in tumour DNA to predict a patient’s response to cancer drugs.

And in the SF Bay Area:-

  • AarogyaAI Innovations Pvt., a diagnostics company from India which comprehensively diagnoses drug-resistance in tuberculosis rapidly, enabling the most effective therapies for patients.
  • MEDIC Life Sciences Inc., a drug discovery company in the Bay Area, which is building a pre-clinical testbed of millions of tumuor samples based on CRISPR and cancer organoids to enable personalised targeted therapies for cancer with maximised clinical success rates.
  • Pluton Biosciences, LLC, a microbial testing and discovery research company in St Louis, developing eco-friendly natural products mined from unique bacteria, fungi and viruses to replace synthetic chemical applications in agriculture and pest control.
  • WellSIM Biomedical Technologies, Inc., a tools company from the Bay Area, which is developing a high-throughput automated exosome processing instrument based on microfluidics allowing unparalleled isolation efficiency, purity and integrity for use in therapeutic and clinical diagnostics applications.

Amanda Cashin, co-founder and global head of Illumina Accelerator, said: “As we navigate the current global pandemic there is an even stronger urgency to create breakthrough genomics startups that will transform human health and beyond. 

“By opening our second location and partnering with seed stage capital investors, we are proud to invest in these transformative startups to push the boundaries of where genomics can go.”

Illumina Accelerator has partnered with First In Ventures to provide convertible notes for the incoming startups in the US and UK. Wing Venture Capital will continue its support in providing convertible notes in the US and Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority will support the companies in the UK. 

Paula Dowdy, Illumina’s senior vice-president and general manager, EMEA, said: “We believe the startups selected have great potential to expand the genomics ecosystem and deliver new and important applications to market.
“The UK is a leader in genomics research and we’re delighted to locate the extension of Illumina Accelerator at our new campus in Cambridge.”

Illumina Accelerator is the world’s first business accelerator focused solely on creating an innovation ecosystem for the genomics industry.

Since launching in 2014, Illumina Accelerator has invested in 45 genomics startups from across the globe, which have collectively raised approximately $400 million in venture capital funding.

Applications are being accepted for the next global funding cycle. These are due by August 1, 2020. Up to five companies will be chosen in each location. To apply, visit illumina.com/science/accelerator.html

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