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23 April, 2019 - 11:06 By Tony Quested

New Cambridge powerhouse pledges millions to accelerate life science startups

A new Cambridge powerhouse formed by top life science entrepreneurs and enterprises is launched today that could see up to £12.5 million pumped into scaling the UK cluster’s most promising bio startups in the next five years.
Start Codon pledges to propel 50 startups to the brink of crucial Series A rounds. 

It will invest up to £250k into each of 50 startups in the initial five-year window – and it will incubate these rising stars in office and lab space at the Milner Therapeutics Institute; experienced mentors will be deployed to maximise opportunities.

Start Codon’s vision is to provide a much-needed world-class life science accelerator that offers significant funding and support to rapidly translate the most disruptive and innovative research into successful start-up companies.

Founding investors include Cambridge Innovation Capital, Babraham Research Campus through Babraham Bioscience Technologies, Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, Dr Jonathan Milner and Dr Ian Tomlinson. The venture is now accepting applications. Early stage start-up companies in the life sciences and healthcare space are invited to apply via startcodon.co .

Start Codon’s executive team will be led by Dr Jason Mellad, previously CEO of Cambridge Epigenetix, which he transformed into a liquid biopsy diagnostic development firm via obtaining broad and exclusive patent rights to the use of epigenetic biomarker 5hmC in cancer diagnostics and leading a successful Series C fundraise of c.$30m. 

Mellad brings over a decade of experience in product development and commercialisation, building and managing cross-disciplinary teams, intellectual property protection and exploitation, and closing deals with strategic biotech and pharma partners. 

Dr Ian Tomlinson has been appointed chairman. He is also chair of Apollo Therapeutics and the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst and has over 25 years of experience in the life sciences sector from academic research to biotech startup to big pharma. 

He founded Domantis Limited with Sir Gregory Winter, which was acquired by GSK in 2006 for $454 million. He then served as senior VP, head of Worldwide Business Development and head of Biopharm R & D at GSK. 

Dr Mellad and Dr Tomlinson will be joined by Michael Anstey of Cambridge Innovation Capital, Jo Parfrey and Jonathan Milner as directors. Dr Mellad said: “Our ambition is to provide life science and healthcare companies with a unique combination of funding, facilities, mentoring and support to fast track their development and success. 

“We are selecting the most exciting pre-Series A companies from around the world, and bringing them to Cambridge, helping to solidify the region’s position as a leading global cluster.”

Dr Michael Anstey, investment director at Cambridge Innovation Capital, added: “Cambridge is the best place in Europe to build a life science business. 

“Start Codon will bring together all the key elements here, to enable emerging companies to rapidly embark on their growth journey. We are proud to have been part of the Start Codon initiative from inception and we are excited to support the world class businesses that will emerge from its programme in the future. 

“The Cambridge ecosystem has already created over a dozen billion-pound businesses and we see Start Codon as an important facilitator in creating more such successes.”

Jonathan Milner believes this is the dawn of a new golden era for Cambridge life science innovators. He said: “Start Codon’s innovative supercharged model will establish nurture and spin out the next generation of world-class healthcare companies that will positively impact all our lives.

“I am super thrilled to be working with such an esteemed and experienced set of stakeholders to guarantee the success of Start Codon. We look forward to enabling the next generation of Cambridge healthcare unicorns.”

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