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16 November, 2020 - 10:49 By Tony Quested

Novartis backs new $20m Start Codon fund to nurture life science startups

Swiss pharmaceutical behemoth Novartis International has joined Cambridge Innovation Capital in backing a new $20 million fund to boost life science startups.

Start Codon, a life science and healthcare business accelerator based in Cambridge UK is driving the scale-up initiative.

It has closed Start Codon Fund I LP to support its offering to startups, which includes a minimum of £250K seed funding, business support services, expert guidance, and access to cutting-edge office and lab facilities.

As well as investing in the new fund, Novartis will work with Start Codon and its founders to select exceptional technologies and entrepreneurs to join the Cambridge business acceleration programme.

This aims to translate early-stage research into successful companies, ready for funding and partnership. Novartis will also provide support and mentoring to the founders of the startups and opportunities for partnering as their research evolves.

Founded in 2019 with investment and support from Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, Cambridge Innovation Capital, the Babraham Research Campus through Babraham Bioscience Technologies, Dr Jonathan Milner and Dr Ian Tomlinson, Start Codon plans to invest in and support up to 50 startup companies over the next five years. Start Codon showcased its first cohort of companies in June and recently enrolled its second cohort.

Dr Michael Anstey, partner at Cambridge Innovation Capital, said: “This venture fund will provide start-ups with the opportunity to kick start their development and will bring novel and innovative ideas to commercialisation. 

“We are delighted to have supported Start Codon since its inception and are excited to see it act as an important facilitator in creating success in Cambridge and throughout the UK.”

Dr Jason Mellad, co-founder and CEO at Start Codon, added: “This venture fund is part of our strategy to provide our entrepreneurs with the funding they need for startup costs, such as in-licencing of IP, recruitment, and proof of concept studies. 

“In addition, we provide the opportunity to network and learn from the most successful industry leaders in our sector. With both Genentech and Novartis on board to support our cohort companies in their development, and potentially provide opportunities for commercial partnerships in the future, we are extremely well-positioned to nurture and commercialise the next generation of world-class healthcare companies, which we hope will positively impact many patient’s lives.”

• Start Codon is now accepting applications for its next cohort of companies and early stage startups in the life sciences and healthcare space are invited to apply via

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