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6 September, 2021 - 00:01 By Tony Quested

Oxford2Cambridge Arc companies lead UK venture capital spree

Companies based in the Oxford2Cambridge Arc – notably in the life sciences and DeepTech sectors – led the way for venture capital investment into UK businesses in the first half of 2021.

The power of the corridor was demonstrated in research from Bidwells, which provided the Oxford numbers, fortified by figures for Cambridge mined by Business Weekly. They were 1 and 2 in the UK for VC backing.

The stats show that companies in Oxford and Cambridge raised a combined $3.1 billion in VC investment from January to end-June 2021. The global significance of the respective technologies and potential global worth are a matter for a future article.

Oxford companies – principally life science plays – raised c$1.8bn and Cambridge counterparts £1.3bn. This is purely VC funding: Cambridge businesses raised considerably more through transatlantic IPOs, acquisitions and other deals.

Bidwells reported that the most prominent venture capital raising in Oxford was by Exscientia which secured $225 million along with an additional $300m equity commitment.

Finding faster and smarter ways to discover new and better drugs is what drives Exscientia and it is doing so by actively applying AI to precision engineer medicines more rapidly and efficiently.

The Cambridge venture capital total came from 25 fundraising rounds.

2021 started with a financial fusilade of VC investment into Cambridge companies, notably $20 million for Riverlane which is pioneering ground-breaking software to unleash the power of quantum computers.

Wren Therapeutics, which is spearheading a fundamentally new approach to drug discovery for protein misfolding diseases, winged in by netting $17m growth capital.

Also in January, Xampla – which provides natural alternatives to single-use plastic – raised $8.47m and Turbine.ai, which is simulating cellular decision making to unlock novel oncology therapies, secured $6.85m.

The Cambridge figures were bolstered by a $35m second close for Inivata in February, backed by Acacia Pharma’s $27m success and a $10m raise by Nyobolt, which is a global leader in the new category of sustainable super high-power batteries.

Eliem Therapeutics, which has just floated with phenomenal success on NASDAQ, raised $80m in March which roared in like a lion for Cambridge S & T businesses.

Stablemates PhoreMost raised $46m and NeoPhore $15.2m in other significant VC-led rounds.

There were vital contributions to the total figure from rounds raised by FocalPoint Positioning, Dunad Therapeutics, Mestag Therapeutics, iKVA and HexagonFab.

The Cambridge haul took on wings as surgical robotics pioneer CMR Surgical raised $600m. Apollo Therapeutics was also stellar with a $145m raise while Eliem ($60m) showed its enduring allure. Young but in-demand life science company Alchemab showed its class with an $82m round.

Sense Biodetection ($50m), Agile Analog ($19m), Darrin Disley’s Mogrify ($17m), Transine Therapeutics ($12.43m), Phico Therapeutics ( $9.56m) and Foundries.io ($8m) ensured Cambridge closed a significant first half in terms of VC cash backing.

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