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17 March, 2020 - 17:36 By Tony Quested

Two startups share LifeArc ‘Accelerate’ Award

Two exciting start-up ventures shared the inaugural LifeArc ‘[email protected] Award’ – CC Bio and Reflection Therapeutics. Both are developing crucial innovation for our times.

Synthetic biology is changing the way we think about diagnosing and treating microbiome-based diseases: CC Bio is harnessing the power of synthetic biology to engineer the microbiome with surgical precision. 

With an holistic understanding of each microbiome-based condition, and by considering the lifestyle needs of patients, CC Bio is judged to be elevating this fundamental aspect of human health out of the antibiotic era – putting power back in the hands of the consumer. 

Reflection Therapeutics is harnessing anti-inflammatory cell therapies to treat neurodegeneration. Inflammation in the brain, known as neuroinflammation, contributes to our health by removing debris and pathogens. 

However, in ALS too much neuroinflammation can harm brain cells, including motor neurons which allow the brain to communicate with muscles. The systematic administration of moderate anti-inflammatory drugs has met with little success in reducing various types of neurodegeneration, leading to a hunt for potent and selective inhibitors of the brains immune system.

Regulatory T cells are white blood cells which release anti-inflammatory cytokines and act as a ‘brake’ for the immune system. These cells recognise our own tissues and prevent them from being attacked by the rest of the immune system.

When regulatory T cells fail to do this job, the result is a variety of auto-immune diseases. The targeted and potent suppression of the immune system by regulatory T cells will be harnessed by Reflection Therapeutics to protect motor neurons from attack in ALS.

Introduced by the Babraham Research Campus in 2018, the [email protected] initiative supports ambitious early stage life science ventures within the active campus community. 

As part of this initiative [email protected] is a competition specifically to support ideas and/or companies that are pre-seed to seed stage (below £500k investment). 

Each year, via a rigorous application and selection process, a handful of early stage life sciences enterprises are selected to take part in this bio-entrepreneurial programme.

In addition to a place on the programme, ventures also receive a non-diluted cash award, free lab and office space and proactive introductions to the campus’ global network, including mentoring and business support.

In December 2019, as part of its wider support of [email protected], medical charity LifeArc released an additional £10,000 from its funding of the programme in the form of a prize to be awarded to the venture which could evidence the most marked translation of its idea during the course of the programme.  

The winning venture was required to satisfy a number of criteria including, addressing a valuable patient need, the strategic development of staff and facilities (virtual or otherwise), demonstrating traction with commercial partners or investors and the prosecution of a market led Intellectual Property  strategy. LifeArc chose, on this occasion, to split the prize between CC Bio and Reflection Therapeutics.

David Holbrook, head of Seed Funds, LifeArc said: “I have been incredibly impressed with the calibre of the startups and the progress each has made during this second [email protected] programme. 

“It was no easy task to select who we felt had taken best advantage of the totality of the capabilities of this accelerator programme and who had really made headway in translating their science – and team – towards the next inflection point. CC Bio and Reflection Therapeutics were impossible to separate.”

Derek Jones, CEO, Babraham Bioscience Technologies, which develops and manages the Babraham Research Campus added: “I would like to congratulate all the start-ups who took part in our second [email protected] competition. 

“Their engagement with the process and progress throughout has been exceptional; it has been a pleasure to work with them and although the programme is now officially over, we will continue to support them in a variety of ways as they move forward.  

“One of our constant objectives with this programme is to continue to evolve what we offer, learning from the experiences of past cohorts. We know that giving our young ventures proactive access to our exceptional network of mentors and advisers and being able to help them get in front of potential investors and pharma partners is invaluable. 

“However, what we have learnt from this cohort is that the five -month programme is potentially not long enough when trying to combine all the benefits of access to the wider network whilst also trying to get those initial killer experiments done in the lab. Our job now, in consultation with our strategic partners, is to evolve and develop the programme further to ensure we are truly meeting the needs of future cohorts.”

Applications for the 2020/21 [email protected] programme are now invited. To find out more visit: babraham.com 

• PHOTOGRAPH: David Holbrook, head of Seed Funds at LifeArc, pictured centre with the co-winners, from left: Tim Newton and Ola Wlodek of Reflection Therapeutics; and Matt Cummings and David Corcoran of CC Bio.

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