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6 August, 2018 - 14:25 By Kate Sweeney

Patient approach is working for Cambridge DeepTech plays

CIC Victor Christou

Deep technology companies in the Cambridge cluster have benefited from over £32 million of investment from Cambridge Innovation Capital plc (CIC) over the last 12 months. The funding is building ambition in the cluster.

CIC provides both patient capital and related support from seasoned tech and healthcare entrepreneurs, allowing companies with disruptive technologies the time to develop their businesses in a way that can optimise their long-term value. 

This strategy is helping the region to retain its innovative companies, allowing them to scale rapidly to meet the needs of international markets. 

Victor Christou (pictured), the chief executive officer of CIC, comments: “The companies in our portfolio are pioneering new technologies that may ultimately result in new industry sectors. They need space and time to experiment with different approaches and to refine their offerings with customers and partners. 

“We are beginning to see the fruits of our approach, with many companies in the portfolio starting to commercialise their offerings from a UK base.”

Companies in CIC’s portfolio include: PROWLER.io, which was only established in 2017 and recently brought to market its VUKU artificial intelligence platform; medical robotics company CMR Surgical, which over three years has raised nearly £150 million to develop its Versius® system for planned commercialisation; Cytora, which uses AI to improve risk assessment in the commercial insurance market and has gained support from leading insurance companies for its disruptive approach; Microbiotica, which is understanding microbiome biology and its use in medicine, and Origami Energy, which is facilitating the growth of a smart grid and has signed agreements with several leading energy suppliers. 

Avoiding ‘valley of death’

Long term support provided by CIC allows companies to scale. CIC typically supports its portfolio companies through several rounds of funding, helping them as they grow to avoid the ‘valley of death’ – the point of no return from which many new ideas going through the innovation process fail to progress. A lack of follow-on funding can lead to the premature sale of companies with promising technologies. 

CIC’s team includes many seasoned entrepreneurs and academics that understand the challenges facing knowledge-rich companies. CIC and its network provide not just funding but also a source of contacts and expertise to support rapid growth.

Greg Winter’s Bicycle Therapeutics going for gold

Christou says this strategy is working and gives the example of Bicycle Therapeutics, which is offering a radically new type of therapeutic (named Bicycles®) that combines the specificity of an antibody with the nimbleness of a small molecule.

He says: “Bicycle Therapeutics’ unique intellectual property is based on the work initiated at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology by the scientific founders of the company, Sir Gregory Winter and Professor Christian Heinis. Previous work by Greg led to the development of Humira, the world-leading anti-arthritis drug, and he now sits on the advisory board of CIC. 

“Bicycles® offer another step change in drug development. Unlike an antibody they are small enough to reach within solid tumours, but they also have the benefit of selectively delivering toxin only to the diseased tissue. In addition, Bicycles® are efficiently cleared from the body by the kidneys akin to a small molecule drug. 

“This is a major breakthrough and we are keen to ensure the company has time to develop its potential in the Cambridge cluster.” 

With the support of CIC, Bicycle Therapeutics raised £40 million in a Series B round and the company is making rapid progress with its lead programme, BT1718, which is now in clinical trials and partnerships have been signed with AstraZeneca, Bioverativ and Thrombogenics.

Christou says: “We are seeing deep tech entrepreneurs with bigger ambitions attracting global interest. This is creating inward investment into the region, showing how innovation contributes to the economy.”

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