Induction Day with Cambridge Life-Science Cluster Vanguards for Accelerate@Babraham 2019 Winners


The Babraham Research Campus has welcomed the second group of start-ups to its Accelerate@Babraham competition programme with a day of networking and a stellar cast of guest speakers.

After a challenging selection process and a highly competitive pitch contest, the five winning life science start-ups have begun their 2019 Accelerate@Babraham journey in great company, with a “boot camp” induction that included presentations and pep-talks from  Dr Andy Richards CBE, Dr Jane Osbourn OBE, Professor Tim Minshall and Professor Steve Jackson.

Derek Jones, CEO of Babraham Bioscience Technologies, which develops and manages the Campus opened the day with an upbeat introduction to the “micro-cluster” that is the Babraham Research Campus and its mission of be the best place in Europe to start-up and scale-up a life science business.

Derek congratulated the five companies for their hard work in getting to this point and said building relationships with each other will be one of the most important parts of this programme. He outlined his own beginnings at the Campus: “My first start-up company was based here, in an old, blue painted  shed,” and then fast forwarded to 2019 where he shared that Campus companies raised more than £300 million in investment last year, highlighting the achievements of those on Campus.

Derek said: “This isn’t a science park, it’s a Campus. It’s about community and connectivity. What we do here is build networks and we want you to be part of the relationships built here in this micro-cluster within the Cambridge Cluster.”

The Babraham Institute Director, Professor Michael Wakelam, gave an informative overview to the 2019 cohort of all the facilities available at the Institute and reinforced its commitment to training the next generation of scientists. He said there are currently 40 Campus companies who have collaborations with the Institute.

The professor’s advice to the room was to make the most of all the opportunities available, attend events and talk to everyone: “One of the collaborations I’m part of started on the treadmill in the Campus gym!”.

Michael added: “We encourage Institute scientists to collaborate with industry, particularly companies at the Babraham Research Campus.”

The morning session continued with a masterclass from two of Cambridge’s most prominent names in biotech, Dr Jane Osbourn OBE and Dr Andy Richards CBE.

Dr Osbourn, Chair of the Board of Directors of the BioIndustry Association with over 30 years’ experience in biologics discovery and development, and Dr Richards, an entrepreneur and active investor in more than 25 innovative healthcare and life science companies, shared their passions, experience and advice for more than an hour. They discussed the evolution of the Cambridge Cluster, the wider UK life science start-up community and the challenges and opportunities ahead.

After a networking lunch, Steve Jackson, Professor of Biology at the University of Cambridge and Head of Cancer Research UK Laboratories at the Gurdon Institute, gave a fascinating presentation on his 28 years running a lab in Cambridge and his start-up journey including setting up of KuDOS Pharmaceuticals  which was eventually sold to AstraZeneca. Professor Jackson has established another company Mission Therapeutics, here at the campus..

Professor Jackson’s pioneering research has provided us with many of the key principles by which cells respond to and repair DNA damage. He continued by describing the development of the ovarian and other anti-cancer drug Olaparib/Lynparza exploiting the concept of “synthetic-lethality” He explained how the most meaningful part of the process was meeting the first patient who had fully responded to the drug.

He encouraged the start-ups to be flexible and to be receptive to advice from investors as “they sometimes invest because the see a spark in someone”.

Steve added: “It’s never easy, nothing truly transformative is. The way you deal with adversity can be as important as some really cool data. And you have to listen to the science, even if it doesn’t tie in to your business plan.”

The inductees then received a crash course in the principles of innovation from Professor Tim Minshall from the Institute of Manufacturing at the University of Cambridge. He talked about the management challenges of open innovation and advised them to always practice meetings before you have the real meeting.

He also encouraged them to build social relationships with potential partners and the importance of this kind of interaction in addition to more formal conversations.

Tim said: “Building trust is important when it comes to your business development opportunities and discussing your intellectual property  and forming partnerships. Get trusted and experienced advice from the Babraham team!.”  

Jason Mellad and Silvia Baudone from Start Codon and Pierre Peotta from F-Star joined the meeting for the final session from One Nucleus’ Tony Jones.

Tony ended the day on a high with lots of positive facts and statistics about the Cambridge Cluster describing it as “a hot bed to develop companies, talent and people”.

His advice to the Accelerate@Babraham cohort was to not be shy and to leverage the networks around them: “rattle enough cages to find the answer to your questions”.

Tony wrapped up the day on an inspirational note: “The government’s international campaign to foster relations with the UK says, ‘Innovation is Great’. But why be great when you can be epic?”.

Tony added: “Cambridge is the pre-eminent place in the UK to start and manage a life science company.”