Leading University of Cambridge scientists establish $100m investment fund to back ‘young, hungry entrepreneurs’

PUBLISHED: 11:34 08 September 2018 | UPDATED: 11:34 08 September 2018

Sir Gregory Winter, master of Trinity College, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Sir Gregory Winter, master of Trinity College, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

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Nobel Laureate Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, Trinity College master Sir Gregory Winter and Astrononomer Royal Lord Martin Rees among them

Sir Venki Ramakrishnan. Picture: MRC Laboratory of Molecular BiologySir Venki Ramakrishnan. Picture: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

Their combined inventions and technologies are valued today in excess of $100billion.

Now a group of the University of Cambridge’s leading entrepreneurs and scientists have launched a unique $100million fund to help build the next wave of billion-dollar companies, working at the intersection of deep tech and deep science to change the world for the better.

Nobel Laureate Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, Trinity College master and antibody pioneer Sir Gregory Winter, the head of the Cavendish Laboratory and CERN leader Professor Andy Parker and Astrononomer Royal Lord Martin Rees are among the founding and science partners of Ahren Limited Partners (LP).

Blue-chip institutions Aviva and Wittington Investments and iconic West and East Coast US family offices are among those to have committed $100 million to the fund, which will be focused on four areas: the brain and artificial intelligence, genetics and platform technologies, space and robotics, the planet and efficient energy technology.

The Astronomer Royal, Lord Martin Rees. Pictures: Sir CamThe Astronomer Royal, Lord Martin Rees. Pictures: Sir Cam

Alice Newcombe-Ellis, founder and CEO of Ahren Innovation Capital LLP, which was launched in 2017, said: “We take a fundamentally different approach to investing to achieve the results our investee company founders and Limited Partners deserve. Bringing together some of the greatest – and commercially proven – minds in deep tech/deep science and world-class investment talent, we develop relationships of trust with our entrepreneurs, empowering them to create transformative businesses and generate tremendous value.

“We were in a privileged position to be able to raise a substantial sum of money swiftly given the unique nature of the opportunity. We were able to select both financial and strategic LPs that add value to Ahren and have the potential to give our portfolio companies access to billions of consumers globally.”

Sir Venki, of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology and president of the Royal Society, added: “When you empower entrepreneurial scientists and technologists to change the world, and build valued relationships of trust between them and investors, you can create immense business and societal value. At Ahren, we are taking a modern Silicon Valley-style approach to engaging with entrepreneurs and incentivizing them to succeed.”

Another founding science partner Professor Zoubin Ghahramani, head of Machine Learning Group at Cambridge University, and another of the founding science partners, said: “Ahren invests in transformative companies with bold vision seeking – sometimes to create – enormous markets for their products and services.

“We back young and hungry, highly motivated entrepreneurs that want to win big. We firmly believe that this strategy will generate the strongest returns for Ahren’s LPs.”

Also among the founding science partners are:

■ Prof John Daugman, head of the artificial intelligence group of Cambridge University, inventor of IRIS (eye) recognition technology used to register 1.5 billion citizens worldwide.

■ Prof Zoubin Ghahramani, a world leader in machine learning and co-founder of Geometric Intelligence, which was sold to Uber.

■ Prof Steve Jackson, founder/co-founder of three companies and originator of Olaparib/Lynparza, recently partnered by AstraZeneca with Merck and valued as an asset at up to $17billion.

Ahren LP’s advisory commttee is chaired by Robert Swannell, also chairman of UK Government Investments.

Ahren Innovation Capital, based at the Bradfield Centre on Cambridge Science Park, led a $30million Series C funding round for Cambridge Epigenetix in April.

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