Cheers! Old pals seal a £35million deal over a pint in Cambridge pub

PUBLISHED: 11:34 17 May 2017 | UPDATED: 11:34 17 May 2017

Doug Cuff and Derek Jones at The Eagle Pub, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Doug Cuff and Derek Jones at The Eagle Pub, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Iliffe Media Ltd

Just the right brew at Babraham

Babrham Research Institute 2Babrham Research Institute 2

A new £35million partnership that will allow bioscience companies to maximise their growth potential was formulated over a few pints in a Cambridge pub.

Babraham Bioscience Technologies chief executive 
Derek Jones and BioMed Realty’s development director Douglas Cuff found the right brew when they decided to build two new buildings, comprising 108,000 square feet of integrated laboratory and office facilities, on Babraham 
Research Campus.

Outline planning permission for the eight-acre site has already been granted and a full application is ready to be submitted within the next two months.

The plan is to have buildings up and running within two years to help companies, already on the site, move into bigger, specially equipped premises, as they continue to grow.

BioMed Realty is a leading provider of real estate solutions to the life science industry and owns and operates an existing presence in Cambridge at its Granta Park campus.

The Babraham Research Campus is a leading hub of bioscience research and innovation that supports early stage and growing biomedical enterprises.

At the centre of the campus is the world-class Babraham Institute, which receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, and BBT, its trading subsidiary, through which the campus is being managed and further developed.

Brooklyn-born Mr Cuff, whose father is English, said the deal was a “no-brainer” for BioMed Realty, which also operates in San Diego, Cambridge in Massachusetts, Boston and San Francisco as well as at Granta Park.

He said: “When Granta Park became available in 2012, it was the right time for us to make the jump over here. So, I came over shortly afterwards and met Derek and then it turned out that he lived no more than a block and a half from me in Cambridge.

“We would bump into each other on a fairly regular basis. So, we knew each other way before this opportunity came forward. It is really what Cambridge is all about – relationships and connectivity.

“We think there is enough demand for these two buildings and it was a no-brainer for us.

“Now the site has the pipeline of tenants coming up, we want to 
find the next CAT [Cambridge Antibody Technology].

“Other than Addenbrooke’s, I don’t think there is another site in Cambridge which has anything like the Babraham Institute. When the opportunity presented itself, it was one of the fastest ‘yes’ decisions we’ve made. It was not a challenge. Our mission and goal is to grow the life science industry.”

Mr Jones was equally excited by the deal and is already forecasting a bright future for the new buildings.

He added: “We did some work back in November last year in which we looked at the previous two years and what amount of money had been raised by the companies on this campus and it was £500million.

“That is a significant amount of money in a two-year period for life sciences. Out of those, you will get some winners and some losers and we absolutely know that.

“But the thing is to have as many shots on goal as they can and part of our job at Babraham is to put the ball on the penalty spot for them – they still have to shoot it into the back of the net though.

“What we are trying to do with BioMed is make the goal bigger, so there is more chance of them scoring. We are trying to give companies the confidence to think that they can grow and that there is a bigger space they can move into.

“One of the great benefits of Babraham is that there are lots of people like David Chiswell for example, who have been successful once but are quite happy to try and do it again.

“Of course, it is about world-class science without a shadow of a doubt, but it is also about having people who want to invest in these companies. Having all these things in once place is pretty magical. We are at 100 per cent capacity because we keep on turning meeting rooms into more offices.

“We have 60 companies here. The rationale behind the whole set up was ‘how do we support early stage and growing companies in life sciences?’.

“The idea was that we could help these guys get going on their way, become self-sufficient and basically seed the area with these companies as they grew.

“What we increasingly discovered was the demand to come here as a small company and a demand for companies who are in growth and scaling up who wanted to stay but wanted their own front door and presence rather than sharing space.

“The challenge was how do we make that happen? I have known Doug for many years and we often discussed the fact that what we do is very complimentary.

“We have worked together on a number of different things and so a partnership seemed to make sense.”

So over a pint of warm English beer or two, the seeds of the development took place and the deal was eventually sealed.

Mr Cuff said: “I would suggest that a lot of things that go on in Cambridge are done in pubs.

“I enjoy the warm English beer. We had an executive who liked his beer cold every time he came over.

“But I think it is in my blood as I am half-English, so when I came over, it was very easy to like the warm beer...”

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