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Cambridge Nucleomics scoops the 2024 Trinity Bradfield Prize





The 2024 Trinity Bradfield Prize has been claimed by Cambridge Nucleomics, a biotech spinoff from the University of Cambridge with a unique value proposition for accurate, fast and direct quantification of native RNA.

The final of the competition, now in its fifth year, was held at The Bradfield Centre last week (25 January).

Sir Greg Winter announces the 2024 Trinity Bradfield Prize winners. Picture: Keith Heppell
Sir Greg Winter announces the 2024 Trinity Bradfield Prize winners. Picture: Keith Heppell

Chaired by Sir Greg Winter, the finalists were competing for a £10k first place cash prize, with £5k for the runner-up and £5k for the Hellings Prize. The Geoffrey Hellings Prize, in memory of the Trinity student in the 1920s, was established in 2008 and offers £5,000 and mentoring for a current Cambridge student.

The second place went to medtech start-up Compound Hound, whose breath sensor is able to determine if a neonatal is suffering from jaundice.

The Hellings Prize was awarded to BioTryp Therapeutics, which has a new class of biofilm inhibitors that provides an alternative to traditional antibiotic treatments.

Sir Greg Winter with Trinity Bradfield Prize 2024 winners, from left, Melanie Whitfield - Compound Hound; Hendrik Runge - Cambridge Nucleomics; and Ashraf Zarkan from BioTryp Therapeutics. Picture: Keith Heppell
Sir Greg Winter with Trinity Bradfield Prize 2024 winners, from left, Melanie Whitfield - Compound Hound; Hendrik Runge - Cambridge Nucleomics; and Ashraf Zarkan from BioTryp Therapeutics. Picture: Keith Heppell

Speaking to the Cambridge Independent, Cambridge Nucleomics co-founder Hendrik Runge said he and his colleagues Prof Ulrich Keyser and Mohammed Alawami met at a Cambridge Judge Business School networking event prior to founding the company in 2021.

“Ulrich and Mohammed, both biophysicists, were looking for applications to commercialise their single-molecule RNA counting platform technology and I had been using a lot of sequencing during my PhD, so an excellent match,” said Dr Runge. “We explored a few options before settling on sepsis as our first application and me joining full time.”

Dr Runge continued: “In sepsis, a huge problem killing 11 million patients every year, speed is paramount because it progresses so rapidly. Treatment needs to start within one hour, but current tests take days. Our RNA detection and counting methods are much faster than traditional sequencing methods [by] about 1,000 times. With our new method, we will detect RNA molecules from inside disease-causing bacteria/fungi that allow identification in just one hour to select the optimal treatment.”

Trinity Bradfield Prize Sir Greg Winter announces the winners . Picture: Keith HeppellPicture: Keith Heppell
Trinity Bradfield Prize Sir Greg Winter announces the winners . Picture: Keith HeppellPicture: Keith Heppell

The trio were delighted with the outcome which, as well as the financial consideration, includes mentorship and introductions to investors.

“We are extremely proud to have won the Trinity Bradfield Prize and gain feedback from such accomplished judges,” Dr Runge noted. “The panel of entrepreneurs and investors, including Nobel laureate Sir Greg Winter, grilled us with the most difficult questions they could think of – others would pay thousands of pounds per hour for their insights.”

The prize is named after biologist and entrepreneur Sir John Bradfield whose contributions to the Cambridge science ecosystem included founding Cambridge Science Park – the location for The Bradfield Centre – which was the first science park in Europe.

Dr Runge concluded: “We need to raise £1.5million to finalise our assay and the prize money gives us enough time to engage with investors.”

Sir Greg Winter with Trinity Bradfield Prize 2024 winners, from left, Maximillian Ge, Melanie Whitfield - Compound Hound; winner, Hendrik Runge - Cambridge Nucleomics; and Ashraf Zarkan from BioTryp Therapeutics with James Parton,The Bradfield Centre’s managing director. Picture: Keith HeppellPicture: Keith Heppell
Sir Greg Winter with Trinity Bradfield Prize 2024 winners, from left, Maximillian Ge, Melanie Whitfield - Compound Hound; winner, Hendrik Runge - Cambridge Nucleomics; and Ashraf Zarkan from BioTryp Therapeutics with James Parton,The Bradfield Centre’s managing director. Picture: Keith HeppellPicture: Keith Heppell

Sir Greg, biotech entrepreneur, former master of Trinity and chair of the judges, said: “The quality of the business proposals and their presentation have gone from strength to strength over the years, and this almost certainly reflects the mentoring provided to contestants before the event. Most of the proposals had at least one compelling feature, and it was challenging to determine the winners.

“In the end, the judges prioritised those that seemed closest to commercialisation. Next year we hope to offer another prize for those from this year’s short list who make the most progress during the year. So, we will see whether the judges were right – all judges must be willing to be judged!”

Sir Greg Winter with Trinity Bradfield Prize 2024 winner Dr Hendrik Runge, co-founder and CEO of Cambridge Nucleomics. Picture: Keith Heppell
Sir Greg Winter with Trinity Bradfield Prize 2024 winner Dr Hendrik Runge, co-founder and CEO of Cambridge Nucleomics. Picture: Keith Heppell

Sir Greg also announced an additional new prize for next year’s competition, The Angel Prize, which will be awarded to the team demonstrating the most progress towards its stated milestones: both 2022 and 2023 finalists will be eligible.

“Our congratulations to the winners, and our thanks to everyone that applied,” said James Parton, managing director of The Bradfield Centre.



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