Cambridge Independent Science and Technology Awards 2018: Complete winners' guide and galleries
The full stories of all our winners - plus pictures from the event
They represent some of the most exciting and innovative companies in the country.
The winners of the 2018 Cambridge Independent Science and Technology Awards were unveiled at a ceremony at the Hilton City Centre Hotel hosted by editor Paul Brackley, who chaired the judging panel for the awards.
Introducing the awards on November 1, he said: “In just about any other region of the country, any of them could have been a winner. But here, well, it’s quite a competition.
“So if you don’t win tonight, don’t be disheartened. You had to be great just to get in this room.”
The second annual awards were expanded this year, with new categories – including two for individuals.
Sponsoring the awards this year were Allia, Appleyard Lees, AstraZeneca/MedImmune, BioStrata, Cambridge Precision, Chesterford Research Park, COEL, Cofinitive, Grant Thornton, Regus, SmithsonHill and Woodfines Solicitors.
Paul said: “We are very grateful for the support of our sponsors, and the work of the judges, who made this event possible – and we’re already looking forward to next year’s awards.”
The drinks reception was sponsored by Zyme Communications and The Good Plant Company also supported the event.
Serial entrepreneur and angel investor Peter Cowley gave the opening speech, discussing the current investment environment, and gave signed copies of his new book, The Invested Investor, to the winners and highly commended finalists.
Paul added: “These awards were a true celebration of the remarkable talent, innovative spirit and achievements of an array of science and technology sectors in our region.
“We’ve been delighted with the feedback.”
One guest said the event “set the standard” for gender balanced awards, while another said they were a reminder of “how lucky we are” to live and work in such an environment.
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Start-up of the Year, sponsored by Regus
WINNER: Elpis Biomed
A University of Cambridge spin-out, Elpis Biomed’s technology enables the highly controlled ‘reprogramming’ of cells – enabling donated skin cells to become brain cells, for example.
It provides a scalable source of pure, mature and consistent human cell products that can be used in research, drug development and cell therapy.
The judges were impressed by the unique quality of Elpis Biomed’s technology, which has huge implications for research.
Only last week, biotech heavyweight Jonathan Milner, who has invested in Elpis Biomed, spoke of how its human cell products could help dramatically reduce the need for animals in toxicity testing during drug development.
He said: “Elpis human cells can fix the broken drug discovery process by replacing animal experiments.”
While there are other companies producing human cells, the purity and consistency of Elpis’ makes it stand out. It is developing a range of cell products to support the research, drug discovery and cell therapy communities
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Evonetix and Fluidic Analytics
Evonetix, based on Chesterford Research Park, is revolutionising gene synthesis, which underpins synthetic biology. It can assemble DNA molecules with a very low error rate, with implications for research, genomics and industrial processes. Applications are broad and could include engineering pathways to support drug discovery. It could even bring about mass data storage on DNA.
Fluidic Analytics is building pioneering lab tools for protein characterisation. Its Fluidity One system gives scientists the ability to observe how proteins fold, aggregate and interact in a biologically relevant context, aiding research and drug development. It aims to create a machine for everybody’s home that would enable us all to profile our protein fingerprint and access information about their biology.
AI Company of the Year, sponsored by Cambridge Precision
With pioneering real-time, machine learning software for managing fraud, risk and compliance, Hauser Forum-based Featurespace’s technology is increasingly in demand from gaming companies, banks and card issuers.
Featurespace’s ARIC platform – which earned the company the UK Tech Award for Innovation of the Year in London on the same night as the Cambridge Independent awards – uses adaptive behavioural analytics to detect anomalies in individual behaviour in real-time.
It was created out of Cambridge University’s Engineering Department by applied statistics experts, the late Professor Bill Fitzgerald and Dave Excell, now Featurespace’s CTO. The technology has been deployed to financial services and gaming organisations serving more than 180 countries. Its customers include Betfair, William Hill, Camelot, TSYS, Playtech, Vocalink Zappa and CashFlows.
The judges were impressed by the speed and scale of the adoption of Featurespace’s technology.
Last year, it raised £16.5million from venture capitalists to continue its expansion in the US and beyond.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Cydar
Using the cloud to deliver hands-free, real-time, 3D image overlays to the operating theatre, Barrington-based Cydar enables quicker, more precise procedures, with lower doses of radiation for the patients and surgeons alike.
The positioning on screen is accurate to better than a fifth of a millimetre, which is vital when the target branch vessels that surgeons are trying to insert guide wires into might only be three-six millimetres.
By replacing hardware with software, Cydar’s solution is cost-effective for any hospital.
Cleantech Company of the Year, sponsored by Allia
WINNER: The VaioPak Group
We all know the damage plastic is doing to our oceans. And we all know the desperate need to change our throwaway culture. The VaioPak Group is helping the food service packaging industry to be more sustainable.
The company has this year created the fully recyclable reEco Coffee Cup with a revolutionary interior lining called EarthCoating rather than the traditional PE (polythene) or PLA lining.
The coating is made using a blend of calcium carbonate, which fragments away from the paperboard into small particles that can be easily separated during the standard recycling process. This means the cups can be processed alongside standard paper recycling as if there wasn’t even a coating on them.
The paper cup’s eco double wall design means two layers of board, so no sleeve is needed. The cup is sold in runs of 1,000 units to 250,000 units.
The judges were pleased to see The VaioPak Group tackle a significant, and everyday, issue such as the plastic waste produced by normal coffee cups.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Azuri Technologies and Origami Energy
Bringing clean solar power to off-grid households in sub-Saharan Africa, Milton-based Azuri Technologies enables some of the world’s poorest people to power lights, charge phones and even watch TV or listen to the radio, helping to close the knowledge gap. Praised by the Prime Minister during a trade trip earlier this year, Azuri is transforming lives with its approach.
A technology provider for energy traders and suppliers, Origami Energy’s unique solution provides real-time monitoring and control. It enables more renewables to be used by enabling the electricity system to manage many smaller, cleaner flexible energy sources. Origami, which raised £18million earlier this year, deploys its technology through partnerships with leading electricity suppliers.
Researcher of the Year, sponsored by AstraZeneca / MedImmune
WINNER: Dr Charlotte Coles, CRUK Cambridge Centre
Dr Charlotte Coles was nominated by Prof Richard Gilbertson, CRUK Cambridge Centre’s director, and by Prof Greg Hannon, the director of the CRUK Cambridge Institute, for work in the last year that is already changing practice internationally.
As chief investigator of the IMPORT LOW trial, Charlotte’s research found that low-risk, early- stage breast cancer patients who have radiotherapy targeted at the original tumour site experience fewer side effects five years after treatment than those who have whole breast radiotherapy.
It also found that their cancer is just as unlikely to return. Partial breast radiotherapy is now recommended as standard of care for selected patients by the UK Royal College of Radiologists Breast Radiotherapy Consensus and is included in the draft breast cancer guidance by NICE. This technique is implementable worldwide with no or minimal additional resources. And it was announced last week that Charlotte will lead research into whether treating breast cancer patients with radiotherapy and hormone therapy could help some avoid extensive surgery.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Dr Meritxell Huch, The Wellcome / Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute
Dr Meritxell Huch has pioneered the technique of culturing liver organoids. These are mini organs that model biological and structural features of human livers and which offer an expandable source of tissue for research and drug and toxicity testing. The work has the potential to drastically reduce the number of animals required in toxicity tests.
Last November she published a very important paper describing the successful creation and maintenance in culture of patient-specific liver cancer organoids, or ‘tumouroids’.
The tumouroids were able to preserve tissue structure as well as the gene expression patterns of the original human tumours from which they were derived.
This work allows modelling of the disease and testing of drugs for efficacy for each specific patient.
Games Company of the Year, sponsored by Woodfines Solicitors
WINNER: Frontier Developments
It’s been a landmark year for independent games company Frontier Developments, which moved to a new HQ on Cambridge Science Park and enjoyed its biggest launch to date with Jurassic World Evolution – a title that sold one million units in five weeks.
The CEO, David Braben, is one of the two men behind the iconic Elite, and of course Frontier has an ongoing Elite franchise, as well as Planet Coaster, and new titles under development.
The judges praised Frontier for the excellent response to its latest game launch and said the company was clearly growing well, and had an exciting future ahead.
Stewart Stanbury, Frontier’s marketing director, who collected the award with PR and communications manager Michael Gapper, said: “Frontier is just a couple of months away from celebrating its 25th year here in Cambridge and it’s been an outstanding year for the city’s game developers, so we’re especially thrilled to be recognised as the Cambridge Independent’s top games studio at such a special time and among such great company.
“Please accept a big thanks from everyone on Frontier’s 400-person team for the award.”
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Jagex and Ninja Theory
Employing 350 people, Jagex is the company behind the world’s most popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game, Runescape, which has made $1billion in revenue in its 17-year history. Jagex is also using its expertise to help other companies publish ‘living games’.
Now acquired by Microsoft, Ninja Theory self-published the game Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice to commercial and critical acclaim, receiving BAFTA nominations in nine categories and winning five, including best British game – a fantastic achievement.
Agritech Company of the Year, sponsored by SmithsonHill
WINNER: Dogtooth Technologies
Amid a global shortage of picking labour, Melbourn-based Dogtooth Technologies has created an autonomous strawberry-picking robot that uses machine learning and computer vision.
It will send a fleet of 24 of its latest robots into the field next year.
They are designed to do the same job as a human picker – on the same farms – and for a comparable price. They navigate autonomously, using computer vision to identify a ripe fruit, snipping it just above the leafy calyx, then inspecting it to determine its shape grade and any defects, like bruising or mildew.
It then places the fruit in the appropriate punnet, or waste chute if unsuitable for retail.
Dogtooth believes its intelligent robot will help solve a major picking labour shortage and aid productivity.
The judges said: “Dogtooth is working on a very challenging problem. With fewer people willing to pick fruit for a living, large amounts of it is rotting in our fields. But while picking fruit is straightforward for a human, it’s not so easy for a robot. Our winner has managed it.”
HIGHLY COMMENDED: KisanHub
From research and development trials to the commercial food supply chain, KisanHub’s cloud-based platform connects agri-business, enterprise and growers with the multiple data sources they need to better understand their business.
The platform is supported by a mobile app, enabling users to capture and access data out in fields – invaluable for growers.
Based in Cambridge, and in Pune, India, KisanHub now employs more than 30 people. It was founded in 2014 by Sachin Shende and Giles Barker, who aimed to give farmers everywhere a sophisticated, meaningful, yet simple, decision-support platform. There are currently 3,500 users.
An enterprise platform connects businesses with growers, while a trials platform provides end-to-end experimental data collection, discovery and transfer.
Medtech Company of the Year, sponsored by Chesterford Research Park
WINNER: Owlstone Medical
Measuring volatile organic compounds (VOC) in breath using its breathalyser platform, Owlstone aims to save lives and healthcare costs by enabling early diagnosis of cancer and other conditions.
The judges said: “The scale of this company’s ambition is huge. And it’s technology is game-changing. As the company says, the biggest opportunity to reducing the number of deaths from cancer is by earlier diagnosis. Its technology is helping to enable that.”
Owlstone’s ReCIVA Breath Sampler is the first standardised device designed to capture the VOC biomarkers present in breath and the Cambridge Science Park company has the world’s only commercial breath biopsy clinical laboratory where its proprietary analytical platform is used to analyse the sample.
One in two people will be diagnosed with cancer but if detected early most can be cured. Current screening approaches are invasive and expensive. Breath biopsy aims to overcome these challenges.
Breath biopsy can also enable precision medicine, as it can provide dynamic information about a patient’s disease activity and identify those most likely to respond to a particular therapy.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Cambridge Respiratory Innovations and Endomag
Developing an easy-to-use low-cost personal respiratory monitor, Cambridge Respiratory Innovations Ltd’s work could help the 400 million people globally with conditions like asthma and chronic pulmonary obstructive disorder to avoid unnecessary hospitalisation.
Interpreting the shape of the CO2 waveform, produced by breathing normally into its LED-based sensor, enables CRiL to detect the state of a user’s lungs.
Based at St John’s Innovation Park, Endomag has developed a tiny magnetic seed for insertion into breast tumours to act as a beacon for accurate surgical removal, and magnetic fluid to replace the radioactive tracers used to determine whether the cancer has spread. Endomag’s products have been used in more than 35,000 procedures across 300 hospitals in 30 countries and the company has trials ongoing for other cancers.
CEO of the Year, sponsored by Grant Thornton
WINNER: Martin Frost, CMR Surgical
Martin Frost has led the company from five employees to about 250 and counting in less than five years. CMR Surgical is building its new HQ at Evolution Business Park, and Versius is undergoing validation studies – and is likely to be in hospitals, helping to conduct minimal access surgery, in the next year. He secured the largest ever medical device funding round of $100million (£74million) this year.
His nominator, a software engineer, said Martin has created “a positive, friendly environment that challenges, celebrates and supports its staff to be exceptional, with everything from monthly barbecues to sports days, free bike servicing to cooked breakfasts. Even the operating and management systems are smart, agile – and friendly. Now he is arranging one-to-one discussions with every single staff member to ensure he hears directly from us.”
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Fiona Nielsen, Repositive
While working to develop sequencing tools as a bioinformatician, Fiona identified issues in data access, which was delaying, and even preventing, researchers from discovering and developing treatments and cures for cancer. She decided then to devote her work to unlocking this bottleneck.
Fiona founded Repositive and its first data-sharing platform, Discover, was built in 2014, enabling researchers globally to locate any human genomic data. It now indexes more than one million datasets.
Fiona has led Repositive through three investment rounds and has courted ongoing support from partners including AstraZeneca.
The PDX Platform was launched in 2016, providing a holistic view of cancer models, and that has been widened this year to incorporate humanised mouse models, 3D in vitro systems and more, becoming the Cancer Models Platform.
The judges said Fiona’s passion and vision were inspiring.
Biotech Company of the Year, sponsored by Appleyard Lees
JOINT WINNERS: Crescendo Biologics and F-star
The field in the Biotech Company of the Year was so strong that the judges picked joint winners: Crescendo Biologics and F-star, two companies developing novel therapeutics, with a particular focus on the fight against cancer.
With its Humabody therapeutics that have multiple targets, Crescendo is harnessing the immune system to target cancer cells with fewer side effects and lower toxicity.
Crescendo, a Babraham Institute spin-off, closed a $70million funding round this year.
The money will be used to progress Crescendo’s lead molecule to clinical ‘proof of concept’ in prostate cancer as well as to develop a follow-on pipeline.
The company has also begun reaching milestones in its deal with Takeda, worth a potential $790million and making rapid progress towards the clinic.
Based on its transgenic mouse platform, Crescendo’s Humabodies have important advantages compared to conventional, antibody-based biologics. Their small size ensures better tumour penetration and bio-distribution and larger therapeutic windows for treatment.
Their modular format means they can be quickly configured into multi-specific molecules to treat a wide range of cancer indications. In particular these multi-specific molecules can direct potent cancer-killing T-cells onto almost any tumour-specific marker by design.
CEO Peter Pack also led Crescendo into a licensing agreement with Shanghai-based biopharmaceutical company Zai Lab, which will commercialise and develop a topical, innovative drug for inflammatory indications.
Babraham-based F-star is using bispecific antibodies to develop novel drugs.
In a deal with Merck, it received an upfront payment totalling 115million euros – which could rise to one billion euros – while a deal with Denali has raised $24million and could eventually unlock payments up to $447million.
With Merck, it is delivering five assets that have the potential to overcome tumour resistance and restore anti-cancer immunity and responsiveness.
The lead programme in the collaboration, FS118, entered a phase I trial in May 2018 to assess its safety and tolerability in patients who relapsed after checkpoint inhibition monotherapy.
The collaboration with Merck has been established within F-star Delta, F-star’s fourth asset-centric vehicle (ACV). This flexible business model offers Merck the option to acquire the programmes through the acquisition of F-star Delta.
Denali exercised its option to acquire F-star Gamma in May 2018. The companies joined forces to discover and develop a multi-specific platform for delivery of medicines across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) into the central nervous system (CNS). Diseases of the CNS, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and brain cancers, are notoriously difficult to treat. Denali has also nominated the two remaining targets under the terms of the original agreement.
Judges said the awards reflected the outstanding technology, the business progress and the potential healthcare impact of the companies.
The One to Watch, sponsored by Cofinitive
WINNER: Kalium Diagnostics
The One to Watch category, developed in collaboration with sponsor Cofinitive, identifies the next big thing.
A huge number of entries reflected both the breadth and the quality of innovative science and technology companies in the region but there could only be one winner.
Kalium Diagnostics is developing the world’s first blood potassium test for home and bedside use.
The test has the potential to improve the safety, health and lifestyle of millions of people who have renal disorders causing hypokalemia or hyperkalemia, including dialysis patients and those with particular rare diseases.
Kalium is working on creating a small test kit that would require a fingerstick blood sample. This would allow a patient to immediately check potassium levels at home, at the GP surgery or at a community-based dialysus unit.
The results can rapidly identify life-threatening situations.
The product under development will function in a similar way to glucose monitors used by those with diabetes.
It comprises low-cost, single-use test strips and a smart reusable electronic reader.
The company’s largest market is the two million dialysis patients worldwide – and this number could rise to five million by 2025.
They require a blood potassium test several times weekly and currently this is carried out in hospitals. Other patients with debilitating diseases could also benefit from Kalium’s work.
The $3billion market for potassium-reducing drugs would also be enhanced by the test.
Kalium says: “Our business has the potential to save healthcare providers tens of millions of pounds in the costs of disease management and avoidable hospital admissions.
“The idea for our product came from patients at the renal genetic and tubular disorders clinic at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, and was communicated via the Cambridge patient-led research hub.
“In late 2015 an academic collaboration between the Departments of Chemistry and Medical Genetics at the University of Cambridge was established for develop the kit, and in summer 2018 Kalium Diagnostics was formed to bring the kit to the market.”
The judges said the need for Kalium’s technology was clear and its impact for patients with kidney disease would be significant.
The company was also selected by patent attorneys Appleyard Lees to benefit from its prize of free IP advice.
Technology Company of the Year, sponsored by COEL
GeoSpock, the Cambridge extreme-scale, data integration company, provides a location intelligence engine that can help plan smart cities, operate autonomous vehicles, serve personalised advertising and much more.
The St Andrew’s Road-based company closed a Series A funding round in February 2018, securing $6.6million (£5million), which brought the total raised to $13.3 million (£9.25million), helping it to accelerate global growth and transform from R&D to commercial activity.
The data visualisation company launched its Location Intelligence as a Service (LlaaS) Product Showcase this year, providing traffic management solutions, real-time congestion management, and proactive scheduling of traffic flow to meet changing demands of future smart cities by packaging extreme data into tangible and actionable visualisations.
It has just won the Liverpool Mayor’s ‘Smart Cities Realised’ Transport Challenge, and will help improve mobility in the city.
Judges said GeoSpock had enjoyed an exciting year – and its technology was poised to play a key role in the development of smart cities and transport services.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Simprints
Simprints is a Cambridge non-profit company that seeks to break the identification bottleneck.
Some 1.1 billion people globally lack any formal identity, barring access to essential, life-saving services. Under Dr Toby Norman’s leadership, Simprints has filled a gap in biometric technology by developing low-cost, rugged fingerprint scanners for frontline workers in developing countries to help track healthcare for pregnant women, enable better vaccination coverage, record attendance at school and more.
The technology has been deployed in nine countries from Somalia to Afghanistan. Along the way, it has uncovered 3,885 preventable neonatal deaths. Simprints has won finanical backing from national governments and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Last year, it secured a $2.85m grant to help it reach two million expectant mothers and children in Bangladesh.
Life Sciences Company of the Year, sponsored by BioStrata
Probing the secrets of gut bacteria, Microbiotica is a leading player in the fast-evolving field of microbiome-based therapeutics and biomarkers and signed a deal in June with Genentech that could be worth up to $534m in milestone payments plus royalties.
The judges were hugely impressed by its progress, noting that this was an outstanding achievement for a company founded only 18 months earlier.
The deal reflects that the human microbiome – the genetic material of all the micro-organisms inside us – represents a paradigm shift in biomedicine.
The deal with Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, is the third largest ever in the sector, catapulting Microbiotica into the forefront alongside well-established US biotechs in the field.
Under the multi-year strategic collaboration, Microbiotica will discover, develop and commercialise biomarkers, targets and medicines to benefit patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Microbiotica is eligible to receive royalties on sales of certain products resulting from the collaboration. Genentech also has an option to license assets that Microbiotica develops as a result of the research collaboration.
Microbiotica’s precision metagenomics microbiome platform comprises the world’s leading microbiome culture collection and linked reference genome database.
Used with AI technology, it enables unprecedented precision in gut bacterial identification at clinical trial scale.
Microbiotica will analyse patient samples from Genentech’s investigational IBD medicine pipeline to identify biomarker signatures of drug response, novel IBD drug targets and live bacterial therapeutic products.
The work will involve the largest scale microbiome clinical studies ever conducted.
The collaboration will also expand Microbiotica’s proprietary platform capabilities, resulting in a collection of thousands of novel gut bacteria with full genomic sequences. This will be by far the biggest in the world and create the definitive global microbiome blueprint.
Shortly after the Genetech deal was announced, Microbiotica also confirmed a collaboration with the University of Adelaide to provide access to clinical trial faecal microbiota transplant (FMT) samples – yes, you read that right – to facilitate Microbiotica’s own live bacterial therapeutics discovery programme in ulcerative colitis.
Strange as it may sound, the Adelaide samples were highly sought after, so the deal was another encouraging sign of Microbiotica’s is building in the field.
The company has additional therapeutic programmes under way in C. difficile and immuno-oncology, and is expanding rapidly.
Microbiotica was spun out of the Wellcome Sanger Institute. Based on ground-breaking discoveries from the laboratory of Dr Trevor Lawley – now CSO – it secured £8million investment from Cambridge Innovation Capital and IP Group plc. Dr Lawley co-founded the firm with experienced drug discovery enterpreneur Dr Mike Romanos, who is CEO.
The judges said the life sciences category was as fiercely contested as you would hope for our region, but Microbiotica’s rapid progress in a fast-emerging field was nothing short of astonishing.