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Illumina unveils its Cambridge accelerator trio, with support from Combined Authority

Illumina has selected three companies to join its new Cambridge accelerator programme, which has earned £3million backing from the Combined Authority.

Alchemab Therapeutics, Neurolytic Healthcare and Tailor Bio will benefit from a package of support from the Granta Park-based sequencing leader.

Paula Dowdy, Illumina’s senior vice president and general manager, commercial operations, EMEA
Paula Dowdy, Illumina’s senior vice president and general manager, commercial operations, EMEA

They are among seven in the global Illumina Accelerator, with the others joining the 11th funding cycle in the San Francisco Bay Area.

In two, six-month funding cycles per year, Illumina Accelerator will provide selected start-ups with access to seed investment, access to Illumina sequencing systems and reagents, business guidance, genomics expertise and newly-refurbished lab space adjacent to Illumina’s campuses.

Alchemab Therapeutics is a London-based antibody therapeutics company harnessing the naturally protective power of patient antibodies to keep people free from hard-to-treat disease. It has Jane Osborne, formerly of MedImmune and now chair of Cambridge-based Mogrify, as its chief scientific officer.

Neurolytic Healthcare is a diagnostics company from Oxford focused on delivering digital, genomics-driven diagnostics and personalised treatment recommendations for neurological conditions.

And Tailor Bio is a Cambridge-based diagnostics company, which span out of Cancer Research UK-funded research and is developing a proprietary precision oncology platform to identify patterns in tumour DNA that can predict a patient’s response to cancer drugs.

Amanda Cashin, co-founder and global head of Illumina Accelerator, said: “As we navigate the current global pandemic, there is an even stronger urgency to create breakthrough genomics start-ups that will transform human health and beyond. By opening our second location and partnering with seed stage capital investors, we are proud to invest in these transformative start-ups to push the boundaries of where genomics can go.”

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority is providing funding to support the genomics start-ups chosen over the next few years.

Paula Dowdy at Illumina’s 21st anniversary celebration last year. Picture: Keith Heppell
Paula Dowdy at Illumina’s 21st anniversary celebration last year. Picture: Keith Heppell

James Palmer, mayor of the Combined Authority, said: “This partnership is a huge step for truly ground-breaking innovation in the field of genomics. We are totally committed to furthering the Combined Authority region’s well-deserved reputation as one of the best locations for technology and health start-ups in the world. Our partnership with Illumina Accelerator Cambridge is a fantastic way to support young businesses that are working on the next generation of personalised precision healthcare. It’s not too much to say that our investment in these companies now will be priceless for the patients of the future.”

In the UK and US, First in Ventures is providing convertible notes for the incoming start-ups – a form of short-term debt or loan that converts into equity, while Wing Venture Capital is continuing to provide convertible notes in the US, where AarogyaAI Innovations Pvt, MEDIC Life Science, Pluton Biosciences and WellSIM Biomedical Technologies have been chosen.

Paula Dowdy, Illumina’s senior vice president and general manager, EMEA, said: “We believe the start-ups selected have great potential to expand the genomics ecosystem and deliver new and important applications to market. The UK is a leader in genomics research, and we’re delighted to locate the extension of Illumina Accelerator at our new campus in Cambridge.”

Illumina Accelerator is accepting applications via its website for the next global funding cycle, due by August 1.

Up to five companies will be selected in each of the two locations.

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