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Start Codon accelerator straps science to fast start-up growth


By Mike Scialom


Dr Jason Mellad, CEO of Start Codon. Picture: Jon Mold
Dr Jason Mellad, CEO of Start Codon. Picture: Jon Mold

Cambridge has a new start-up accelerator this week following the formation of Start Codon with backing from investors including Cambridge Innovation Capital, Babraham Bioscience Technologies, Genentech, Dr Jonathan Milner and Dr Ian Tomlinson.

The new initiative is aimed at high-potential life science and healthcare companies from across the UK and beyond. The executive team is led by Dr Jason Mellad, previously CEO of Cambridge Epigenetix.

“Our ambition is to provide life science and healthcare companies with a unique combination of funding, facilities, mentoring and support to fast track their development and success,” said Dr Mellad. “We are selecting the most exciting pre-Series A companies from around the world, and bringing them to Cambridge, helping to solidify the region’s position as a leading global cluster.”

Start Codon provide seed-funding, and leverage the world-class resources of the Cambridge cluster to reduce risk and prepare relevant start-ups for a successful Series A fundraise. The accelerator will be the first within the Cambridge Cluster to provide life science start-ups with significant investment (up to £250K), a full-time dedicated team of experienced and active mentors, and office and lab space (located at the Milner Therapeutics Institute). Start Codon now plans to invest in and support up to 50 start-up companies over the next five years.

Dr Ian Tomlinson has been appointed chairman of the Start Codon board. He is also chairman of Apollo Therapeutics and the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, and has 25 years’ experience in the life sciences sector. He founded Domantis with Sir Gregory Winter – it was acquired by GSK in 2006 for $454million. He then served as senior VP, head of worldwide business development and head of biopharm R&D at GSK.

Dr Mellad and Dr Tomlinson will be joined by Michael Anstey, Jo Parfrey and Jonathan Milner as directors of Start Codon.

Dr Anstey, investment director at Cambridge Innovation Capital, added: “Cambridge is the best place in Europe to build a life science business. Start Codon will bring together all the key elements here, to enable emerging companies to rapidly embark on their growth journey.

“We are proud to have been part of the Start Codon initiative from inception and we are excited to support the world class businesses that will emerge from its programme in the future. The Cambridge ecosystem has already created over a dozen billion-pound businesses and we see Start Codon as an important facilitator in creating more such successes.”

Ian Tomlinson, chair, Start Codon
Ian Tomlinson, chair, Start Codon

Dr Jonathan Milner, co-founder and deputy chairman of Abcam plc, added: “In this golden age of biology, Cambridge stands out as the world’s centre for healthcare innovation and translation. Start Codon’s innovative supercharged model will establish nurture and spin out the next generation of world class healthcare companies that will positively impact all our lives. I am super-thrilled to be working with such an esteemed and experienced set of stakeholders to guarantee the success of Start Codon. We look forward to enabling the next generation of Cambridge healthcare unicorns.”

Jo Parfrey, a non-executive director at Babraham Bioscience Technologies, commented: “We see the Start Codon initiative as complementary to our ongoing Accelerate@Babraham programme and are looking forward to working together to ensure these young ventures have access to the facilities and opportunities which will help them to develop successfully.”

The first cohort of five companies is now being recruited. Start Codon is looking for companies with disruptive innovations that will revolutionise modern healthcare and platform technologies underpinned by strong intellectual property, with a particular emphasis on novel therapeutics, diagnostics, medtech and digital health.

Dr Mellad added: “Regarding the first cohort, we have already identified several exciting candidates from across our four core focus areas: therapeutics, diagnostics, medtech and digital health. We are searching to identify the best companies for our inaugural group. Regardless of a technology’s origin, they will need to have a registered UK limited company and relocate to the Milner Therapeutics Institute for our six-month programme. Also, each team should have a minimum of two members.”

Enquiries from potential candidates and investors should be directed to info@startcodon.co.

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