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15 July, 2017 - 00:30 By Kate Sweeney

Babraham companies proving a magnet for global investors

Babraham Research Campus

Life Science investors are continuing to pour funds into companies at the Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge. More than half a billion pounds has been pushed to Babraham innovators in the last few years.

The announcement from Kymab in November 2016 on the closing of a $100 million (£81m) Series C financing, enabling the organisation to advance its proprietary pipeline of first in class therapeutic human monoclonal antibodies, brought the total amount of investment raised by companies located at the Babraham Research Campus to more than £0.5 billion over the preceding two years.

These investments came from a broad range of sophisticated investors from the US, UK, EU and Asia, demonstrating the international competitiveness and attraction of Cambridge based life science companies.

Investors have included Chinese venture capital such as ORI Healthcare Fund, The Wellcome Trust, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Woodford Investment Management and corporate venture capital investments from leading pharmaceutical and technology companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Google, Takeda and Biogen Idec.

In addition, in March 2015, X01 was sold for an undisclosed sum to Janssen Pharmaceuticals, part of Johnson & Johnson. Other companies on the campus, at an earlier stage of their development announcing additional funding include Phico Therapeutics who raised an additional £3.5m in November 2016. 
The first two quarters of 2017 have seen continued success for those based at the Babraham Research Campus.

In January, Kymab – a therapeutic antibody company which works with partners to provide novel solutions in drug and vaccine development – received a $9m grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to accelerate the development of novel vaccines and therapeutics for infectious diseases, including HIV using its Kymouse antibody platform.

February saw SuperX complete an $11m Series A investment led by Medicixi to develop antibodies with anticoagulant properties. SuperX is engaged in the discovery of antibodies against an undisclosed target in the blood coagulation cascade and has hopes to reach the clinic in 2019.

Founded by Trevor Baglin, who acts as chief medical officer at SuperX together with David Grainger and Jim Huntington, SuperX reunites the entire management team that founded X01 prior to its acquisition by Janssen Pharmaceuticals in March 2015.

Johnson & Johnson Innovation (the corporate venture arm of Johnson & Johnson) also participated in the round.

Confidence in the environment created at Babraham Research Campus was further endorsed by the announcement in April of a partnership between the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Babraham Bioscience Technologies Ltd (BBT) – the organisation responsible for the management and commercial development of the Babraham Research Campus – and BioMed Realty, a Blackstone portfolio company, that will see BioMed Realty signing a long-term lease on approximately eight acres of BBSRC-owned land at the Babraham Research Campus.

The £35m investment will enable the construction of two new buildings comprising up to approximately 108,000 sq ft of integrated laboratory and office facilities.

The buildings will become home to life science companies requiring grow-on space, with tenant organisations being able to take advantage of the distinct environment and community at the campus.

Derek Jones, BBT’s chief executive commented of the partnership: “Over the years, we have had a very good relationship with BioMed Realty at Granta Park, recognising the potential synergies between the two sites. This is a natural extension of that relationship.

“This inward investment in buildings on-site will support those growing scale-up companies who wish to be part of our campus community but are seeking larger premises than we are currently able to provide.

“We are excited by the opportunities this brings to continue to grow and develop the campus and to support the world-leading life science businesses in the Cambridge region.”

June heralded two more big announcements, this time from Bicycle Therapeutics and F-star.

Bicycle Therapeutics kicked off the month by closing a £40m ($52m) Series B funding round, which saw new investors Vertex Ventures HC, Cambridge Innovation Capital and Longwood Fund join Bicycle’s existing investors, Novartis Venture Fund, SRONe, SVLS and Atlas Venture.

The biotechnology company is pioneering a new class of therapeutics based on its proprietary bicycle peptide product platform and will use the proceeds to further the development of multiple drug candidates, including its lead molecule, BT1718, a first in class drug for cancers of high unmet need. A few days later F-star announced the expansion of its existing relationship with Merck, through a new strategic collaboration to develop and commercialise five bispecific antibodies in immuno-oncology, including F-star’s lead asset FS118.

F-star will receive up to €115m in research & development funding and milestone payments over the first two years and further milestone-based payments endemic in the contract.

Commenting on this activity, Derek Jones said: “One key measure of the success of the Babraham Research Campus is the value of, and the sums raised by, companies on site.

“Many of these companies established themselves at Babraham as startups and have grown with the campus. Scale-up companies – those companies growing rapidly beyond ‘startup’ – are of increasing importance to our economy and these deals demonstrate the number and ambition of scale-up companies on site.

“I hope that the facilities, capabilities, networks and community on the campus we have created and continue to nurture, provide a supportive and encouraging environment for companies to start-up and grow here. It is also encouraging to acknowledge the continued investment in Cambridge life sciences post the Brexit decision.”

The Babraham Research Campus is distinct in its co-location of over 60 bioscience companies with the Babraham Institute, a world-renowned research organisation which receives strategic funding from the BBSRC.

The aim of the campus is to support UK bioscience through academic research, as well as via the provision of facilities and capabilities for early-stage and growing commercial organisations.

The campus provides laboratory and office space plus networking and collaboration opportunities, together with access to outstanding scientific facilities – all within an ideal geographical location at the core of the Cambridge cluster. 

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