Victor Christou explains the attraction of investing in genomics.
As a builder of IP rich companies within the Cambridge Cluster, it is probably not much of a surprise that Cambridge Innovation Capital is interested in investing in genomics. After all, Cambridge has long been associated with significant developments in decoding the genome. Cambridge pubs have played a prominent role in that history, perhaps because of biochemists’ natural affinity for brewing, the oldest documented biotech process. In the early 1950s Francis Crick and James Watson announced the structure of DNA that they, together with others such as Rosalind Franklin, had elucidated, in the Eagle. Less than a mile away, but four decades and many pints later, the Panton Arms hosted Shankar Balasubramanian and David Klenerman. Here they devised a new approach to sequencing that eventually became Solexa, building on the method originally elucidated by double Nobel prize winner Fred Sanger, another Cambridge academic, after whom the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton is named.
Since then many young, exciting bioscience companies have set up in the Cambridge Cluster. As well as the decent pubs, they are attracted by the combination of world-class science and a world-leading entrepreneurial ecosystem. MedCity estimates that the Eastern region, centred on Cambridge, is home to over 1,000 bioscience companies employing 76,000 people. Scientific centres of excellence have provided encouragement and support to their collocated spin outs, who in turn continue to benefit from the cutting-edge science happening on their doorstep. These include the aforementioned Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and the Biomedical Campus near Addenbrooke’s Hospital, home to the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology which has produced more Nobel prizes than either China or Belgium.
Nearly all of the companies in Cambridge Innovation Capital’s healthcare portfolio include an element of genomics – after all, in today’s world, it would be brave to embark upon therapeutic development without a detailed understanding of the associated genetics of the underlying disease and we now have the tools to discern the potential for personalised medicine. For some of our portfolio companies, however, genomics is the principal focus.
Congenica, a spin-out from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, helps patients with genetic diseases, in particular rare genetic diseases, towards diagnosis by analysing, interpreting and creating clinically actionable reports from patients’ genomic data. A diagnosis enables these patients to receive the correct management. Inivata, a spin-out from Cancer Research UK’s laboratories on the Biomedical Campus, tackles a different area, analysing tumour DNA circulating in blood to provide a precise diagnosis as well as the genetic evolution of particular cancers over time. What these approaches have in common is that they allow for the precise personalisation of medicine, improving response rates and making treatments much more effective and efficient than those seen in the past.
Cambridge Innovation Capital is committed to building leading businesses from brilliant technologies, whether they are in the genomics space or in other intellectual property rich areas. We are always interested in talking to entrepreneurs in the Cambridge Cluster with great ideas.
This article originally appeared in MedCity's blog.