Start Codon accelerator hunting Cambridge’s next life science unicorn

A new accelerator backed by some of the Cambridge cluster's biggest hitters is aiming to invest in up to 50 promising life science start-ups over the next five years.

Start Codon is aiming to help translate world-class research into the next generation of successful companies. It has been founded and launched with funding from keystone investors including Cambridge Innovation Capital, Babraham Bioscience Technologies, Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, Dr Jonathan Milner and Dr Ian Tomlinson.

The accelerator will identify and recruit high potential life science and healthcare companies from across the UK and beyond, provide seed-funding, and leverage the world-class resources of the Cambridge cluster to reduce risk and prepare them for a successful Series A fundraise.

The accelerator says it will be the first within the Cambridge Cluster to provide life science start-ups with significant investment of up to £250,000, a full-time dedicated team of experienced and active mentors, and office and lab space, located at the Milner Therapeutics Institute on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. Start Codon now plans to invest in and support up to 50 start-up companies over the next five years.

Start Codon’s executive team will be led by Dr Jason Mellad, previously CEO of Cambridge Epigenetix, which he transformed into a liquid biopsy diagnostic development firm via obtaining broad and exclusive patent rights to the use of epigenetic biomarker 5hmC in cancer diagnostics and leading a successful Series C fundraise of $30m. Jason brings over a decade of experience in product development and commercialisation, building and managing cross-disciplinary teams, intellectual property protection and exploitation, and closing deals with strategic biotech and pharma partners.

Selecting the most exciting companies

He said: “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. 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.”

Dr Ian Tomlinson has been appointed chairman of the Start Codon Board. Dr Tomlinson is also Chairman of Apollo Therapeutics and the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst. He has over 25 years of experience in the life sciences sector from academic research to biotech start-up to big pharma. He founded Domantis Limited with Sir Gregory Winter, which was acquired by GSK in 2006 for $454 million.  Dr Mellad and Dr Tomlinson will be joined by Michael Anstey of Cambridge Innovation Capital, Jo Parfrey and Dr Jonathan Milner as directors of Start Codon.

Dr Milner, co-founder of Abcam and angel investor, added: “In this golden age of biology, Cambridge stands out as the worlds 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.”

How to apply for Start Codon

The first cohort of 5 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.

Enquiries from potential candidates and investors should be directed to