Genentech backs U.K. accelerator to help pre-A round startups

With backing from Roche's Genentech, Start Codon is now recruiting the first cohort of five companies. (Genentech)

Genentech has backed Cambridge, U.K.-based life science accelerator Start Codon. The money will enable Start Codon to provide startups with the funding, lab space and support they need to get to a series A fundraise.

Startups accepted into the accelerator will receive up to £250,000 ($324,000) in seed funding along with access to lab and office space at the Milner Therapeutics Institute in Cambridge. Start Codon, which is led by the former CEO of liquid biopsy startup Cambridge Epigenetix, will also provide companies with access to mentors who can help them navigate their way to series A rounds.

Roche’s Genentech is among the organizations that have signed up to bankroll Start Codon’s work. The accelerator also received funding from Cambridge Innovation Capital—a preferred investor of the University of Cambridge—and Babraham Bioscience Technologies (BBT). BBT manages and develops Babraham Research Campus, a hot spot of early-stage bioscience startups in Cambridge. 

The Babraham campus runs its own accelerator program, but Start Codon is a bigger, more ambitious initiative BBT thinks will complement its existing scheme. Whereas the Babraham scheme provides up to £10,000 in nondilutive funding, Start Codon plans to provide up to £250,000 to companies accepted into its program.

Start Codon is now recruiting the first cohort of five companies. If all goes to plan, the accelerator will host 50 startups over the next five years. While Start Codon’s presence in Cambridge means it will have a steady stream of local startups to choose from, the accelerator also plans to attract companies from further afield.

“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,” Jason Mellad, CEO of Start Codon, said in a statement. 

Mellad has the support of a board made up of big names from the Cambridge bioscience scene. Ian Tomlinson, who co-founded Domantis, is the chairman of the Start Codon board and put money into the venture. Jonathan Milner, a co-founder of Abcam, also invested in Start Codon and will serve on its board.