Institute spin-out joins Start Codon’s business acceleration programme

Institute spin-out joins Start Codon’s business acceleration programme

Key points:

  • Enhanc3D Genomics, a spin-out company from the Institute, is one of the first companies to join Start Codon’s programme to support the commercial development of innovative life science research.
  • Application of the company’s expertise in identifying links between gene regulatory regions and their target genes offers hope for understanding the genomic basis of disease and opens up new therapeutic opportunities.
  • Enhanc3D Genomics will present at the Milner Therapeutics Symposium on 26 June and at OnHelix on 14 July.

The Institute spin-out, Enhanc3D Genomics, is one of the four start-up companies announced today as the first cohort to join the Start Codon business acceleration programme. Start Codon aims to support the rapid translation of the most disruptive and innovative life science research into successful companies ready for Series A funding.

Enhanc3D Genomics’ mission is to apply functional genomics to link non-coding DNA sequence variants (DNA ‘letter’ changes that don’t fall in protein-coding regions) to their target genes in order to identify novel therapeutic targets. The company was spun-out of Institute research into the three-dimensional (3D) organisation of the genome and long-distance interactions that occur within it to control gene expression.

 

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Dr Stefan Schoenfelder, Enhanc3D Genomics co-founder and Babraham Institute Career Progression fellow, said: “Scattered throughout the non-coding DNA of our genome is a plethora of so-called regulatory elements. These include enhancers that function like molecular switches to control which genes are active and when. Crucially, disease-linked genetic variants are often found in enhancers. Enhancers can act over long distances to physically interact with their target genes, often bypassing other genes; this makes identifying functional enhancer–gene pairs a major challenge in genome biology. After developing the research techniques that allow us to identify the interactions between genes and regulatory elements and understand their biological relevance, our aim as Enhanc3D Genomics is to use our proprietary technology to inform effective repurposing of existing drugs and to identify new drug targets.”

While in development at the Institute, the technology was applied to identify new gene targets linked to specific diseases, including autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes and Crohn’s disease.

Dr Simon Cook, Head of Knowledge Exchange & Commercialisation at the Babraham Institute, said: “The Institute’s world-leading research into the three-dimensional organisation of the genome has already had many impacts. We are delighted to see it now underpinning the launch of Enhanc3D Genomics, helping to understand the causes of disease and drive the identification of new drug targets. This exemplifies the close relationship the Institute has with the Babraham Accelerator and Start Codon to translate and commercialise our publically-funded science.”

After enrolling into the programme in February, the Enhanc3D Genomics team has received funding to support the further development of their technology platform, mentoring and access to a valuable network of entrepreneurs and business development coaches. They have also been able to polish their business plan, ready to present to a range of potential investors associated with the programme.

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Dr Debora Lucarelli, Enhanc3D Genomics CEO, said: “I believe Enhanc3D Genomics’ technology has the potential to revolutionise functional genomics. Start Codon’s programme offers invaluable scientific, operational and financial resources as well as access to a large network of companies and investors. These are all key factors for early stage companies that enable development and growth. I am excited to build on these foundations and lead the Enhanc3D Genomics team towards Series A funding. Our team is strongly committed to improve human health by leveraging 3D genome organisation for drug and biomarker discovery.”

The other three companies who joined Enhanc3D Genomics in the Start Codon programme are:

  • Drishti Discoveries, a start-up leveraging a proprietary gene silencing technology to develop therapies for rare inherited diseases
  • Spirea, a spin-out from the University of Cambridge, who is developing the next generation of antibody drug conjugate cancer therapeutics which carry more drug payload to tumour cells, resulting in greater efficacy, tolerability and the ability to treat more cancer patients
  • Semarion, a University of Cambridge spin-out, who is revolutionising cell-based assays for drug discovery and life science through its proprietary SemaCyteTM microcarrier platform, which leverages novel material physics for assay miniaturisation, multiplexing and automation

All four companies will present at the Milner Therapeutics Symposium ‘Building Collaborations to Transform Therapies’ on 26 June and at the annual OnHelix conference on 14 July. The presentations will see the companies unveiled to audiences of investors and senior pharma executives.

Dr Jason Mellad, Co-founder and CEO at Start Codon, said: “We are providing life science and healthcare companies with a unique combination of funding, facilities and mentoring to support their development and success. It is exciting to be working closely with these four exciting start-up companies, helping them to successfully commercialise their novel ideas and discoveries.”

Start Codon is now accepting applications for its second cohort of companies. Early stage start-up companies in the life sciences and healthcare space are invited to apply via https://startcodon.co/application-form.

 

Notes to Editors

Press contact
For the Babraham Institute:
Dr Louisa Wood, Communications Manager, louisa.wood@babraham.ac.uk     

For Start Codon:
Lorna Cuddon, Zyme Communications
Tel: +44(0)7811996942
Email: lorna.cuddon@zymecommunications.com

Image description:
Modified example mapping genomic interactions from a gene promoter contacting multiple enhancers (looping purple lines). Adapted from figure 3, Schoenfelder et al (2015) Genome Res. 25: 582-597. Enhanc3D Genomics’ pioneering proprietary technology profiles enhancer–gene contacts genome-wide at high resolution to identify novel therapeutic targets.

Additional/related resources:
Start Codon press release: Start Codon showcases the first cohort of companies from its life science business acceleration programme, 22 June 2020
Babraham Institute news, 6 March 2018: Making new contacts: Super-enhancers in changing cells
Babraham Institute press release, 17 November 2016: Researchers identify missing links that connect human DNA variation with disease
Babraham Institute press release, 4 May 2015: New technique has implications in determining the genetic basis of thousands of diseases

About the Babraham Institute
The Babraham Institute undertakes world-class life sciences research to generate new knowledge of biological mechanisms underpinning ageing, development and the maintenance of health. Our research focuses on cellular signalling, gene regulation, immunology and the impact of epigenetic regulation at different stages of life. By determining how the body reacts to dietary and environmental stimuli and manages microbial and viral interactions, we aim to improve wellbeing and support healthier ageing. The Institute is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, through Institute Strategic Programme Grants and an Institute Core Capability Grant, and also receives funding from other UK research councils, charitable foundations, the EU and medical charities.

About Enhanc3D Genomics
Enhanc3D Genomics is a spin-out company from Babraham Institute. It is founded by academic scientists who are leaders in the fields of regulatory genomics and chromosomal architecture. Its three co-founders are: Professor Peter Fraser, Dr Mikhail Spivakov and Dr Stefan Schoenfelder. Dr Debora Lucarelli is the company’s CEO. Enhanc3D Genomics is based on the Cambridge BioMedical Campus.

About Start Codon
Start Codon is a new model of life science and healthcare business accelerator, and the first in Cambridge, UK to provide companies with a combination of seed funding, facilities, mentoring and access to a dedicated team and network of industry leading contacts. Founding investors in Start Codon include Cambridge Innovation Capital, the Babraham Research Campus through Babraham Bioscience Technologies, Genentech (a member of the Roche Group), Dr Jonathan Milner and Dr Ian Tomlinson.

Founded to identify ideas that have the potential to impact the diagnosis, prevention and/or treatment of disease, and support their path to successful Series A funding, Start Codon aims to revolutionise the way life science and healthcare innovation is commercialised by reducing risk in investment opportunities and developing companies in the Cambridge, UK cluster that are built to succeed globally.

Follow Start Codon on Twitter @StartCodon and LinkedIn @Start Codon