This article was originally published in December 2020 and has since been updated.
Cambridge has a large biotech scene that is starting to rival that of its U.S. namesake. Here are 15 biotech companies in Cambridge you should know about.
The U.K. is home to several biotech hubs, including the golden triangle of London, Oxford and Cambridge, as well as Bristol and Stevenage.
Cambridge is a small but vibrant city that is well known for its university and for being a center of excellence for life sciences and health-related research. The Wellcome Sanger Institute, where part of the human genome was sequenced, is located on the outskirts of the city, next to the European Bioinformatics Institute. There are also a number of world-class research institutes in the vicinity including Addenbrookes Hospital.
While the city has historically had more of an academic research focus, in recent years Cambridge has become a major biotech and pharma hub. Antibody development is one of the strengths of the city thanks to the legacy of Cambridge Antibody Technologies, which pioneered the technology of phage display and developed Humira, the world’s best-selling drug. After a reign of nine years, Humira was displaced to second place by the COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty in 2021. Newer therapeutic areas are also represented, such as RNA silencing, cell and gene therapies, and the microbiome, as well as companies using artificial intelligence to improve drug discovery.
As there are so many excellent companies in the region, it was hard to choose only 15 biotech companies in Cambridge. After consultation with local experts, here are our choices in no particular order.
Table of contents
Kymab is one of several biotech companies in Cambridge focusing on antibody therapies. The company was spun out of the Wellcome Sanger Institute to rapidly develop bispecific antibodies using genetically engineered mice.
Kymab is targeting a broad range of indications in four key therapeutic areas: immuno-oncology, hematology, and infectious and immune diseases. The company has four products in its pipeline targeting cancer, anemia of chronic inflammation, and several immune disorders. Its most advanced candidate is a treatment for atopic dermatitis and adults with moderate-to-severe asthma that is currently in phase 2 trials.
In 2021, Kymab was acquired by Sanofi in a deal worth $1.45 billion.
Founded by Nobel prize winner and Cambridge professor Sir Greg Winter, Bicycle Therapeutics develops a new class of drugs called bicyclic peptides, which blend the ability of traditional antibodies to hunt normally undruggable proteins with the manufacturing ease of small molecule drugs.
The company has three bicycle conjugates in its pipeline that are currently being tested in phase 2 and 2a trials for the potential treatment of different types of cancer. Just this month, Bicycle Therapeutics announced positive results from its ongoing phase 1 trial of its program targeting nectin-4, a cell adhesion molecule that is overexpressed in tumor cells.
In 2019, the company listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange in a downsized IPO of $61 million; over the last three years, the share price has increased 105%. In 2020, the company made a deal with Genentech worth up to $1.7 billion to develop novel cancer immunotherapies.
Mission Therapeutics is developing small molecule drugs to inhibit deubiquitylating enzymes, which regulate the degradation of proteins within cells. These enzymes are involved in a wide range of conditions including mitochondrial diseases, kidney injury, pulmonary fibrosis and Parkinson’s disease.
The company currently has six programs in its pipeline, four in-house programs in research and preclinical phases and two undisclosed partnered programs with AbbVie and Pfizer. Last March, Mission Therapeutics was granted approval to begin a phase 1 trial of its lead candidate for chronic kidney disease.
Another spin-off from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Congenica is the U.K.’s fastest growing genomics company. The company has partnerships with many U.K. hospitals for genomic diagnostics and works with UCB in Belgium in drug discovery programs.
Congenica has developed a clinical genome analysis platform called Sapientia that uses machine learning to produce diagnostic reports from genomic data collected in hospitals and other research institutions around the world.
In 2019, the company raised funds to support the use of its rare disease diagnostics platform by the newly formed National Health Service (NHS) Genomic Medicine Service.
Artios Pharma is developing drugs that inhibit an enzyme called DNA polymerase theta, which plays a role in multiple DNA repair processes. The levels of this enzyme are typically higher in several types of tumors, including breast, ovarian and lung cancers, than in healthy tissue.
This Cambridge-based biotech company has two candidates in clinical trials for the treatment of advanced or metastatic solid tumors, and has research collaboration and license agreements with Novartis and Merck KGaA to identify DNA damage response targets, inhibitors and agents that can modulate them.
In 2021, Artios raised $153 million in an oversubscribed Series C financing led by Omega Funds and TCG X.
Healx uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze extensive medical research data with the goal of repurposing existing drugs to treat rare diseases. The company’s most advanced program, a drug repurposed for fragile X syndrome, took less than two years to reach clinical trials instead of the normal 5–7 years this process usually takes.
The company’s last financing round was in 2019, raising $56 million in Series B financing. Shortly after, Healx started the Rare Treatment Accelerator program, allowing patient advocacy groups a chance to work with the company to find new treatments for rare diseases.
Healx has a mission to advance 100 rare disease treatments towards the clinic by 2025. Since the start of the pandemic, the company has been using its technology to search for treatments for COVID-19.
Cyted is applying AI to the development of diagnostics. The company collaborated with Medtronic to develop an early detection esophageal cancer test called Cytosponge. The device can be swallowed like a pill to identify patients at high risk of developing esophageal cancer.
Cyted has also partnered with the NHS, private healthcare providers and life science companies to deliver improved pathology services. In September, Cyted reached a milestone of 10,000 completed early esophageal cancer detection tests, and earlier this year, Cytosponge was awarded Best Medical Technology at the Prix Galien U.K. Awards 2022.
Storm Therapeutics was spun out of the University of Cambridge to treat cancer and other diseases using a technology to modulate RNA-modifying enzymes, such as RNA methyltransferase.
The company has several candidates in its pipeline targeting indications in oncology, inflammation and COVID-19. Their lead candidate is ready to enter phase 1 trials for acute myeloid leukemia.
There has been increasing interest in companies working in the RNA space since the first RNA interference therapy was approved in 2018 and the approval of the first mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines.
Cambridge Epigenetix was founded by Cambridge professor Sir Shankar Balasubramanian, who co-invented the technology behind next-generation sequencing now used by DNA sequencing giant Illumina.
Cambridge Epigenetix pioneered epigenetic tests for the early detection of cancer and other diseases. Its technology is able to reveal information about the activity of disease-related genes not available using genetic analysis alone. The company has raised over $155 million in funding to date, over five rounds .
Mogrify develops a novel class of in vivo reprogramming therapies using their proprietary platforms to identify the optimal combinations of transcription factors that will drive direct cellular reprogramming, i.e., changing one cell type into any other cell type. The company generates functional cell types to address diseases with high unmet clinical need, which includes indications in ophthalmology, metabolic diseases and degenerative disorders.
In July, Mogrify entered into a collaborative research agreement with the Japanese regenerative medicine company Astellas Pharma Inc. to advance in vivo regenerative medicine approaches for sensorineural hearing loss.
The company’s last funding round was in 2021, raising $33 million in Series A financing.
Previously known as Elpis Biomed, Bit Bio was founded by neurosurgeon and cell therapy specialist Mark Kotter, who is also a Cambridge academic. The company is creating cell therapies through precise reprogramming of human cells using its opti-oxTM technology.
Bit Bio’s approach is to screen large datasets for “cocktails” of proteins that are needed to turn stem cells into the desired cell type. The company has so far raised $ 145 million to support the development of this technology.
Evonetix is working on a fast, scalable, high fidelity approach to DNA synthesis. The company has designed semiconductor technology that allows DNA synthesis on a chip, where DNA is made simultaneously at many different points on a silicon chip via electronic programming.
The company has so far raised $44 million in funding over three rounds. In August, Evonetix announced its early access program for semiconductor synthesized DNA; researchers are invited to apply to receive the first DNA samples prepared using this semiconductor technology and test the efficacy in routine biology workflows.
Microbiotica was established in 2016 as a spin-out from the Wellcome Sanger Institute. The company uses clinical data and detailed microbiome profiling to develop personalized medicine and diagnostic biomarkers.
The company’s live bacterial therapeutics are a defined set of precision-selected bacteria that are dosed orally in a capsule for targeted release in the intestine. They have programs in inflammatory bowel disease, immuno-oncology and gut epithelial barrier repair.
Microbiotica also has academic and clinical collaborations with Cancer Research UK, Cambridge University Hospitals, University of Adelaide, Genentech and Roche to identify microbiome-based biomarkers of drug response, drug side-effects or disease progression.
NodThera is targeting several inflammatory conditions affecting the liver, lungs and bowels. These conditions involve excessive activation of a multi-protein complex called the NLRP3 inflammasome, which has received a lot of interest from big pharma. This complex regulates the release of two proinflammatory proteins that normally help the body to get rid of infection or heal tissue damage.
The company has two candidates in phase 1 trials and has raised a total of $95 million over two funding rounds to advance its technology.
CN Bio Innovations
CN Bio Innovations develops human organ-on-a-chip technology for disease modeling as well as testing and developing therapies for human diseases. The company has collaborated with academic bioengineering groups at MIT and Imperial College London to develop its platform and identify novel treatments.