David Holmes of BioNow discusses ‘Why northern Health and Life Sciences’?

02 November 2021

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David Holmes – BioNow

It was a real pleasure to be invited to be part of this year’s Investment Summit, and to highlight some of the reasons why investors should take a closer look at the investment opportunities health and life sciences present.

The sector offers a wealth of opportunities, with innovative ideas and research breakthroughs regularly spawning spin out companies and start-ups, and these companies provide huge potential for growth.

If you look around the Northeast region at present, you can see a number of very innovative life science companies have recently secured further investment, even during the Covid-19 pandemic, companies such as AMLo Biosciences raised £1.5m  as they continue their development of Skin Cancer diagnostic products, CellulaREvolution raised £1m as they work on cell incubators, which will significantly decrease the cost of making meat in the lab (thus saving the plant) and decreasing the cost of biologics – a crucial component for many modern medicines (thus saving us) and Nanovery raising £475k as they work on nanorobots to detect and destroy cancer cells.  There are many others, but I am short on words here, and I don’t want to labour the point that there are many very exciting investment prospects based in the region, another two locally that are seeking investment at present are Gliff, who develop the picks and shovels of medical AI, and also Pulmobiomed with their best in class exhaled breath detection device, both local to the NE and representing great opportunities now for people wanting to invest in this sector.

We have great world leading life science companies based here too, if you want to see what can be achieved, check out Iksuda Therapeutics, who earlier this year raised $47 million dollars, or QuantuMDx with their amazing QPOC device, as they continue to build a world leading unicorn in the heart of Newcastle.

You may ask yourself, why are so many great companies based in the region? Or why should you invest in companies based in this region as opposed to the golden triangle of Cambridge-London-Oxford?

It’s a very legitimate question to ask, both the golden triangle and northern England have many talented scientists and innovative ideas and companies, however, when you are investing in a company, that company needs to maximise the value for money of every penny they have received, and because of staffing and facility costs, companies can achieve the same levels of R&D in the north but at a lower cost, simply put; your money goes a lot further up here.

It is great offering value for money, however it is more important to have great ideas and innovation, fortunately, the Northeast benefits from having a cluster of research rich universities in this sector too, with Newcastle, Durham, Northumbria, Sunderland and now Teesside all being part of the Northern Accelerator programme.  This programme has provided a number of very successful spin out companies in Health and Life Sciences in recent years and is supported by the Northern Accelerator Seed Investment Fund, which is a fund managed by Northstar Ventures.

Other large investors in the sector include Wellcome Trust, which has a £200m fund for early-stage biotech companies, and LifeArc which also has a significant seed fund for early-stage companies in the sector, this is in addition to a large number of specialist VCs who view the sector as attractive due to it is consistent high growth potential, and intrinsically innovative nature.

In terms of an exit strategy, there are plentiful options, some companies list on the stock market, many other investors receive a return via either a later round of investment from other parties or trade sales.

When you put all these ingredients together, innovative ideas, great universities, comparatively lower cost facilities, skilled and talented scientists, and a mature ecosystem that includes everything from IP lawyers to companies specialising in clinical trials and scale ups, the question we end up with should be ‘why not invest in northern health and life sciences?’

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