September 2021 marks the 3rd anniversary of the opening of the Oxford BioEscalator.
A new venture for the University of Oxford Medical Sciences Division, the BioEscalator was established to provide much-needed high-quality commercial laboratory space for the growing number of healthcare-focused spin-out companies being created by academics and researchers across the University. With its mission of teaching and research at the fore, the University was also keen for the space to be available to all small early-stage biotech start-ups working with University academics and clinicians. The requirement was not just space and shared facilities, but also support and community. Its unique location - between the University’s medical research buildings and Oxford’s main hospitals - facilitates access to the rich mix of expertise, knowledge, and resources available across Oxford and beyond.
The results have been extremely positive. Since the BioEscalator opened its doors in 2018, 24 companies have started their journeys there. Ten of these have been Oxford University spin-outs representing nine different academic departments. The steadily growing community has matured to a diverse mix of biotech SMEs, working on novel diagnostics, therapeutics and platform technologies applicable to a wide range of diseases, including cancer, autoimmune disorders, infectious diseases and metabolic disorders. Three of the companies even pivoted their research to support the fight against covid-19. Nucleome Therapeutics, Alchemab Therapeutics and Hutano Diagnostics all quickly redirected their scientific expertise and business plans to develop new detection methods and discover potential therapeutics. Alchemab was also a member of the BIA Antibody Taskforce.
Despite their infancy, and the challenges of a global pandemic, the BioEscalator companies have been hugely successful at raising funds to support high growth. Over the three years, they have collectively attracted £1.4B, of which £1.2B was raised in the past 12 months. Seven companies have graduated from the BioEscalator, thanks to successful fundraising, and moved on to the next stage in their journey, including two tenants (oncolytic virus developer Theolytics and herbicide innovator MoA Technology), who was among the first to join the BioEscalator community. They are now part of the esteemed alumni community, along with fellow BioEscalator graduates, OMass Therapeutics, MiroBio, EnaraBio and Alchemab. The smaller SMEs continue to grow within the BioEscalator, in many cases moving from a bench or two in the shared Innovation Labs to a proprietary lab and office space as they meet their milestones and recruit new talent. Overall, the BioEscalator has generated over 180 jobs so far.
Professor Matthew Wood, Chair of the BioEscalator Management Board, said:
“We are delighted that the BioEscalator has supported so many innovative companies over the past three years. Many of them have made outstanding progress and are set to make notable strides in advancing human healthcare. It has provided a perfect channel to expedite the translation of academic research to the clinic.”
The BioEscalator has been host to 70 events, from trade exhibitions, seminars, socials and networking opportunities. A recent event, the BioEscalator Pitch Battle 2021, saw resident companies give their best 6-minute elevator pitch to a panel of judges, including guest judges from the Oxford Technology Park, sponsor of the event, and OSI. PepGen, the winner of the event, earned itself £2000 prize money. At the online Grow-On Space event, local science parks, business parks and lab fit-out companies were invited to showcase their space and services to BioEscalator companies to prepare them for when they graduate.
Creating partnerships with the broader life sciences community is an essential part of the BioEscalator’s role. In July 2020, the BioEscalator, BioCity and Oxford AHSN joined forces to support early-stage medical start-ups by providing a series of sold-out commercialisation workshops. The BioEscalator has also collaborated with organisations such as Oxford Biosciences Network (OBN) for a BioTuesday event and the Innovation Forum for the Imagine IF competition!
The BioEscalator filled very rapidly; the early success of its tenants and alumni highlights how quickly it has forged a prime place in the Oxford innovation ecosystem.