Syncona, CRUK and BACIT join forces to create a $1.2B biotech investment powerhouse

Wellcome Director Jeremy Farrar

Wellcome Director Jeremy Farrar

The Wellcome Trust’s independent investment subsidiary Syncona is merging with the public investment firm BACIT to create an expanded, $1.2 billion investment outfit listed on the London exchange. As part of the new alignment, Cancer Research UK is investing in BACIT with an eye to spurring a new round of UK biotech startups working in the oncology arena.

Wellcome created Syncona four years ago, investing £250 million into its subsidiary to help provide some badly needed financing for the country’s growing biotech industry. Combined with more funds from Neil Woodford, there’s been a wave of new UK biotechs starting up in recent years, often getting started with new technology from the country’s leading academic institutions.

Wellcome will own about a third of the new investment firm.

These are well known players in the UK, with some deep, shared ties. Just a few weeks ago Syncona and CRUK joined forces to launch Achilles Therapeutics, a new biotech focused on neoantigens with tech out of University College London and the Francis Crick Institute.

The newly enlarged group will have considerable clout in the country’s biotech scene in the years ahead.

Woodford’s funds have helped with additional tech investments in the field, though some of his investments in firms like Northwest Bio and Circassia have suffered badly over the past year. In the meantime, the IPO window has all but closed for biotechs, with only a handful of new listings as generalists stay well away from high risk drug development offerings.

“We launched Syncona with a long-term vision to offer support for some of the best innovators in life sciences, and to deliver impact to patients,” said Wellcome Director Jeremy Farrar. “It has already achieved great things, and this proposal, which will see it align with BACIT and Cancer Research UK, will allow it to spread its wings and expand its horizons further. We see this as a logical next step for Syncona and we look forward to watching it, and the companies it supports, expand and prosper.”

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