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Le boom technologique de l’Intelligence Artificielle et du Machine Learning a atteint de nombreux secteurs (médecine, software, etc.) et ouvre de nouveaux horizons dans des secteurs jusque là réfractaires à l’innovation. Un des exemples les plus parlant est le secteur des Paris Sportifs.
Dans un secteur plus connus pour ses fraudes et ses matchs truqués que pour son côté innovant (relayés par exemple par des sites web comme Betmaker), les nouvelles technologies font leurs apparitions dans un secteur qui en a cruellement besoin. Venu principalement d’Asie et de ses gros Bookmakers, l’entrée de l’Intelligence Artificielle et du Machine Learning dans les paris sportifs permet aux parieurs une analyse beaucoup plus poussés et en temps réel des probabilités de victoires, en tenant compte d’une infinité de paramètres des parties précédentes de ces deux équipes (effets des changements de joueurs, des cartons ou pénalités reçus, des tactiques mises en places, des choix préférentielles des entraineurs, de la metéo, etc.).
Dans un secteur où les donnés (les fameuses « data ») ont de plus en plus d’importance, aussi bien dans la préparation physique que dans la préparation tactique des matchs, l’analyse et la structuration de ce flot continue de données par l’Intelligence Artificielle et le Machine Learning permet une vision beaucoup plus précise et en temps réel des probabilités de victoires, mais également des performances individuelles de chaque joueur (probabilité de marquer, de blessures, de cartons/pénalités).
Cela ouvre de grandes opportunités pour des entrepreneurs audacieux qui maîtrisent les rouages de ces technologies de pointes (AI et ML), dans un secteur risqué (car fortement régulé et surveillé) mais terriblement attractif de par sa taille et le statu-quo qui y règne depuis bien trop longtemps.
The relentless march of Cambridge science & technology companies into US hands continued today as Horizon Discovery, a world gene editing leader, revealed it was being acquired by Wall Street quoted PerkinElmer for $383 million.
In recent weeks NVIDIA has swallowed Arm for $40 billion, DisplayLink was sold to Synaptics, which is already plotting major redundancies in Cambridge, and F-star reversed into a NASDAQ IPO.
The swoop by Massachusetts based PerkinElmer for Horizon is an all-cash offer and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021.
It is all upside for PerkinElmer which says it will expand its portfolio of leading, automated life sciences discovery and applied genomics solutions to include gene editing and gene modulation tools.
The acquisition will enable PerkinElmer to better partner with academic and pharma/biopharma scientists to help meet research challenges. It will also provide an opportunity to provide important tools for exploring next generation cell engineering and customised cell lines for relevant biological models – important for the future of precision medicine.
Horizon has been a sitting duck since incredibly deciding to part company with inspirational CEO Darrin Disley. The company is a leading provider of CRISPR and RNAi reagents, cell models, cell engineering and base editing offerings which help scientists better understand gene function, genetic disease drivers and biotherapeutics delivery.
Horizon has approximately 400 employees across multiple countries, including the UK, the US and Japan and reported revenue from continuing operations of $75.5 million in 2019.
PerkinElmer’s discovery and applied genomics solutions feature a range of immunoassay platforms, high content screening (HCS) and in vivo imaging, along with microfluidics, robotic liquid handling technologies and next-generation sequencing library preparation kits.
Unifying PerkinElmer’s and Horizon’s complementary offerings across the genotypic and phenotypic approaches for drug discovery and development will help researchers accelerate decision making with better information, automated workflows and greater quality and control over data.
Prahlad Singh, president and CEO at PerkinElmer said: “One of the key fundamentals for molecular research and drug discovery is being able to knock down a gene or function and explore the results to discover actionable insights and new clinical trial candidates faster.
“We’re excited to team up with Horizon not only to add CRISPR and RNAi capabilities into our existing portfolio but also to leverage our combined life sciences screening and applied genomics solutions to help propel the next phase of cell and gene research for precision medicine.
“PerkinElmer leads with science and creates total solutions to bring today’s leading innovations together for our customers, while also working at the cutting edge of what’s next. Today’s announcement delivers on both of these fronts.”
The UK BIA Antibody Taskforce, a UK consortium developing antibodies for treating COVID-19, has reached a major milestone – the identification of differentiated antibody combinations that will be taken forward for further development as an antibody cocktail.
Several Cambridge life science companies are in the vanguard of the initiative.
The taskforce developed an accelerated and rigorous multifaceted approach to create a pool of over 600 novel candidates and identified a set of antibodies with the greatest potential.
Ex-AstraZeneca executive Dr Jane Osbourn, CSO at new Cambridge company Alchemab and leader of the taskforce, said: “We have accelerated the standard timelines for antibody discovery, taking seven months rather than the industry standard 18 months, establishing a pathway that can be applied to future pandemics.
“We believe that the most effective tool against COVID-19 will most likely be a defined mixture of two to three antibodies – so the effectiveness of different combinations must also be assessed.”
These candidate antibodies are the first to be selected for the next stage of development, following assessment by collaborators for potency. Assessment of their efficacy as a cocktail is ongoing; however, early indications are showing a potential competitively potent cocktail that is differentiated from other products currently being investigated in clinic.
The candidates are poised to move into the next phase of development where further screening and safety testing will need to be performed.
The next phase of the project will involve manufacturing of the selected antibody cocktails to support initial clinical trials in 2021 to provide essential safety and efficacy data.
Companies anchored in the Cambridge Cluster are very much to the fore in this activity: In terms of antibody discovery, they include Alchemab,, IONTAS, Kymab and LifeArc.
The antibody screening and assessment role features Abcam and LifeArc, while Kymab again features in the antibody manufacturing function.
Alchemab is a company highlighted exclusively by Business Weekly as a potential life sciences gamechanger, with Jane Osbourn very much the inspiration.
The company is steadily building its capabilities. It has taken lab and office space at Babraham and grown the team to 17 people. It has accessed samples for B Cell Receptor sequencing and antibody proteomic profiling from patients with cancer and neurodegenerative diseases in addition to the work it has done on COVID-19.
Alchemab is working on a key pharma partnership which should be finalised in the next month.
It is also putting down roots in Canada having recently signed a collaboration with Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (AMII) to accelerate the development of novel therapeutics to cure a range of diseases through accelerated adoption of artificial intelligence.
As part of this partnership, Alchemab is establishing a presence in Edmonton – capital of the Alberta province – and hiring a dedicated apprentice to support advanced research sourced and supervised by Amii.
Alchemab CEO Alex Leech said: “At Alchemab, we use a data-driven approach to learn what makes people healthy, and translate these findings into developing novel antibody therapies.
“By partnering with Amii, we are enhancing our machine learning capabilities, which will be pivotal in building the next generation of antibody discovery technologies.”
Alchemab identifies elite controllers – or especially resilient individuals – and learns how they overcome or resist disease to develop novel therapeutics through its proprietary drug development platform. The company has a range of programmes across cancers, neurodegenerative conditions and infectious diseases.
Noted Cambridge dontrepreneur Professor Chris Abell, who co-founded global life science company Astex among other corporate gamechangers, has died at the age of 62.
A biological chemist, Professor Abell was Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, Professor of Biological Chemistry and Todd-Hamied Fellow of Christ’s College.
He was a pioneer in the field of fragment-based drug discovery, a successful entrepreneur, a founding director of Cambridge Enterprise and the university’s first Director of Postdoctoral Affairs.
A major focus of his highly interdisciplinary research in the Department of Chemistry was to understand the mechanisms of key enzymes and develop approaches to their inhibition, an approach that could lead to new treatments for diseases such as tuberculosis, cystic fibrosis and cancer.
The advances he made in fragment-based drug discovery led him to co-found Astex, a world-leading company in this area, in 1999. Fragment-based approaches are now adopted throughout the pharmaceutical industry and in many academic laboratories.
He also made major contributions to the development of microfluidic microdroplets as a platform for experimental science, with applications in cell biology, chemistry and materials science. This interest resulted in the co-founding of Sphere Fluidics in 2010 and Aqdot in 2013.
Chris was an undergraduate and postgraduate student at St John’s College, Cambridge, before conducting postdoctoral research at Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island. He was named a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2012 and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2016.
Business Weekly chief executive Tony Quested interviewed Chris, a son of the soil, for our Cambridge Torchbearers book in 2015.
We wrote: “Brought up on a farm in Yorkshire, Chris Abell has proved true to his stock by ploughing fertile territory as one of Britain’s most successful life science entrepreneurs.
“As co-founder of the globally respected Astex Therapeutics, Akubio, Sphere Fluidics and the exciting young venture, Aqdot – all from a springboard within academia – Professor Abell is also one of Cambridge University’s most assured ‘Dontrepreneurs.’
“His first foray into the world of business came In 1999 when he co-founded Astex, which used fragment-based drug discovery technology to discover cancer therapeutics, with Sir Tom Blundell and Harren Jhoti.
“In 2001, Chris co-founded Akubio, which developed biosensors for detecting bacteria and viruses; it was acquired by Inverness Medical Innovations in 2008. Then, in 2010, he co-founded Sphere Fluidics to develop microdroplet technology and two years later Aqdot, a company developing a new microencapsulation technology.
“Take a deep breath and consider this statistic: He has so far published more than 200 papers. And his research interests cover a broad church – vitamin and amino acid biosynthesis as targets for the rational design of antimicrobials; fragment-based approaches to enzyme inhibition; bacterial and plant riboswitches; reactions in microdroplets; and biological nanotechnology.
“Chris had a high work ethic from his youth. He says: ‘I was brought up on a farm in Yorkshire so understood how a business works from an early age. Forming my own business had been an ambition for several years before a real opportunity arose. My main motivation – frustration – was that I wanted to do more ambitious science than was possible with standard research grants.’
Chris was a Reader in the Department of Chemistry, Cambridge, carrying out research in mechanistic enzymology and was about 40 when he and his co-founders “made the decisive move” by forming Astex.
They secured funding from Abingworth and Oxford Bioventures (working together) and Chris observes: “We were fortunate to be starting a company in the late 1990s.
“The due diligence process certainly seemed to go on for a long time. Each successive fund raising was stressful. Fortunately for me, Harren as a founder and the first CEO dealt with most of the issues and many frustrations. It helped that we made some excellent early recruits and were very thoughtful about what we did.
“I have been particularly pleased by the way Astex has combined commercial success with high quality science, much of which has been published very well.
“There were several times in the evolution of the business when it seemed the fate of the company was too far outside areas I considered my comfort zone. These mainly related to financing.
“But the founders had each other to lean on when times got tough and we also received a lot of support from some key individuals in the industry as consultants and/or non execs.”
He acknowledged in our interview that, given his time again “there are numerous ways in which one might do things differently, but I am quite happy where I am now.
“It would have been great to float Astex after six to eight years but the markets at the time precluded that.”
Looking at the prevailing environment in the UK for founding new enterprises, Chris believed attitudes and systems governing funding needed to be revised.
He said: “I have found investors take a rather simplistic view about types of companies. For example, they do not seem sufficiently sensitive to different ‘service’ models. There also seems to be a shortage of investors who will come in at the £1-2 million range.
“There is often talk about whether enough of our entrepreneurs are sufficiently ambitious to scale their companies as we did with Astex. I disagree.
“There appears to be a systemic weakness in the system and I think the problems are in part due to the funding mechanisms available. Most entrepreneurs I know do not lack ambition.”
Cambridge-based AgriTech startup Herdsy has entered the US market with two deals set to be worth £1.4 million in the next five years.
The business is set to open a Texas office after managing to secure deals with that state and also with Oregon in just six weeks following help from the Department for International Trade.
Herdsy’s cattle collars monitor the health of cow herds using remote technology, helping farmers decide on the best time to send to market and increase profitability.
Supplying its technology to ranches in Texas and Oregon is a game-changing opportunity; the Texan market alone involves more than 12 million beef cattle. Oregon ranchers reckon the technology will keep wolves away from their cattle.
Herdsy will improve the all round decision-making process of the new US clients by providing ranchers with profit-focused, data-driven insights.
The UK company has developed a collar equipped with advanced sensors and machine learning artificial intelligence to measure biomedical and activity data, such as heart rate, weight gain, and grazing patterns.
This data provides livestock farmers with a complete overview of their cattle via the Herdsy website or app, alerting them in the event of atypical behaviour that could be detrimental to the value of the animal or its wellbeing.
The information is then analysed against industry benchmarks, advising farmers on the ideal time to send animals to market, which in turn reduces time on farm per animal, costs whilst improving cash flow and profit margins.
Richard Hobson founded Herdsy in 2016 after coming up with the idea on his family’s farm. A former IBM software developer and accountant, Hobson was then mentored by his friend Dmitri Zaitsev, a Professor of Mathematics, to refine the technology.
After reaching out to the Department for International Trade for export advice, Herdsy accelerated its entry to the US market, securing the two partnerships in just six weeks.
The business will co-develop a new product with the Texas Agriculture & Mechanical University, one of the biggest cattle names in the US. It has also gained a place with the Austin Technology Incubator to address one of the biggest issues facing the beef industry – sustainability.
Richard Hobson said: “When lockdown started, one of our orders to South Africa was put on hold and I immediately began thinking of how we were going to be able to get through this difficult time.
“I realised with more people than ever having to work remotely that businesses all over the world were having to remodel, and virtual business meetings were necessary to do deals. So, I took the opportunity to set up video calls with high profile ranchers and partners in the United States and it worked!
“Having worked with the Department for International Trade for a few years, they were pivotal in our success in Texas. We managed to secure calls and introductions that otherwise could have taken us years to get.
“We saw the appetite for Herdsy when one rancher from Oregon contacted us to order over 5,000 collars to manage against wolf attacks.”
Herdsy started exporting in 2016 and is currently used in four countries. The business is now planning to open an office in Texas to assist its expansion into neighbouring US states and South America.
In the four quarters to the end of Q2 2020, the US was the UK’s largest trading partner with total trade between the two nations worth £221.6bn, an increase of £790m on the same period in the previous year.
Minister for Exports Graham Stuart said: “It is fantastic to see innovative companies such as Herdsy thriving in new markets, helping farmers on both sides of the Atlantic to monitor their animals and their profits more easily.
“This is a great example of the US’s strong appetite for British technology which will be boosted further when we strike a free trade agreement with the US.”
Last month, for the first time in over two decades, UK beef made its way to the US, marking a historic moment for UK farmers and food producers.
The UK is currently negotiating a free trade deal with the US set to create a host of export opportunities for British goods and services trade, supporting small businesses from all around the UK. The fifth round of negotiations between the two nations got underway on October 19.
Cambridge biotech innovator CellCentric has won $33 million of new funding to accelerate cancer trials leveraging its novel drug CCS1477.
Hong Kong-founded Morningside Venture Investments has injected the capital as trials of the technology enter a critical stage.
The CellCentric drug is in Phase I/II clinical trials to treat late stage prostate cancer, haematological malignancies as well as tumours with specific drivers.
Morningside was swift to respond to encouraging early data to date so that CellCentric could expand its clinical evaluation programme.
Over 10 hospital sites are active in the UK with clinical operations coming on board into the US and then Europe early in 2021.
CCS1477 is formulated as a capsule taken orally. It has been in clinical trials for over a year.
With the new funding, the evaluation will expand, investigating CCS1477 both as a monotherapy and in combination with standard of care agents for multiple specific applications. The aim is to achieve initial clinical proof of concept for more than one setting by Q2 2021.
Dr Will West, CellCentric’s CEO, said: “We are delighted with the continued clinical, commercial and investor interest in our first-in-class cancer drug, CCS1477. Many thanks to Morningside for their continued support, as we progress our clinical plans fully resourced.”
CellCentric investigated more than 50 potential epigenetic-related drug targets before focusing on the twin histone acetyl transferases p300/CBP. An earlier programme based on an arginine methyltransferase target was licenced to Takeda Pharmaceuticals.
Privately held CellCentric has UK headquarters at Chesterford Research Park, bases in Oxford and Manchester and multiple international operations and collaborations.
Cambridge-based Eagle Genomics, a pioneer in applying network science to biology – particularly linked to the microbiome – has closed $9 million in new scale-up funding.
The UK technology business will use the investment to further develop the capabilities of its powerful AI-augmented, knowledge discovery platform and to drive further commercial expansion across Europe and the US.
The biggest names in global food, cosmetics, personal care & AgriTech are looking to Eagle’s AI-augmented, knowledge discovery platform to distil robust scientific evidence in support of marketing claims that its products have a significantly positive biological impact.
Environmental Technologies Fund (ETF) and a consortium of investors from across science, AI and analytics fields have provided this latest, strategically-important round of investment which will support Eagle Genomics’ high-growth ambitions.
The consortium, led by Granpool Innovative Investments, includes bpd partners, Anatom Holding and Albert-László Barabási among others.
Barabási is a world-leading network science expert, proactive investor in cutting-edge health innovation, and distinguished professor and director of Northeastern University’s Center for Complex Network Research. Previously Eagle Genomics’ investors have backed trailblazers including Finch Therapeutics, Silicon Valley microbiome innovation company Pendulum Life and networked/personalised medicine leader Scipher Medicine.
Attracting such a high level of investment during a pandemic is testament to Eagle Genomics’ unique blend of microbiology and data science expertise, as well as its timely focus on driving powerful microbiome-related research.
This is a field which is attracting the attention of global brands including Unilever, in response to huge and growing scientific interest in the role of microbes in maintaining health and wellbeing and promoting ecological renewal of the natural environment.
The microbiome, the ecosystem of bacteria, fungi and viruses present in virtually all living organisms, is directly linked with health and is proven to be affected by the products we use and consume.
Eagle Genomics’ ground-breaking knowledge discovery platform, the e[datascientist]™, harnesses AI to analyse complex genomic and microbiomic data at scale, delivering new insight and allowing enterprise brands to assess the viability, efficacy and safety of products.
Eagle Genomics’ solution is finding significant traction with major household brands, as these organisations strive to demonstrate the link between their latest products and microbiome health.
Unilever has already used the platform successfully to distil credible scientific evidence to support claims about its Zendium toothpaste, which uses natural enzymes to boost the good bacteria in the mouth – the first substantiated microbiome-based claim recorded in a product launch.
Microbiome-related research is big business now. Bill Gates has claimed that “Understanding the microbiome is as big a breakthrough as anything else we will do in health over the next two decades.” Eagle Genomics is Microsoft’s first microbiome-focused partner.
The substantial new funding will accelerate the development of Eagle Genomics’ award-winning platform to meet surging demand from enterprise companies looking to solve grand challenges such as the future of food, sustainable agriculture, wellness, and treatment of non-communicable diseases. The investment will also support the company’s global expansion plans.
“We are on course to establish Eagle Genomics as a market leader at this transformative time and anchor our position as the preeminent platform vendor enabling the digital reinvention of life sciences R & D,” said Anthony Finbow, CEO at Eagle Genomics.
“The microbiome is a megatrend that is evolving very quickly, and we are the forefront of associated discovery with our unique solution to address the enterprise data challenge.
“We have our sights set too on other complex data challenges including CRISPR and quantum biological challenges, such as understanding the immune response more fully. The potential is phenomenal, and we are immensely grateful to our supporters for sharing our vision and helping us to scale at this pivotal time.”
Rob Genieser, Partner at ETF Partners, added: “We are delighted to see Eagle Genomics go from strength to strength, and to be able to support this crucial next stage of growth.
“The timing could not be better, with the world’s focus on disease and accelerated innovation and ever more in-silico innovation.”
Speaking for the investor consortium, Albert-László Barabási, said: “Some investment opportunities leap out, and Eagle Genomics certainly falls into that category.
“This is an immensely exciting science, and the appetite for the company’s unique and powerful platform is clear from the work Eagle Genomics is already doing with the likes of Unilever and the advanced discussions with some of the biggest companies in the world.”
Eagle Genomics is anchored at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and is a pioneer in applying network science to biology – particularly linked to the microbiome.
Its award-winning AI-augmented knowledge discovery platform, e[datascientist]™, helps companies looking to innovate with next-generation food, personal care, cosmetics and agritech products, supported by science. The platform harnesses the latest graph technology and Microsoft’s advanced machine learning and cognitive services.
Eagle Genomics became Microsoft Genomics’ first microbiome partner in 2018. Today the fast-growing global business has operations in the world’s major centres for genomics and AI.
Eagle Genomics works with five of the top 10 household and personal care companies in the world to create and launch new products which work in harmony with the human and ecological microbiome.
Cambridge entrepreneur and VC Dr Hermann Hauser is mobilising forces in the EU to create a €100 billion fighting fund to protect European life science and hi-tech businesses from being lured to the US or China and into foreign sovereignty where they could become vulnerable to asset stripping.
Dr Hauser felt it necessary to broaden his campaign to protect Arm Cambridge jobs and technology and associated UK bragging rights in light of its proposed $40bn acquisition by US giant NVIDIA.
Not content with helping the UK government formulate policy on protecting Arm, he says the issue has now taken on much wider significance.
Dr Hauser joined the engine room of the European Innovation Council in July 2019, as exclusively reported in Business Weekly, and the EIC has propelled itself into the front line of this new sovereignty campaign.
Dr Hauser said: “This has become part of a much bigger issue of technology sovereignty and we have formed a task force at the EIC to address the issue of scaling our critical technologies in Europe so the companies behind them do not have to go to the US or China to become global players.
“America has just started a $100bn program for US technology independence and we are lobbying Europe for a €100bn fund to do the same for Europe.”
Dr Hauser reiterated a point he made to Business Weekly when he joined the EIC’s upper echelon: “Arm’s first CEO, Robin Saxby, has always maintained that when the fledgling business was trying to make ends meet in the early days it only got through the crisis thanks to the financial support of Europe’s Open Microprocessor Initiative.”
Despite the UK government’s headstrong rush towards Brexit, Dr Hauser remains utterly convinced that Britain needs to lean on the trading power of the EU as a buffer to being exploited by the super powers of American and China.
The European Innovation Council is continuing to leverage technology innovation across the EU to drive further significant investment opportunities.
With the UK government set to exit Europe, alienating China by banning Huawei from involvement in Britain’s 5G rollout and potentially backing the wrong horse in the fight for the White House, Dr Hauser says Britain needs all the help it can get to protect its business crown jewels from being lured away.