A company tackling Parkinson’s with new medicines to prevent neurodegeneration has claimed £100k investment and free lab space for six months, after winning top-place in an accelerator programme helping young healthcare and life science entrepreneurs to build commercially viable businesses

London-based Keregen has won OneStart Europe 2015 with a molecular technology that has the potential to slow or even stop the progression of Parkinson’s by preserving quality, preventing degeneration and promoting longevity in cells. Keregen’s science was originally developed at University College London.

The company’s success follows an intense five month training and mentoring programme culminating in last week’s pitching event to investors and industry against nine other teams from the UK, France and Israel.

Describing both the funding and the mentoring as “the starting catalyst Keregen needs”, acting CEO Jemma Gatliff says:

“The Keregen team has learned so much about the complexities of entrepreneurship, which are particularly challenging in the life sciences. The experience has equipped us with a broad understanding of the industry, the hurdles we may face, and the importance of a robust development plan. Without our mentors, Ilan Zipkin of Takeda Ventures and David Phillips of SR One, we couldn’t have achieved so much in such a short space of time.

“The OneStart prize will enable us to obtain our first in vivo proof-of-principle, a key step to help us raise the necessary funding to move our company further forward. This really is the starting catalyst Keregen needs.”

Set up in 2013 by SR One and the Oxbridge Biotech Roundtable to support young entrepreneurs aiming to get healthcare innovation to market, OneStart has a strong track record of seeding new companies. Over 40 entrants in the previous two years going on to raise financing of between £75k to £3m thanks to the contacts and support of the programme.

Matthew Foy, Partner at SR One, who has been deeply involved in the organisation of OneStart since its inaugural year, says:

“The science that goes on in Europe is fantastic, but very little of it ever gets translated into a company, and ergo a product that actually helps patients. We founded OneStart with the Oxbridge Biotech Roundtable to stimulate the environment to become more entrepreneurial. For me, the most satisfying thing about OneStart is witnessing the growth of each of these start-up teams from when we first read their applications to seeing them pitch confidently and professionally at the finals.”

Daniel Perez, founder and CEO of the Oxbridge Biotech Roundtable, adds:

“OneStart is dedicated to young bio-entrepreneurs, especially those from academia, who can disproportionately benefit from the extensive network of industry advisors and investors that they are connected with via the programme. The immense support given by OneStart mentors and partners is what makes this accelerator so unique and successful – we founded OneStart with SR One to kick-start each of these nascent start-ups with decades of experience in commercialising early-stage innovation.”

This competition for entrepreneurs under the age of 36 is supported by a range of partners including Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Takeda Ventures, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GSK, McKinsey & Company, Roche, MedCity, AstraZeneca, Silicon Valley Bank, Forresters, and Olswang, who act as mentors and advisors throughout the OneStart programme.

Ilan Zipkin, Senior Investment Director at Takeda Ventures and mentor of Keregen, says:

“I have been very impressed with the professional growth shown by the OneStart Europe teams throughout the process and through the finalists’ presentations. In particular, the dedication and effort from the Keregen team to capture this opportunity has been inspiring. I’m honoured and proud to have had the chance to work with them and look forward to their continued success.”

Sarah Haywood, Chief Operating Officer of MedCity, adds:

“Entrepreneurs are the great pioneers of our economy and, in the case of life sciences in particular, they are also driving forwards new and better approaches to healthcare. Their success benefits us all, and the great thrill of OneStart is seeing so many robust companies emerge from the process.”

The 10 finalists were chosen from over 300 applicants from 37 countries across Europe, Africa and Asia-Pacific, and have gone through an intensive programme to develop their business skills over the course of the competition, including a biotech bootcamp with industry leaders to understand the healthcare market, what makes a product commercially successful and what investors are looking for.