Investing in medical innovation - the role of seed funds

Guest blog by David Holbrook, LifeArc® 

With a wealth of innovative scientific research emerging from academic institutions and technology transfer offices (TTO) across the UK, it is fair to say that we are truly in a golden age of medical research innovation. As the newly appointed Head of Seed Funds at the medical research charity, LifeArc, I am driven by the question: where does investment and funding of cutting-edge research sit and what role do seed funds play in advancing medical research?  

Over the last few years, industry has been increasingly looking to work with small venture capital-backed companies or universities to capitalise on their early research capabilities. However, with a shortage of money available to fund early-stage translational research and limited investors willing to offer the sums involved, it can be a challenge to deliver investment-worthy opportunities to the venture capital community.

As Head of LifeArc’s Seed Fund, it’s my job to find early-stage research and act as a bridge between the scientific and commercial worlds. Ultimately, we’re looking to offer funding and investment opportunities for promising early-stage therapeutics start-ups; projects we believe will make a real difference to patients’ lives.

It’s widely accepted that the UK is a global leader in advancing scientific innovation; this is due, in part, to collaborative work with local universities and TTOs, who are focused on transforming research outcomes from “bench to bed”. This is a concept we hope to continue through the investment opportunities offered by LifeArc through its Seed Fund. 

The LifeArc Seed Fund, is now actively seeking to invest in promising research opportunities, primarily in the therapeutics space in the UK, which have the potential to give rise to deliverable and significant clinical benefit. The LifeArc Seed Fund will be fully operational by mid-2018 and further details on the Fund and its strategy will be disclosed nearer the time.

What are seed funds looking for?

My advice to those seeking seed investment would be:
•    To conduct as many ‘pre-seed’ activities as possible with your own resources or non-dilutional money i.e. pre-commercialisation grants or money received in order to prepare the proposition as a solid business case for investment
•    It is important that early stage companies and researchers seek as much mentoring and advice as possible from their own network in order to bolster the proposition 
•    It is also important to ensure that the research has strong intellectual property as this will be fundamental in securing further venture capital investment further down the line  
Further information

Contacting LifeArc
Representatives from LifeArc will be attending the PraxisAuril Spring conference and will be available to answer questions onsite. Please email if you would like to contact a LifeArc representative. 

About David Holbrook

David Holbrook is a qualified physician who has spent thirty-five years in medicine and medical innovation, and the last twenty in life sciences spinout investing, principally from academia. After senior business development roles in Glaxo and Roche he headed up Imperial College’s spinout activities, led the life science practice of UK venture capital manager MTI (who raised and managed a fund with The University of Manchester), and most recently was Investment Director, Life Sciences Seed Funds at Cambridge University Enterprise. David holds degrees from King’s College London, Oxford University, and Harvard University.

About LifeArc
LifeArc is a medical research charity that pioneers new ways to turn great science into greater patient impact. We have a 25 year legacy of helping scientists and organisations advance their research into therapeutics and diagnostics for patients, including Keytruda®(cancer), Actemra® (rheumatoid arthritis), Tysabri® (multiple sclerosis) and Entyvio® (Crohn’s disease) and a test for antimicrobial resistance. Find out more about how we fund, protect and develop much needed research at or Twitter @lifearc1