Oxford academics raise record £1.4bn after university’s Covid success
Oxford University academics raised a record amount of cash for their own businesses last year after the success of its Covid-19 work lured new backers to the city.
A total of £1.4bn was invested into businesses which have been spun out from the university in 2021, data shows, up from £1.1bn a year earlier and £380m in 2019.
It signals a major uptick in interest in academic ventures. In 2018, spin-outs across UK universities as a whole raised only £1.5bn.
The spike in backing for companies formed from Oxford University research follows a series of high-profile triumphs for the institution, including the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is now one of the most widely used around the world.
The vaccine was based on findings from Vaccitech, a company co-founded by Professor Sarah Gilbert and spun out of the university’s Jenner Institute.
It was manufactured at a facility run by Oxford Biomedica, another spin-out.
Alexis Dormandy, chief executive of the university investment company Oxford Science Enterprises, said: “Oxford is fast becoming a powerhouse for the creation of world-changing spinouts. Covid-19 shone a spotlight on the University, its world-class academics and science.”
Last year, more than 26 start-ups and spinouts were created in Oxford, slightly down on the 28 launched a year earlier, but still significantly more than the 18 launched in 2019.
The findings came as separate data compiled by PitchBook showed more cash was invested into UK biotech businesses last year than in any previous one.
According to the report, £1.5bn was invested into the sector in 2021 in a total of 165 deals – almost double the amount that went into UK biotech businesses a year earlier, at a time when investors were still grappling with what the pandemic would mean for their prospects.
Venture capital firms have become increasingly interested in biotech businesses because of their role during the pandemic, as they partnered with some of the larger pharmaceutical companies to get treatments to millions of people.
Pfizer, for example, partnered with German biotech BioNTech for its Covid jab.
Others, including Oxford Nanopore, have been pivotal in helping to map virus mutations, with the company’s technology used for around a fifth of all Covid-19 sequencing globally.