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5 things to know about Cambridge’s Nuclera eyeing a New York IPO and unicorn status

Nuclera CEO Michael Chen
Nuclera CEO Michael Chen. Image credit; Nuclera.

Back in 2022, Tech Funding News published a feature and founder interview about four friends from Cambridge who secured substantial funding for their spin-out, developing their state-of-the-art 3D protein printers. Their goal was to offer a faster, more efficient way to synthesise proteins for the biotech industry, radically speeding up research and helping to bring new products and treatments to market quicker.

Now, less than 2 years on, and on target to a $1 billion valuation, this Cambridge-based life sciences startup, Nuclera, is setting its sights on a potential New York initial public offering (IPO). According to a recent report, Nuclera expects this to happen within the next five years as it approaches unicorn status. The spin-out from Cambridge University, specialises in accelerating drug discovery by swiftly identifying the necessary proteins essential for creating new medicines and vaccines, and 3D printing them for research.

How does the technology work?

Nuclera aims to revolutionise drug discovery by significantly reducing the lengthy timeline traditionally associated with the process. The startup asserts that it can trim down the timeframe from months or even years to just a matter of days with their eProtein printers, potentially streamlining the development of crucial medical solutions.

Cambridge’s next unicorn

Jonathan Milner, a seasoned life sciences investor and former chief of biotech company Abcam, believes that Nuclera has the potential to become Cambridge’s next unicorn. A unicorn, in business terms, refers to a privately held startup with a valuation exceeding $1 billion. Milner, who now serves as a non-executive chair of Nuclera’s board, expressed confidence in the company’s trajectory toward achieving this milestone.

Considering Exit strategy and IPO

Nuclera’s founder and chief executive, Michael Chen, outlined the company’s ambition to attain unicorn status within the next five years. Chen indicated that achieving this status could involve either an initial public offering (IPO) or being acquired by a larger company. He emphasised the importance of operational capabilities in larger companies to better serve Nuclera’s mission to its customers.

Chen commented, “Our ambition is to IPO or, if the public markets are not open, we’d be very happy to be part of a larger portfolio or a larger company. Being part of one of these larger companies also means that you can better serve your mission to your customers because they have more operational capabilities.”

New York over London

While being “opportunistic” in considering assorted options, Chen suggested that Nuclera is likely to follow the path of chip giant Arm and opt for New York as its listing place of choice, rather than London. Nuclera is considering Nasdaq in the US for its IPO due to the availability of sophisticated biotech investors familiar with the biotech market.

“I can only speak in hypothetical terms,” Chen said, “perhaps the London Stock Exchange will look incredibly attractive in three to five years.”

A Boston office already

Chen acknowledged the challenges in the UK tech scene, citing headwinds faced by London’s public markets in recent months. He highlighted a shift from an era of excess funding in 2021 to a return to fundamentals in 2022 and beyond. Nuclera believes it will be judged more on concrete metrics such as orders, revenue, and overall financial performance.

“We saw that 2021 was a time of excess, where a lot of companies raised huge amounts of money at tremendous private paper valuations,” Chen explained. “And then we’ve seen a return to fundamentals in 2022, 2023 and beyond where you’re really being judged more so by your orders, by your revenue, by how you’re able to translate your story into financial performance, or a metric that investors care about. I think that’s a healthy return to fundamentals,”

Nuclera’s primary office in Cambridge currently employs a team of approximately ninety individuals, with an additional smaller office in Boston, USA. The company has garnered support from key investors, including RT Partners, M&G Catalyst, Amadeus Capital Partners, Verve Ventures, and various angel investors. With $83 million (£65.3 million) in funding to date, Nuclera has established partnerships with Google Cloud’s artificial intelligence program AlphaFold2 and Cambridge AI startup Deepmirror. The company remains focused on advancing its mission in the dynamic landscape of life sciences and biotechnology.

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