Careers in Discovery
By Tom Froggatt
Careers in Discovery Nov 29, 2023
Samantha Bailey-Bucktrout, Akamis Bio
"I see all the other element of my current role - the leadership, management and mentoring - as enabling the science."
Samantha Bailey-Bucktrout is the Senior Vice President of Research at Akamis Bio, a company harnessing the power of tumour gene therapy in the fight against cancer.
Samantha talked to us about her career in cancer immunotherapy, what Greek mythology has to do with modern-day Biotech, and the importance of a collaborative approach to drug development.
Beverley Carr, Amphista Therapeutics
"You can learn corporate finance. You can do Excel modelling. You can read books on negotiation. But I strongly believe that Business Development is an art, and it's something that you can only really learn by doing."
Beverley Carr is the Chief Business & Operating Officer of Amphista Therapeutics, a company re-engineering TPD therapies to tackle cancer and neurological disorders.
Beverley joined us on Careers in Discovery to talk about how Amphista are tackling the limitations of first-generation TPDs, why strategic Business Development is coming back into fashion, and the qualities that make a good BD person.
Janette Thomas, Five Alarm Bio
"I realised that drug development was much more than just research. There's a huge amount of work beyond coming up with a molecule, but research scientists just don't get exposed to it."
Janette Thomas has built a career from Researcher to Project Manager, Operations Director and now CEO of Five Alarm Bio, a company focused on novel approaches to anti-aging.
Janette joined us to talk about the current state of anti-aging research, what makes a good project manager and why you should never be limited by fear in your career.
Dan Williams, SynaptixBio
"If you've got into science because science itself motivates you, try and stay with it. Do other things too, learn what you need to, but be careful not to leave that science behind."
Dan Williams is the CEO of SynaptixBio, a company dedicated to developing lifesaving therapies for severe leukodystrophies.
Dan joined us to talk about the challenges of building a company around an ultra rare disease, why exposure to an executive team is critical for career development and what REALLY makes early stage Biotech companies successful.
Matthew Duchars, CHAIN Biotech
"Taking a vaccine from concept and early stage data through to a licensed product that you're putting into millions of people takes 10-15 years on average, but it was done in 10 months. So how did we manage to acheive that? Nobody wanted to be stuck in lockdown forever and so everyone really focused on coming together - a combination of industry, government and academia, all focused on how to [deliver this vaccine] on the shortest possible time, safely and effectively."
Matthew Duchars is the CEO of CHAIN Biotech, a fascinating company developing oral vaccines and immunotherapies that target the microbiome.
Matthew joined us to discuss the importance of culture and environment in delivering great science, how a career in vaccine development was set into motion by an encounter with a dead mole, and being at the heart of the UK vaccines ecosystem during the COVID pandemic.
Orla Cunningham, Granular Therapeutics & Ultrahuman 8
"Whatever opportunity arises, it may not be on the path that you think you should be on, but it will bring value. You have to do your best to identify what that value is. So keep an open mind about opportunities - there's sometimes value in applying for something that you only have 30% of the requirements for."
Orla Cunningham is the Chief Scientific Officer of Granular Therapeutics and Ultrahuman 8, companies developing novel single antibody therapies for a range of diseases.
Orla talked to us about her fascinating career to date, as well as the therapeutic potential of mast cells, how to get the best from your CRO partners and why communication is the most important skill scientists must develop.
Rebecca Godfrey, ExpressionEdits
"LinkedIn is like the professional Instagram. It looks like people's careers were so easy, mapped out and planned. It doesn't tell of the difficult decisions, the failures, the challenges, the dead ends and having to start again."
Rebecca Godfrey is the Chief Operating Officer of ExpressionEdits and the author of "The Leadership Vaccine".
Rebecca talked to us on Careers in Discovery about her journey from Immunology PhD to COO, figuring out who you are professionally and why she loves her job.
Jenny Barnett, Monument Therapeutics & Five Lives
"Cancer drugs only started working once we realised that we actually had to measure what was going on in the tumour and match them appropriately [to patients]...we're just on the cusp of that approach being accepted in neuroscience."
Jenny Barnett is the CEO of Monument Therapeutics, a Biotech company using precision medicine approaches to develop new treatments for psychiatric and neurological conditions, and the Chief Scientific Officer of Five Lives, a digital therapeutics business focused on reducing dementia risk.
Jenny joined us on Careers in Discovery to discuss her career so far, why academia wasn't for her, how digital biomarkers can improve clinical trial performance and the things she had to learn to become an effective CEO.
Paul Thompson, Mission Therapeutics
"The most important thing is to enjoy what you're doing. If you're in the lab and enjoying your research, that's great. Keep enjoying it and you'll probably delivery well. If you want to keep focusing on research, you can, and if you want to experience different things, you'll have created the opportunity to do so."
Paul Thompson is the Chief Scientific Officer of Mission Therapeutics, a company at the cutting edge of DUB inhibitor research to treat a range of conditions.
Paul talked to us about his career so far, how his background in clinical development has informed his approach to preclinical research, and how to choose between large and small companies at the start of your career.
Andy Whiting, Nevrargenics
"Look at oncology 50 years ago. With huge amounts of investment we now think that most form of cancer are treatable. With investment, understanding, time and research that's possible in neurodegeneration - that you can not just slow or even stop but reverse and repair it."
Andy Whiting is the CEO of Nevrargenics, a Biotech company spun out of his research at Durham University using dual-acting retinoic acid receptor modulators as a novel treatment for neurodegenerative diseases.
Andy talked to us about his decision to leave academia to run the company, how he knew when the research had the potential to become a real drug, and why uncertainty and risk shouldn't hold your career back.
Ross Breckenridge, Arjuna Therapeutics
"[As a CEO] you have to force yourself to think about what's happening in your business - and that doesn't mean doing 8 hours of Zoom calls a day. Just as it's the gaps between the notes that make music, it's the gaps between the timetable acitvities that enable strategic thinking."
Ross Breckenridge is the CEO of Arjuna Therapeutics, a Biotech company working on a novel class of (very) small molecule treatments for cancer.
Ross joined us to talk about the founding of Arjuna, his career leading to that point, working with Patrick Vallance and how the experience of losing patients has shaped his approach to drug research.
Jonathan Steckbeck, Peptilogics
"Drug discovery is one of the biggest miracles we can accomplish. You're taking something that didn't exist before, then putting it into the most complex system we know of, hoping that it does one specific thing and not a bunch of other bad things. The fact that it ever works is a miracle."
Jonathan Steckbeck is the CEO of Peptilogics, a Biotech company combining peptide biology and machine learning to recreate the future of peptide biologics.
Jonathan talked us through his career so far, how business and science are fundamentally related, why every decision is made on a continuum, and the challenge of letting go of control as a CEO.
Steve Trim, Venomtech
"Get experience, talk to people who are doing it, go to networking sessions and interact with business owners - we've all got a story to tell and most are happy to share advice."
Steve Trim is the founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Venomtech, a truly unique company that helps Biotech researchers to work with venom-based assays.
Steve talked to us on Careers in Discovery about his journey building a remarkable company, how he learned to be an entrepreneur and business leader and his experience contributing to the Human Genome Project.
Tomas Dias, Mursla
"Embrace being uncomfortable. It's easy to say, I know, but go out there and don't be afraid. It will be challenging, it will make you anxious but if you don't try, [what you want] won't happen."
Tomas Dias is the Chief Technology Officer at Mursla, a Biotech company using extracellular vesicles to develop next-generation liquid biopsy tests in service of their mission to offer life-saving clinical insights to patients and their medical teams.
Tomas talked to us about his path through his career so far, why reliability is underrated and the importance of hard work, as well as how a tennis injury made a clear career choice for him.
Samantha Dale Strasser, Pepper Bio
"As a PhD, you're very focused on the question and the process of how you get things done. Our focus [as a Biotech company] is on what impact we want to have, where we're going and the key questions that our partners are trying to answer."
Samantha Dale Strasser is the Chief Scientific Officer of Pepper Bio, the world's first transomic analysis company.
Samantha joined us in a fascinating discussion about her career to date and her experiences of building Pepper, developing cures with confidence and the differences between working in academic research and a startup Biotech.
Nara Daubeney, Phaim
"It comes down to [the question], 'Why are you here?'. We looked at this project and thought, if we do this and it works, then we have a therapy that could prevent people from progressing down the inevitable slide into insulin dependence, with all the long term impacts that implies. And that would be a really worthwhile course to take."
Nara Daubeney is the COO of Phaim, a Biotech company using antigenic immune modulation to treat diabetes and other conditions.
Nara joined us to talk about her transition from a successful medical career into the world of start-up Biotech, taking the immune system back to school and why the "fire in your belly" should be your guide.
"Don't think that just because you've done a Biology or Chemistry degree, this is your path forever....I didn't become an entrepreneur until the age of 42. Your [career] path isn't fixed."
Richard Weaver is a consultant to Biotech companies on their drug development programmes, specialising in DMPK. Before becoming a consultant, Rich was the founder of XenoGesis, a CRO he successfully sold to Sygnature Discovery in 2020.
Rich talked to us about his career as a scientist and an entrepreneur, his formula for building a CRO and the advantages of organic growth.
Nuno Madeira do Ó, Reflection Therapeutics
"Anybody can be a pair of hands, follow a protocol and do what they're told. If you want more than that, if you want to be a pair of hands with a brain, then you have to think differently."
Nuno Madeira do Ó is the CEO of Reflection Therapeutics, a Biotech company harnessing the potential of Tregs to treat inflammatory diseases.
Nuno shared the story of his career so far, and among other things we discussed pivoting a Biotech into a new disease area, transitioning from research into commercial roles and how a children's cartoon inspired a career in Life Sciences.
Leigh Brody, AlbionVC
"We are in such an exciting time in Life Sciences...if you have an idea, go for it, because there's a lot of VC money out there...and the appetite to invest early has improved, so it's the right time to speak to investors about potential ideas."
Leigh Brody is an entrepreneur, executive and now venture investor at AlbionVC, where she oversees the UCL Technology Fund.
Leigh joined us to talk about her career, the difference between a good idea and an investable one and why you must ALWAYS patent your ideas.
Samuel Woodhouse, CoSyne Therapeutics
"Join a young company. If you're employee number 10, you're 10% of the business as opposed to 1% in a 100 person company. You will learn way more just by osmosis....if you're curious and ask questions."
Samuel Woodhouse is the VP of Operations at CoSyne Therapeutics, a technology-driven drug discovery company on a mission to reinvent Pharma from the ground up.
Samuel joined us to talk about his career in genomics and start up Biotechs, why academia wasn't for him and why developing people is much more powerful than giving them a payrise.
Roland Burli, Cerevance
"In the first few years [of your career], what's really important is to establish yourself. You learn a certain skillset in academia...the next thing is to really apply that in the context of a drug discovery project....if you develop a proven track record as a good scientist, good things will happen."
Roland Burli is the Vice President of Drug Discovery at Cerevance, where he and his team are using a unique platform to develop new treatments for brain diseases.
Roland joined us to discuss his varied career to date, from landing in LA with just a backpack to working for some of the industry's biggest names.
Sree Vadlamudi, Iktos
"[If you receive negative feedback] analyse it in a constructive way, then take away the good points that will help you to move forward. Outside of that, just move on."
Sree Vadlamudi is the Vice President of Business Development for the EU and Rest of World at Iktos, a company using AI to expedite drug discovery.
We talked to Sree about his career move from research into BD and how he approaches prospecting, outreach and relationship building in Biotech.
Valentino Parravicini, Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies
"Scientists work on things they can't see and that probably will never work - but they keep going. Resilience is so important in this career."
Valentino Parravicini is the Chief Scientific Officer of Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies, a company harnessing the power of the endocannabinoid system to treat severe, chronic pain.
Valentino joined us to talk about his career in academia, Pharma and Biotech, the 5,000 year history of cannabinoids as medicines, and why EVERY piece of information is important in science.
Yaniv Erlich, Eleven Therapeutics
"Academic freedom is a little like french fries - they're not really French, and it's not really freedom."
Yaniv Erlich is the CEO of Eleven Therapeutics, a global Biotech startup turning RNA drug development into a programmable process.
Yaniv talked to us about his journey from academia to the military and into Biotech, meeting Bill Gates and the importance of maintaining your optimism.
Marcelo Bravo, OxVax
"I think of raising money as making a sale...instead of selling a house, I'm selling you my dream. First, you have to target the people you will sell to, then you create awareness and establish rapport, without selling....it's an ongoing process that can take years."
Marcelo Bravo is the CEO of OxVax, a Biotech company building a next generation dendritic cell cancer vaccine platform to take a new approach to some of the biggest challenges in oncology.
Marcelo joined us to discuss his journey from Chemical Engineer to Biotech CEO, how the pandemic changed fundraising and the power of asking questions with an untrained eye.
Farid Khan, PharmaKure
"Not everything is driven by innovation. It's actually timing that proves to be more important than anything else."
Farid Khan is the CEO and founder of PharmaKure, a Biotech company taking a novel approach to treating complex neurological diseases.
Farid talked us through his fascinating entrepreneurial career, along with the opportunity presented by repurposing drugs and the learning curve involved in starting and building a Biotech business.
Clare Jones, Talisman Therapeutics
"I've always learned the most when things were the most difficult, and I try to remind myself of that when I'm in the middle of something that feels really challenging. They're the most satisfying situations when you solve them."
Clare Jones is the Chief Scientific Officer of Talisman Therapeutics, a Biotech company committed to revolutionising the discovery of disease-modifying treatments for neurodegenerative diseases using stem cell technologies.
Clare talked with us about her career in Biotech, taking jobs where you both bring something and learn something, and the importance of clear, ongoing communication.
Jonny Finlay, LockBody Therapeutics
"If you can't prioritise, rationalise and simplify, then the low-hanging fruit is probably all you're going to get to...the only way to understand your way [to the difficult things] is by removing as much noise from the system as possible."
Jonny Finlay is the CEO and founder of LockBody Therapeutics, a Centessa company, where he and his team are developing a new kind of antibody to fight cancer.
Jonny talked to us about his career, the principle of radical simplicity and the relative advantages of big Pharma and startup Biotech.
Ali Tavassoli, Curve Therapeutics
"It's so refreshing to have the science come first. Universities and their funding models have changed over the past ten years - there's a lot more admin and red tape...science almost takes a bit of a back seat. Ideas that are high risk don't always get backed, [but in Biotech] things get done."
Ali Tavassoli is the Chief Scientific Officer at Curve Therapeutics, a company developing a revolutionary intracellular screening platform to power drug discovery for challenging targets.
Ali joined us to talk about his career, balancing academic work with building a Biotech company, resisting the pressure to publish when tackling major scientific challenges, and why following the science is crucial in building your life's work.
Darren Pitt, VisusNano
Darren Pitt is the Chief Scientific Officer of VisusNano, a company developing a novel drug-device combinationto treat issues surrounding cataract surgery, one of the most widely performed procedures in the world.
We talked to Darren about what these problems are and what he's learned in a varied career so far.
Lisa Patel, Istesso
"It's not success that drives the cohesion of a team, it's facing a challenge together and having a shared commitment to solving that challenge that really builds the relationships. Once you see how a person faces difficulty you can understand them much better - that understanding builds trust and a sense that you're in it together. That then drives success."
Lisa Patel is the CEO of Istesso, a company striding into the unknown frontiers of immunometabolism to discovery new treatments for autoimmune conditions.
Lisa joined us to talk about her career so far, what it's really like moving from big Pharma into a startup, and the dynamics of high-performance teams.
Bakul Gupta, ImmTune Therapies
"I'm still learning....it's a steep learning curve, especially since my training is all in science. When you become a CEO, it's not just about the science or good data, but about selling your vision, being inspirational and telling the story of why you're doing what you're doing."
Bakul Gupta is the CEO of ImmTune Therapies, a Biotech company pioneering in vivo generation of cell and gene therapies.
Bakul joined us to talk about her career to date, tackling the affordability problem of advanced medicines, the challenges of business development during a pandemic and why who you sit next to might just change the course of your career.
Pedro Correia de Sampaio, Neobe Therapeutics
"The pandemic hit and I found myself stuck back in my childhood room in Lisbon, and I thought, why not [start a company]? Then I realised that it had legs, I was really enjoying it and I could see it being successful, so I fully immersed myself in it."
Pedro Correia de Sampaio is the CEO of Neobe Therapeutics, a company engineering biologics to treat immunologically cold tumours.
Pedro talked to us about his work, his time working in one of the world's leading cancer centres, why you shouldn't start fundraising too early and not being afraid of sharing your ideas with the world.
Ian Pike, Proteome Sciences
"It's one thing having an idea, but you've got to be able to make it and you've got to be able to sell it."
Just one extract from a wealth of sound advice offered by Ian Pike, Chief Scientific Officer at Proteome Sciences, on the Careers in Discovery podcast.
Ian also talked to us about how CROs have become a crucial part of drug discovery, the importance of serendipity, his one career regret and being willing to pivot in your vision for your working life.
James Lapworth, NanoSyrinx
"It's important to have a plan [for your career], it's important to know where you want to be, but it's almost more important to be able to break from that when something interesting comes along....focus on what you'll learn from each opportunity and how that takes you closer to where you want to go."
As Chief Business Officer at NanoSyrinx, James Lapworth plays a key role in developing a truly novel solution to the "delivery problem" faced by Biotech research around the world.
James joined us to talk about how he built a career in the commercial side of drug R&D, the advantages of nanosyringes and the role of a Chief Business Officer in a start up Biotech.
Yulia Lampi, coding.bio
"If you find that you're dissatisfied, pivot. If the place you're at isn't meeting your expectations, perseverance isn't going to help you."
Yulia Lampi is the Chief Scientific Officer of coding.bio, a company born in the pandemic who are using AI to advance cell therapies for cancer.
Yulia joined us to talk about cellular machines and why they could hold the key to targeting solid tumours, building a company around her life (rather than the other way round) and acheiving balance as a scientist.
Victoria Marsh Durban, Cellesce
"You don't need to know everything about a job to be able to do it....imposter syndrome is a massive issue. You may not know every answer, but you're not expected to, and nobody does."
Victoria Marsh Durban is the CEO of Cellesce, a Cardiff-based Biotech championing the industrialisation of organoids.
Vicky talked to us about her journey from academic researcher to CEO, learning to run a business without any formal training and how going on maternity leave propelled her into a career in industry.
Rabia Khan, Ladder Therapeutics
"There's not a single experience that you can have working for someone else that will teach you how to build a company. People will say this to you, but you really have to internalise it and when you're ready, you will go do it."
Returning to Careers in Discovery is Rabia Khan, now CEO of Ladder Therapeutics, a Biotech company focused on the novel problem of mapping the druggable transcriptome.
Rabia caught us up on the last two years, sharing what she's learned about becoming a Biotech CEO, why you're never quite "ready" to start a business and the importance of building the company you want to work for.
Joanna Holbrook, Cambridge Epigenetix
"I think of genetics as your inherited risk of disease, and epigenetics as codifying your environmental risk. We know they work together and that they determine who will respond to which treatment, along with how well treatments are likely to work."
Joanna Holbrook is the Chief Scientific Officer at Cambridge Epigenetix, a company pushing the boundaries of DNA sequencing to enable precision medicine.
Jo joined us to talk about her international career, how 6 letter sequencing is creating new scientific frontiers, the secret of communicating with non-scientists and why good science is necessary, but not sufficient.
Claire Thompson, Agility Life Sciences
"Meet people who do the role you're interested in, and ask them what they hate about their job - you'll find out a lot! Ask them what they like too, and you'll find it really insightful."
Claire Thompson is the CEO of Agility Life Sciences, an award-winning formulation development CDMO on a significant growth curve.
Claire talked to us about her key learns from her career so far, including the importance of coaching, not "chasing every ball" and why what other people think of you is none of your business.
Ian Waddell, Cumulus Oncology
"If you're using rational persuasion - as most scientists do by default - and it's not working, and you feel like you're banging your head against a brick wall, it's not the brick wall that's stupid....it's not so much the influencing skills themselves that are important, because they can be learned, but understanding that it's up to you to change your approach when needed."
Ian Waddell is the Chief Scientific Officer of Cumulus Oncology, Europe's first oncology drug development accelerator.
A prominent figure in drug discovery, Ian joined us to discuss his career, the real advantages and challenges of working in a CRO and why sometimes, even if you're happy, moving on is the right thing to do.
Simon Ward, Medicines Discovery Institute @ Cardiff University
"I would definitely encourage people to move from academia to industry, and vice versa. There are so many opportunities that involve interfacing between the two....they are different environments, clearly, each with pros and cons, but the perceived risk of not being able to go back just isn't there anymore."
Simon Ward has taken a varied route through his career in drug discovery and translational research, holding roles in academia, start-up Biotech and big Pharma.
Now Director of the Medicines Discovery Institute at Cardiff University, Simon joined us to talk about the research landscape in Wales, transitioning to leadership as a scientist, why you should prioritise managing your own career, and much more.
Deborah O'Neil, Novabiotics
"Senior researchers have more entrepreneurial skills than they give themselves credit for. You've done something new and different, managed budgets and teams....all of those skills are transferrable."
Deborah O'Neil is the CEO of Novabiotics, a company leading the charge to harness innate immunity to treat infectious diseases.
Deborah joined us to talk about her key learns from over 18 years of building and running a successful Biotech company.
Sheelagh Frame, Ubiquigent
"You should always think, how will this knowledge take me to the next step? If it's not going to make a tangible difference, ask if it's worth doing or if you're better off focusing on something more useful and valuable to the end goal?"
Sheelagh Frame is the Chief Scientific Officer at Ubiquigent, a company at the cutting edge of protein degradation drug discovery.
Sheelagh joined us on Careers in Discovery to talk about DUB modulation, Dundee as a Biotech hub and why seeking out diverse input is crucial in research.
Dmitry Zamoryakhin, Midatech Pharma
"One of the most important things when you're starting your career is to make a decision there and then about whether you like what you're doing or not, and avoid forcing yourself into something that you'll later regret."
Dmitry Zamoryakhin is the Chief Scientific Officer at Midatech Pharma, a Cardiff-based Biotech company using nanotechnology to solve some of the biggest challenges in drug delivery.
Dmitry spent some time talking to us about his career, moving from a major global Pharma to a much smaller company and the potential impact of gold nanoparticles.
Sam Barker, Somaserve
"For me, the turning point was thinking of networking as part of my job, and realising that people wouldn't look down on me for talking to them and finding out what they're doing. It's their job to do the same thing."
Sam Barker is the VP of Business Development at Somaserve, a drug delivery company developing a transformative nanoparticle platform to tackle the problems caused by biological barriers.
Sam joined us to discuss his career to date, what Business Development means in a Biotech startup and transitioning from a research position into a commercial role.
Charlotte Casebourne, Theolytics
"Don't worry too much about knowing everything. Coming through education, we're rewarded for being the person that knows the most, being the smartest person in the room, but in an industry as complex as Biotech, you're never going to know everything that you need to. Surrounding yourself with the best people that you can and learning from them so that you can make the best decisions possible is much more important."
Charlotte Casebourne is the CEO of Theolytics, a Biotech company harnessing oncolytic viruses to treat cancer.
Charlotte joined us to discuss her journey so far, solving the problem of in vivo translation, why it's OK not to know what you want to do with your career and the importance of finding your rhythm.
Steve Allin, Charnwood Molecular
"Being a Chief Executive is like being a conductor of a high-performing orchestra. My job is to employ people who are the best in their field and then give them the resources and freedom to develop & grow."
Steve Allin is the CEO of Charnwood Molecular, a rapidly growing drug discovery CRO with a fascinating history.
Steve joined us to talk about taking private equity investment into an established business, stepping from a successful academic career into running the business full time and the importance of building a culture based on input and development.
Stephen Ward, Cell & Gene Therapy Catapult
"Chance, serendipity...these things play a part in career development, however if you're not interested in what you do you may become very successful, but I'd challenge that you won't be as content as you'd like to be."
Stephen Ward is the Chief Manufacturing Officer at the Cell & Gene Therapy Catapult, part of a unique network of organisations set up to promote and support the Life Sciences industry in the UK.
Stephen talked with us about his career, the booming Cell & Gene Therapy sector in this country and why manufacturing is a great career option for scientists.
Martin Bittner, Arctoris
"Right now in drug discovery, we talk about failure rates of 95%, and that situation's not sustainable for two reasons. One is that a lot of the easy targets have already been worked on, which means we need to think more creatively about drug discovery. At the same time, we're moving very rapidly towards precision medicine, which means we need to discover more drugs. We must redesign the process."
Martin Bittner is the CEO and co-founder of Arctoris, where he and his team have developed the world's first fully automated drug discovery platform.
Martin talked to us about the origins of the company, how robotics and automation encourage scientific reproducibility, and where he found his mentors.