Posts tagged Biotech
Entrepreneurship starts with rejecting conventional thinking

I visited the Imperial College Incubator in White City, London, to talk with Steven O’Connell, the associate director and programme manager at RebelBio, a life science startup programme backed by VC firm SOSV. Steven completed an undergraduate degree in pharmaceutical biotechnology at the Cork Institute of Technology and a translational masters degree in Biotech and Business at University College Dublin before joining a startup called GlowDx, which was part of an early RebelBio cohort. From there he went on to join RebelBio as the programme manager and has helped nurture over 60 life science startups over 7 cohorts. We discussed RebelBio’s approach in selecting promising startups and how to maximise their chances of success, as well as how scientists should reject conventional thinking when approaching entrepreneurship.  

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GW Pharmaceuticals: Cambridge’s Marijuana Powerhouse

Based in Cambridge, UK, yet listed on the USA’s Nasdaq Stock Exchange Market, the bio-pharmaceutical company GW Pharmaceuticals is aiming to become the worldwide leader in medical marijuana treatments. Founded in 1998 by Dr Geoffrey Guy and Dr Brian Whittle, GW initially focussed much of its pioneering research and development in symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis. That same year, GW obtained a unique licence from the Home Office to cultivate Cannabis seeds on UK soil. By moving from London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM) to the USA’s biotech-friendly Nasdaq market, GW quickly tapped into a burgeoning field of marijuana-mad investors at a time when American state laws were easing on the long-time locked-down cannabis drug. Valued today as a $4.5 billion company, and with share prices having risen from $8.90 to over $150 in just 5 years, GW has now grown to produce therapies for epilepsy and even carry out trials with cannabis-derived cancer drugs.

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Desktop Genetics – The successful marriage of AI and genome editing

Desktop Genetics was founded in 2012 by a chemical engineer, a molecular biologist and a biochemist with the vision to combine bioinformatics and genetics to support researchers on their quest to cure human genetic diseases. With the advent of CRISPR-Cas9 in 2013, Desktop Genetics redirected its focus entirely onto the development of an artificial intelligence (AI) system. The system is tailored to design custom CRISPR libraries, an effort honoured by the founders’ placement on the Forbes 30 under 30 of Europe’s Technology sector. For those who have miraculously evaded all the rage about CRISPR-Cas9, it is the most precise genome editing technology currently available. It is based on a viral defence mechanism found in certain bacteria, and uses an endonuclease (Cas9) guided by a single-RNA to precisely target and cut complementary genomic sequences. This can then be used to introduce either mutations, knock-ins, knock-outs, or replace a faulty piece of DNA with a correct one.

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Fungi Fantasies: The Future is Made of Mushrooms

The fungi industry is growing its network. For generations, fungi have been utilised for a variety of applications to benefit humans, in large due to their capacity to produce an enormous range of natural products with antimicrobial and other biological activities. The discovery of penicillin in 1928 by Alexander Fleming, and the pioneering work of Florey and Chain to develop the fungal-derived substance for medical applications, launched the industrial production of antibiotics, vitamins and anti-cancer drugs developed from mushroom species. Subsequently, advancements in the fields of genetic engineering and synthetic biology have revolutionised fungi’s food and alcohol applications, as the efficiency and precision of developing fungal products like cheese and wine has increased. But it hasn’t stopped there. Fungi are now entering the lifestyle market…

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From London to Silicon Valley and back again: A scientific entrepreneur’s tale

I visited Sixfold Biosciences in the Imperial College Innovation and Translation Hub to have a chat with their co-founder Anna Perdrix Rosell. Anna is an oncology PhD student at the Francis Crick Institute and made it onto the Forbes 30 under 30 list for European science and healthcare this year. With her co-founders, George Foot and Zuzanna Brzosko, they are developing Sixfold’s unique Programmable Oligonucleotide Delivery Devices (PODDs), which aim to deliver gene therapy molecules exclusively to diseased cells. Sixfold Bioscience went through Y Combinator (the top U.S. accelerator) at the beginning of 2018 and have since received seed funding from Silicon Valley investors. We discussed what it was like starting a company during her PhD, the key barriers facing young entrepreneurial scientists and what her to work in biotech.

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Finless Foods: Seafood without the catch

Seafood is beloved by many and there is an ever-growing market for it. However, our hunger for fish is exhausting marine ecosystems, with more than 70 percent of the world’s fisheries being either significantly depleted, over exploited, or fully exploited.

One alternative to common fishing and a response to a growing world-wide demand is fish farming, also known as aquaculture. However, this brings with it an enormously detrimental environmental impact, due to the large amount of fish meal needed to feed the mass of cultured fish, which is sourced from the ocean, and the waste produced by these farms, and natural habitats being replaced by such farms. Due the huge number of fish confined in small farms, diseases and parasites spread rapidly. Not only that, but increasing ocean pollution and fish farms bring with them unwanted contaminants such as microplastic, mercury and antibiotics, which end up on our plates.

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Fueling the Future? The Rise and Fall of Biofuels.

There is a pressing need to develop alternatives to fossil-fuel-derived oils that are used in our transport vehicles. The term “petroleum” covers both naturally occurring unprocessed crude oil and products made up of refined crude oil, which is obtained via drilling into geological formations beneath the Earth’s surface. Over the last decade, environmental groups have been keen to stress the negative environmental effects of the petroleum industry: the combustion of such fuels contributes to climate change and acid rain, oil spills are damaging to aquatic organisms, and drilling can influence seismic activity. That’s to name a few. But change is coming.

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