"I have always loved science and I am a technophile at heart, so it was an easy decision to pursue a doctorate after my undergraduate degree. I completed my doctorate in protein biochemistry at Aberdeen University, and I focused on the purification of a particular enzyme, so it was pure research without many commercial or practical applications. I didn’t really know whether I wanted to pursue academic research long term or move into a company. I eventually realised that the academic route was long and uncertain, especially as it seemed to rely on soft funding a lot of the time. I would say subsequently I’ve been concentrating on technology transfer, business development, and intellectual property portfolio management.
"I worked for UK Trade and Investment as a research and development investment adviser. The objective was to work with large overseas drug companies and try to understand what kinds of research and licensing opportunities they were making, basically trying to encourage them to invest in the UK. I have a colleague at Nottingham Trent University that I’ve known for some 12 years and watched his technology platform grow, and I was eventually persuaded to join a start up company based on that technology.
"I am now Chief Executive of that start up company, called Compandia. Compandia is a bio-informatics company, and in particular we use advanced algorithms for data mining of complex datasets. The focus is on stratified or personalised medicine and biomarkers which are of particular interest to pharmaceutical and biotech companies. The other part of my time I am an investment adviser for Invest Northern Ireland – also dealing with innovation and commercialisation.
"My doctorate was excellent at ensuring I developed the skills of independent thought, to design my own experiments and dictate the way my research went. I would say that I haven’t drawn directly on the science, but I appreciate the ways in which science can meander and am good at seeing early opportunities – I have a track history of filing for patents very early for example. Over time these have moved on to become significant intellectual property protecting valuable products in the market.
"I don’t think anyone or anything else was of a particular influence on my career decision making, I think there was always just a nascent interest in technology and business. Working previously as a technology scout I visited hundreds of small companies and academic research groups and assessed what stages they were at in terms of their research and investment – and this gave me an excellent perspective on start up companies, the good and the bad!
"Having been involved in a few business start ups, it is not something you ever lose the appetite for! You stand and fall by the decisions you make, it’s great not having to do everything by committee. Once you do it one time it’s a bit of a drug, and you’re inclined to do it over and over again!"