By Julie Nixon
Liina and I were fortunate to be able to attend day 1 of “Supercharging the Innovation Engine” at BioCity Scotland, a two day conference bringing together academics, big pharma and life science companies amongst others. A prestigious line up of speakers was brought together for the event, and here I report back on some highlights.
After an introduction from Dr Diane Harbison, MD at BioCity Scotland, Professor Roy Sandbach addressed a packed lecture theatre. Roy is currently the Chair of the Innovation Board, North East Local Enterprise Partnership, and he took us on a journey through the “Innovation Landscape”. One key message I took away from Roy’s talk was that companies should look at applying their core competencies on the boundaries of their business, citing “Nespresso” as an example of how Nestle expanded on its Nescafe business. Roy also gave us a definition of innovation: “matching what is possible with what is needed...to create economic value, social good-or both”.
Professor Jim McDonald, Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde, told us how to amplify the “Triple Helix” of University + business + government support. He described how the Glasgow Bio corridor was set up to complement other innovation hubs in Scotland, and how the new Technology and Innovation Centre at the University of Strathclyde hopes to encourage research and translation through to economic value.
Toby Reid, Director at BioCity Nottingham, described what locating at BioCity means for businesses, namely accessing facilities services, business programmes, finance and an innovation community. BioCity focuses on making their businesses a success, not just being a landlord.
Dr Kurt Hertogs of Johnson & Johnson Innovation told us to “go where the action is”; proximity to innovation centres is key for JNJ Innovation. I have blogged previously on the value of stem cell technology, and Kurt highlighted how stem cell and regenerative medicine could lead to a cure for diabetes.
Iain Uings, Director of Discovery Partnerships with Academia at GSK, discussed the collaboration between Avalon Ventures and GSK to collaborate with entrepreneurial academics. This collaboration will fund and launch up to ten early stage life science companies in San Diego. Avalon and GSK formed a “first-of-its-kind collaboration” in April 2013, agreeing to provide as much as $495 million (GSK agreed to bankroll as much as $465 million and Avalon put up $30 million) to start 10 new life sciences companies within three years or so.
Dr Carl Goodyear, Director at Glazgo Discovery Centre sparked my interest by telling the audience how the centre provides opportunities for good scientists to stay in academia without becoming principal investigators. This opportunity was almost unheard of when I was a post-doc; so many talented scientists leave research due to the uncertainty of funding and the general view you cannot be a serial post-doc. Sign me up, oh wait...I am a solicitor now!
I also heard some excellent science discussion from Tim Earl, CEO of Taurx. Taurx is a University of Aberdeen spin out based in Singapore. The company has a small molecule drug for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease in phase 3 clinical trials. As Tim said “don’t try this at home”; the company has seen almost half a billion dollars in investment to date to see the drug to phase 3.
Once again congratulations to Jane, Diane and the team at BioCity Scotland for what was a memorable day.