14 innovative women in Cambridge leading the way in healthcare
BioBeat has named the 50 leading female scientists and innovators in healthcare – and 14 are from Cambridge.
From improving treatment for breast cancer patients to creating organs-on-a-chip as an alternative to animal research, they are leading their field in helping to drive forward innovation in UK life sciences.
The women named in the 50 Movers and Shakers in Biobusiness report, produced by BioBeat, demonstrate the importance of diversity of thinking in the sector.
Founded by Miranda Weston-Smith, BioBeat is an innovation platform for healthcare entrepreneurs and leaders and is based at St John’s Innovation Park in Cambridge,
Partnering with Cambridge Judge Business School’s Entrepreneurship Centre and the Innovation Forum, it champions collaboration by bringing together scientific and business expertise and creates a forum for investors and entrepreneurs.
Miranda said: “Women are transforming the pace, scale and ambition of what we can do in responding to global health challenges. I am so excited to present 50 Movers and Shakers in BioBusiness 2017 – they are outstanding innovators and leaders who are giving us all a healthier world.”
Nikki Yates, GSK’s senior vice president for UK and Ireland pharmaceuticals, introduced the report and said: “Diversity of talent is critical to life sciences and it is great to see the contribution these women are making. 50 Movers and Shakers in BioBusiness 2017 celebrates leaders whose dedication is about innovation in the healthcare business. It is fantastic to see that these are female leaders, and that they are recognised for the progress they have made over the past year.”
Its annual report was followed by a summit on biotech business, held at the Francis Crick Institute in London last Thursday and heard from leading women in the sector on biotech partnering can make a greater impact on health and wealth.
It came just weeks after a report for the Government called for progress on the adoption of innovative medicines, devices and digital products to help improve healthcare in the UK.
In ‘Life Sciences Industrial Strategy’, John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, wrote: “The UK should be in the top quartile of comparator countries, both for the speed of adoption and the overall uptake of innovative, cost effective products, to the benefit of all UK patients by the end of 2023.”
The 14 women profiled here will play a key role in helping meet that aim.
Jean Abraham, academic honorary consultant in medical oncology, University of Cambridge
Jean is involved in the management and treatment of high risk and hereditary breast cancers.
She leads biomarker-directed clinical trials, which aim to treat patients in a more targeted fashion.
She explores how patients can beneﬁt from newer drugs, with speciﬁc actions and fewer side effects, earlier in their treatment.
Jean and her group use molecular stratiﬁcation and precision cancer medicine research
to understand differences in genetic changes between breast cancers and how this impacts their response.
She previously held a Cancer Research UK National Clinical Training Fellowship and has a PhD in pharmacogenetics – which examines the relationship between genetics, drug response and/or drug toxicity - from the University of Cambridge.
Sarra Achouri, director of marketing and co-founder, CamBioScience
Sarra, who is identified as a ‘Rising star’ in the report, is building a global community of scientists around an e-learning platform tailored to the needs of life science and health care.
Founded in 2015, CamBioScience, based at Barclays Eagle Labs in Cambridge, offers intensive training courses in breakthrough life science technologies. Pharmaceutical companies, biotechs and research organisations are among the customers using the platform, which deploys machine-learning technology to assess and match course content to a learner’s needs. While studying in Paris before her PhD in physics at the University of Cambridge, Sarra also worked in interior decoration and dressmaking.
Oriane Chausiaux, chief science officer and co-founder, Heartfelt Technologies
Based in Fen Road, Cambridge, Heartfelt Technologies aims to reduce hospital readmission rates for those with heart failure.
Oriane co-founded the company to help patients who have difﬁculty taking medicine and monitoring their symptoms.
She co-developed the algorithms for a device employing artiﬁcial intelligence and machine learning to measure and report ankle volume, a key symptom of worsening heart failure.
Doctors receiving the data can administer treatment before a patient needs to go to hospital.
Trials with patients at home are under way and Oriane, who has a PhD from the University of Cambridge in molecular genetics, is leading the regulatory and clinical trials programmes.
She previously co-founded DuoFertility, IVF Diary and Cambridge Digital Health.
Jane Dancer, chief business officer, F-star
Jane joined F-star, the life science firm based at Babraham Research Campus, in late 2011 and has led a series of innovative transactions with BMS, AbbVie, Denali and Merck KGaA, raising almost $200 million in non-dilutive ﬁnancing and advancing F-star’s drug pipeline.
F-star is a leader in bispecific antibodies, selected for their potential to transform the treatment of cancer.
She has a ﬁrst class degree, a PhD and an MBA from the University of Cambridge and was previously VP business development at Cellzome and director, business development at MedImmune.
Anne Dobrée, head, Cambridge Enterprise Seed Funds, University of Cambridge
Anne helps translate the university’s world-class research into technology that can impact society by helping to spin out new companies.
From therapeutics (XO1) and diagnostics (BlueGnome) to mental health (Psyomics), Anne has helped bring these start-ups to the attention of investors. In the last three years, she has led her team in investing £6.3 million and attracting more than £90 million into new life science companies.
She has been involved in technology transfer and investing since 1999 and previously worked in research and vaccine development.
Jasmin Fisher, associate professor, Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, and senior researcher, Microsoft Research, Cambridge
How do our cells make the decision to develop into a particular type? Trained as a neuro-immunologist, Jasmin uses computational methods to simulate biological processes, reverse engineering cellular mechanisms to devise models that help us answer this.
“This is a very fundamental question in biology because if we can get a better understanding of how cells decide one way or another, we can also get better insights into how we treat cells that are not making the right decisions,” she says.
“There is a combination here between different disciplines – computer science and engineering and biology and medicine. All of this together will give us some meaningful answers about life and about disease and, in particular, we are interested in cancers.”
Inspired by the loss of family and friends to cancer, Jasmin has devoted herself to the field of executable biology, creating tools that can be used by those who aren’t programmers and which save weeks of work in the lab.
She predicts: “I’m not saying we will eradicate cancer. But I honestly believe 10 years from now, using these kinds of technologies to control the drivers of cancer will solve the problem.”
Working with AstraZeneca, Jasmin developed a model for cell signalling in acute myeloid leukaemia which led to the personalised tailoring of drug combinations, increasing sensitivity and successfully overcoming drug resistance in patients.
Prof Rebecca Fitzgerald, MRC Cancer Unit, University of Cambridge, and honorary consultant in gastroenterology, Cambridge University NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust
Oesophageal cancers are the eighth most common worldwide and the sixth most common cause of cancer death - with only 15 per cent surviving five years. Survival rates are massively improved if early diagnosis is achieved – and Rebecca focuses on this area.
With her team, she created CytoSponge and associated molecular tests to identify early stage oesophageal cancer.
A patient swallows a pill-sized capsule with a sponge inside which travels to the stomach where the capsule opens. As nurse pulls the sponge out up the oesophagus, it collects cells for testing. The device, licensed to Covidien GI Solutions, is in late stage primary care trials for Barrett’s oesophagus.
A Lister Prize Fellowship winner, and director of medical studies for Trinity College, Cambridge, Rebecca’s team is involved in whole genome sequencing of oesophageal cancer, which could help lead to new therapies.
Eleanor Fung, global analytics and intelligence, global product and portfolio strategy, AstraZeneca
Eleanor assesses external scientiﬁc and commercial developments in the asthma and COPD markets for AstraZeneca, where she leads competitive intelligence for the respiratory.
She is a key contributor to the development of therapy strategy development and has previously worked as a strategy consultant and as an equity research analyst.
Alexandra Grigore, director of innovation and co-founder, Simprints
There are 1.1 billion people in the world with no birth certificate or official ID.
Alexandra Grigore, who has a PhD in nanotechnology from the University of Cambridge, and an engineering background, led the design of the ﬁrst ﬁngerprint scanner for accessing health records in low-resource settings.
She worked with community health workers in the developing world to create the low-cost, secure and reliable identiﬁcation tool, which helps health workers to diagnose, treat and monitor patients in the remotest regions of the world.
Simprints is building open source software and biometric hardware to empower mobile tools used by researchers, non-governmental organisations and governments tackling poverty around the world.
Prof Joanne Hackett, chief commercial officer, Genomics England, and professor of regenerative medicine, University of Cambridge
Joanne is working at Genomics England to ensure that clinicians, academics and industry deliver beneﬁts from the 100,000 Genomes Project, which is sequencing the 100,000 genomes from around 70,000 NHS patients with a rare disease, plus their families, and patients with cancer. She is a serial entrepreneur, investor, academic and yoga instructor.
Karen Livingstone, national director, SBRI Healthcare, and regional director, partnerships, Eastern Academic Health Science Network
Karen led the establishment and growth of SBRI Healthcare to accelerate the development of new technologies to meet the needs of the NHS.
A £74million investment vehicle, it uses public funds to contract early stage technology developments, and runs competitions encouraging companies to pitch ideas to solve NHS problems.
A fellow at the Cambridge Judge Business School, Karen has served on the boards of six public and private sector bodies and forges new partnerships with industry at the Eastern Academic Health Science Network.
Serena Scollen, head, human genomics and translational data, ELIXIR, Wellcome Genome Campus
ELIXIR is an intergovernmental organisation bringing together European life science resources – including databases, software tools, training materials, cloud storage and supercomputers.
Serena is helping to create a collaborative infrastructure for sharing and reusing genomics data, to improve healthcare.
Her vision is that it will soon be far easier to discover, access and analyse genomics data.
Serena was previously a director within the human genetics group at Pﬁzer.
Ruchi Sharma, CEO and founder, Stemnovate
Stemnovate was founded in 2016 to provide organ-on-a-chip technology – an innovative alternative to animal research for drug discovery.
The company develops these miniature models of human organs to mimic biological functions and by integrating stem cell research and engineering.
The approach reduces research and development costs by an average of $30million per drug, while offering improved safety and a better understanding of toxicity.
Ruchi raised more than £1million to develop a ‘liver on a chip’ with Innovate UK funding and equity investment.
A qualiﬁed veterinary surgeon, she has more than eight years’ stem cell research experience.
Laura Taylor, chief finance officer, Congenica
After an early career at Deloitte, Laura had senior positions at ink-jet company Xaar and antibody firm Abcam before joining fellow Cambridge form Congenica in 2015 and played a key role in securing £10million in Series B funding in early 2017.
Congenica’s Sapienti platform allows clinicians to screen an entire genome quickly to identify potentially pathogenic mutations. This can help the estimate 3.5 million people in the UK with an undiagnosed disease to get faster diagnosis.
• BioBeat’s 50 Movers and Shakers in BioBusiness was produced with the support of The Francis Crick Institute, The Entrepreneurship Centre, Cambridge Judge Business School, Innovation Forum, Histon-based BioStrata and Naked Ideas, the London-based biotech branding specialists.
More by this authorPaul Brackley