Heralding a new era of innovation and biobusiness on the Wellcome Genome Campus, the BioBeat15 conference connected entrepreneurs and world leaders in genomics to address unprecedented opportunities and challenges in this fast-growing sector.
BioBeat15 was just as exciting as the line-up promised: a full day of leaders in genomics presenting different perspectives on business and entrepreneurship. The event, which took place in the Wellcome Genome Campus conference centre, featured Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, Ruth McKernan, Chief Executive of Innovate UK, and Ewan Birney, Director of EMBL-EBI, among many others. Following an introduction by BioBeat founder Miranda Weston-Smith, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Director Mike Stratton welcomed the audience and showcased the new Biodata Innovation Centre, outlining the present and future impact of the outstanding Genome Campus community on society at large.
Edith Hessel of GSK and Ewan Birney each presented perspectives on major challenges in genomics: mapping the genomes of people with rare and common diseases on a large scale, and finding meaning in the incredibly large volumes of data produced in genomics initiatives. Presenting the 100,000 Genomes Project, Davies outlined the wide-reaching impact of National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) on clinical research in the UK, and underscored the importance of “bringing the public with us” as genomics enters the clinic. In a session on “Mindsets, Money and Innovation”, McKernan picked up the theme of impact and described Innovate UK’s efforts to bridge the gap between research councils and business, stimulate economic growth and invest locally. Jeanne Bolger of Johnson & Johnson Innovation followed with plenty of advice for entrepreneurs seeking to engage with large pharmaceutical companies.
When you do things that go against the grain, you need teams that aren’t part of the establishment.
Vivienne Parry, Head of Engagement for Genomics England, captivated the audience with personal perspectives from extraordinary people. Helen Lee, founder of Diagnostics for the Real World, invited participants to approach her with solutions to a tricky problem and shared her sound, hard-earned advice: “Innovation isn’t about being clever – people tend to be pretty clever – it’s about how you deal with failure.” Julia Fan Li, Senior VP of Seven Bridges Diagnostics, explained how knocking on the right doors opened up interesting opportunities for exploring innovations that reduce the impact of neglected disease; Elaine Warburton, Chief Executive of QuantuMDx, shared how her unusual career path enabled her to start companies that offer real solutions. Ipshita Mandal, representing a new generation of bio-entrepreneurs, picked up on the ‘fail early’ theme and underlined the importance of “learning from failure, picking yourself up and starting again”. It was clear from the audience reaction that the session had lots of people energised and inspired about the possibility of starting a company.
The final session grappled with creating the right mix of people and talent to grow a company from an intimate, personality-driven startup to a medium-sized enterprise with the capacity to grow. “When you do things that go against the grain, you need teams that aren’t part of the establishment,” was the advice from Kym Denny, CEO of hVIVO plc. Fiona Marshall, Director of Heptares Therapeutics, agreed that it was crucial that goals were aligned but cautioned against bringing people on board who were too similar to one another. Lucy Raymond focused on the imortance of delegating responsibility and empowering people to make decisions, while everyone agreed that “gender, technical and cultural diversity key to growth”.
Live tweets were on display throughout, giving the audience another way to stay engaged and communicate their enthusiasm and/or skepticism throughout the conference. In case you missed it, take a look at the BioBeat15 Storify.
Dr Edith Hessel, Vice President and Head of Refractory Respiratory Inflammation Discovery Performance Unit, GSK. @francisrowland tweets: #BioBeat15 Hurray! Proud that @GSK’s Edith Hessel talks about the impact that CTTV (@targetvalidate) can have on medicine development. #ux
@claire6thompson Tweets: Edith Hessel @GSK: Mapping genomes of individuals with rare and common diseases can lead to therapies with broader applications. #BioBeat15
Why our world has changed: a big-data-in-biology perspective by EMBL-EBI Director Ewan Birney
@TarquinColes tweets: #BioBeat15 @ewanbirney no longer a single lab will hold the answer instead collaboration is the key @OneNucleus @findacure_fdn @BioBeatUK
Question from Dr Jane Osbourn, Vice President R&D, MedImmune and Head of Site, MedImmune Cambridge. Also pictured: Sally Davies, Ruth McKernan, Julia Wilson [Photo credit: Robert Slowley]
@ewanbirney tweets: Listening to Sally Davies talk about the broad impact of @OfficialNIHR (NHS Research) across Clinical Research in the UK #BioBeat15
@juliafanli tweets: Sally Davies CMO @NHSEngland going for Gold 100k project @GenomicsEngland. She’s funny, intelligent & engaging. What a #star #BioBeat15
@LizGChoonara tweets: Sally Davies is ‘bored’ of being the only senior female academic in the room & is driving change through @OfficialNIHR funding #biobeat15
“Mindsets, Money and Innovation” Q&A at BioBeat15. [Photo credit: Robert Slowley]
The speakers at BioBeat15 were outstanding, providing plenty of food for thought at the BioBeat15 networking sessions.
BioBeat15 delegates on the break [Photo credit: Robert Slowley]
BioBeat15: Delegates on the break
Companies, universities and research institutes like the Babraham added to the buzz at BioBeat15.
The Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge was one of the supporters of BioBeat15.
Dr Julie Barnes, Chief Executive Officer of Abcodia, chairs a session on “Mindsets, Money and Innovation”
Ruth McKernan, Chief Executive, Innovate UK.
@leilaluheshi tweets: Love @RuthMcKernan ‘s last slide ‘We can’t stop thinking about the future’ #BioBeat15.
Dr Jeanne Bolger, Vice-President Venture Investments, Johnson & Johnson Innovation.
@HannaBLaPlaya tweets: “Know your tech/assert, secure the rights, get pitch ready” Jeanne Bolger @JNJInnovation #BioBeat15.
@vishne0 tweets: Jeanne Bolger @JNJInnovation: Have a 30sec, 5 min and 30 min pitch and practise, practise, practise! #BioBeat15 #funding #entrepreneur
Julie Barnes, Jeanne Bolger and Ruth McKernan: “We are living in an era when genomics, biotech and healthcare need to become as efficient as other industries.”
Question from Dr Jane Osbourn, Vice President R&D, MedImmune and Head of Site, MedImmune Cambridge. With Vivienne Parry at BioBeat15. [Photo credit: Robert Slowley]
Vivienne Parry, Head of Engagement for Genomics England, chairs the session on “Inspirational Stories”. @SexinScience tweets: “For me, science has always been a box of chocolates… not a box of broccoli.” @vivienneparry at #BioBeat15 [Photo credit: Robert Slowley]
Elaine Warburton, Chief Executive of QuantuMDx. @SexinScience tweets: Being an entrepreneur is cool, and it can work. And we need a lot of them. (Pass it on!) @elainewarburton and @vivienneparry #BioBeat15 [Photo credit: Robert Slowley]
Dr Helen Lee, Founder of Diagnostics for the Real World: “Innovation isn’t about being clever – people tend to be pretty clever – it’s about how you deal with failure.” Helen francisrowland Brilliant – Dr Helen presented a real, tricky design problem related to HIV test kits, and invited suggestions for solutions. [Photo credit: Robert Slowley]
Dr Julia Fan Li, Senior Vice President, Seven Bridges Genomics. @SarionBowers tweets: @juliafanli on how for profit can be an important driver in neglected and developing world disease. May be a sustainable model? #BioBeat15
Dr Ipshita Mandal, Head of Business Development, Bactevo: “Just do great work – that’s what matters.”
@SarionBowers tweets: @ipshitamandal nails it – it’s important to learn from failure and then get up. #BioBeat15. BioBeat15: Vivienne Parry
@LizGChoonara tweets: Definitely a highlight of #BioBeat15 > a truly inspirational panel feat. @juliafanli @ipshitamandal @QuantuMDx
Dr Fiona Marshall, Founder, Director and Chief Scientific Officer of Heptares Therapeutics (left) chairs the session on “Driving capacity and growth with Teams and Boards” – “Investors who bring in money should make sure the scientists can stay where they work best, perhaps in academia.”
Kym Denny, Chief Executive Officer, hVIVO plc: “When you do things that go against the grain, you need teams that aren’t part of the establishment.”
Professor Lucy Raymond, Cambridge Institute of Medical Research: “If you work in a ‘flat plane’, then delegating responsibility and empowering people to make decisions are critical.”
Anne Hyland, Chief Financial Officer of Kymab: “Companies are there to make a return for shareholders, and boards are focused on understanding those shareholders.”
The diversity of career paths and approaches at BioBeat15 was exceptional, spanning data services, medical devices, nursing, diagnostics, accountancy, UX design, and much more.
Professor Dame Janet Thornton closes BioBeat15: “Translating genomics into biobusiness is imminent – genomic data has revolutionised biological research.”
The day was packed, but didn’t drag. The evening networking session gave hundreds of delegates and speakers another good opportunity to connect.