My Question Is...Networking Lunch 24th February

Once again, One Nucleus held a really useful and informative session whereby an intimate group of attendees gathered to discuss thought-provoking questions posed by the One Nucleus community.  Discussions each take place in individual breakout groups, but so the key take-aways can be disseminated more widely, this wrap-up serves to provide an overview of all discussions.  Therefore, regardless of the breakout group individuals were in, the insights are shared amongst all.

Question one submitted by Fay Weston, Independent: “How important is ESG/CSR reporting going to become in the UK and in the EU and what are biotech companies going to do about it?”  Fay highlighted that ESG/CSR reporting is so important because it is a motivator for the investment community.  Indeed, investors will use these performance indicators to help manage their investment risks.  Another important reason for reporting these metrics is they cover issues such as diversity and climate change, which are a focus for the workforce of the future and reflect what they look for in a particular employer or industry.  To tackle the second part of the question, Fay’s group debated what companies in life sciences could be doing about ESG/CSR reporting and one suggestion was to create a “handbook” that companies could use to update their practices in this area and would draw on the experience out there, perhaps from the larger more established companies to help the smaller businesses.  Fay closed on another question which was “Would One Nucleus be interested in developing such a handbook?”

Question two submitted by Dave Graham, University of Essex - Research and Enterprise Office: “How do you access the academic knowledge base in the region?” Dave was joined in his room by two participants from the same spin-out company at the University of Hertfordshire who raised the ICURe programme, which is a ‘bootcamp’ for academic researchers wishing to explore the commercial potential of their research.  This is indeed an excellent example of bridging the gap between laboratory and industry.  The group also acknowledged that networking can be an excellent way of gaining new insights and building up new knowledge.  More universities are building an entrepreneur element into courses, which can expose students to what it is like to build their own company/product, but it is still down to individual universities to offer this.  The group also touched upon the importance of mentor relationships, which could indeed help with knowledge sharing too.  Finally, the group agreed to stay in touch and to keep exchanging ideas on LinkedIn, which is brilliant!

Question three submitted by Victoria English, Evernow Publishing Ltd: “What makes a biotech ecosystem work? What are the measures of success?” Victoria’s group highlighted the essential components of a biotech ecosystem, including a university and a hospital, which can provide exposure to physicians and patients and bridge the gap between companies and an understanding of patient needs.  Access to finance is also essential.  However, Victoria made a differentiation between a biotech ecosystem in Europe compared to the US.  It was acknowledged that some ecosystems in the US, such as Boston and San Francisco, have no problem in attracting VCs, but the same could not be said for companies outside of the US.  The group speculated whether this could be down to a more risk averse culture outside of the US.  However, there is optimism around the technology transfer funding coming out of universities such as Cambridge, Oxford and UCL.  The group also asked to what extent biotech ecosystems rely on Government support and took the example of Catapults that are very useful for innovation.  It is also important for biotech ecosystems to function as part of the wider community, to enable good dissemination of scientific information to the public which can help to build trust and support.  Finally, the presence of a large pharma company can provide a good source of mentoring and even a pipeline of skilled people that can ‘re-seed’ another start-up company.

Question four submitted by Elisabeth Goodman, RiverRhee Consulting: “If individuals can choose the company they work for, how do leaders and managers demonstrate that they value that choice?” Elisabeth’s question was looking at how leaders and managers can demonstrate to their employees that they are valued.  During the group’s discussion, one of the key themes that emerged was the relevance of the current working environment, where the vast majority were working remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic.  It may be that, moving forwards, leaders and managers will have to respond to requests from employees for new ways of working and which have emerged from the current situation.  This could call for greater focus on flexibility and a hybrid working environment (which could bring other challenges, such as a disconnect between those working remotely and those in the office).  In this scenario, value can be demonstrated by building in time for social connections and engagement, regular 1-on-1’s between managers and their teams and recognising that we are all relating to a shared situation during the pandemic.  The group also identified that moving forwards, employees may have more power.  In terms of helping employees to feel valued, an important way to increase motivation is through providing opportunities for learning and development.   Pay can also be a motivator.  It was suggested that One Nucleus could usefully do a benchmarking study on salaries!

Question five submitted by Russ Bradford, Parkinson's Concierge: “Will the pharma and med tech industries truly value the voices of the patient when they claim to be patient-centric, or are they using this "buzzword" merely to fit in with the handful of companies who truly value patient involvement?” Russ, who was also joined by Charlotte from Parkinson’s Concierge, introduced the reasoning behind their question, as patient inclusion is very important to them, certainly when it comes to patients being listened to and taken seriously.  Firstly, the group discussed shared and combined research, which is a game changer at the moment.  Collaboration is patient centric as it helps the flow of information and facilitates new discoveries.  It also means not only one company has to take all the risk.  The group also identified the importance of data/AI which is being used to help manage conditions and in other instances to feedback on disease progression.  Parkinson’s has 60 + symptoms and every patient is different, so there is a significant challenge here when trying to find a cure and more that can be done to understand the patient journey.  As well as collaboration and datasets, the issue of drug and med tech in the pipeline and how long it takes to reach the patient was also highlighted.  Also discussed were options and directions to funding and finance packages.  Thus, there are still pain points to overcome.  Russ and Charlotte attend a lot of seminars to raise awareness, to become a voice for and to encourage patient involvement.     

A few of the themes raised during our networking session, including the importance of ESG in attracting talent, the value of mentoring and skills, will be touched upon during the One Nucleus ‘Building Life Science Adventures’ careers conference taking place over 30th-31st March.  The conference will feature eight lively panel sessions and will be delivered via an online app that will enable delegates to connect with others, to build their networks and arrange follow ups.  Registration is free thanks to the generous support of our supporters and sponsors, who are all committed to positioning the Life Science sector as the place for individuals to grow and meet their goals.