North east Scotland is putting entrepreneurship at the heart of its distinctive life sciences cluster to accelerate the commercialisation of research and innovation.
The region is home to world-class enterprises tackling modern epidemics, from neurodegenerative diseases and infectious diseases to cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. They share a strong entrepreneurial drive, take novel research from the laboratory bench to commercialisation and attract significant investment.
The industry’s ambition is to double the size of the life sciences cluster in Aberdeen as part of the region’s economic diversification.
ONE BioHub, which opened in August on the city’s Foresterhill Health Campus, is the new focal point for action and investment led by economic development driver Opportunity North East (ONE) with partners to put the sector at the heart of the future economy.
ONE BioHub has significantly enhanced the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. It offers innovative laboratory, office and collaboration spaces for start-ups, spinouts and scaling businesses, tailored programmes and connections to expert networks and mentoring for life sciences entrepreneurs and founders to build and commercialise new therapies, treatments, technology and solutions for health and wellbeing.
Two of the region’s bio-entrepreneurs shared insights on their commercialisation journeys at the Scotsman Life Sciences Conference as part of a best practice session on academic entrepreneurship.
Dr Ayham Alnabulsi is co-founder and CTO of EpitoGenX. Its EpitoGen® and AI EpitoPrediktTM technologies come together to create a powerful game-changing platform that will transform diagnostics, vaccine design, biotherapeutics, and antibody development. With the support of Innova Medical Group Inc, the company aims to provide accurate, simple, accessible, and affordable point-of-care testing systems. Previously, Ayham co-founded and led Vertebrate Antibodies and AiBiologics. He has extensive knowledge in medical genetics, immunology and mathematics, and he is a co-inventor of the game-changer EpitoGen technology.
Dr Soumya Palliyil is the Head of Scottish Biologics Facility at the University of Aberdeen, where she leads a team of scientists and PhD students developing therapeutic and diagnostic monoclonal antibodies in the areas of Alzheimer’s disease, Gram-negative bacterial infections, fungal infections, chronic liver diseases and most recently COVID-19. She is also co-founder of BrIgID Biologics, which is developing next generation antibody-based drugs with the assistance of an innovative drug discovery platform that identifies specific fungal targets.
Both share a common mission to translate innovation into meaningful real-world impact and see scientific entrepreneurship as the most effective path to achieve this.
Ayham Alnabulsi said: “The dynamic support available in Aberdeen is a catalyst for life sciences start-ups to commercialise research and innovation. It's crucial to acknowledge the individuality of each journey but we are fortunate to have a very collaborative life sciences ecosystem in the region, which supports people throughout their entrepreneurial journey.
“My team and I possess a complementary skill set, allowing us to build on each other's expertise. Additionally, the significance of networking cannot be overstated. Participating in ONE BioHub's monthly coffee mornings and the ONE life sciences network has expanded my professional connections and has opened up new commercial opportunities that will enable the growth of EpitogenX.”
Soumya Palliyil said: “Being part of ONE Life Sciences accelerator program kick started my entrepreneurial journey. It equipped me with the right methods and tools for customer discovery, value proposition models, and understanding decision-makers. The opening of ONE BioHub is really exciting for north east Scotland, and has already presented me with valuable opportunities including the chance to pitch and network with a substantial group of global investors brought to Scotland by Scottish Development International in November.”
ONE and regional partners, including the University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University, are now embedding the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s disciplined entrepreneurship 24-step model in the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem. ONE has also recently launched a pilot team venture mentoring service to support the growth of innovation-driven enterprises in the region.
Prof. Mirela Delibegovic is an academic and entrepreneurial research leader in biomedical sciences, specialising in diabetes physiology at the University of Aberdeen. She believes the region is already making progress towards fully realising its life sciences potential.
“Aberdeen and the north east has always been known for its innovation. The building of ONE BioHub has really enabled the life sciences sector to come together, collaborate and achieve things faster. ONE also supported me to go to MIT, in Boston, which aided me to understand the steps that are required to really be a successful and disciplined entrepreneur,” she said.
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