CEO Today - Business Women Awards 2022

Tell us about yourself. My passion is working at the interface between academic discovery and realworld application, ensuring that scientific research is translated into benefits for patients. Collaboration and partnerships are critical to achieving this, andmy current role is to combine the strengths of academic innovation, industry expertise and clinical know-how to better understand disease and accelerate the development of new therapies. I joined the University of Cambridge, UK in 2016 to set up a new Institute which would become a physical research hub for academics, start-up companies and pharmaceutical companies to work together to develop new therapies. This includes a Consortiumof 11 pharmaceutical companies and 3 academic institutions, including the University of Cambridge, working together to find new therapies in many different disease areas. The Milner Therapeutics Institute opened in late 2019 in the Jeffrey Cheah Biomedical Centre on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, the largest Biomedical Campus in Europe. The Institute is a centre of excellence for drug target validation through artificial intelligence, machine learning and functional genomics (using genomics and human cell-based models to understand disease). I have a biomedical research background and have carried out research in multiple disease areas at the University of Manchester, Harvard Medical School, Wellcome Sanger Institute and GlaxoSmithKline. I have 50+ research publications and have been on a wide range of national and international reviewpanels. I hold an honorary professorship at the University of Coventry where I sit on the Vice Chancellor’s advisory group. Prior to joining the Milner Therapeutics Institute, I was Head of Innovation and Translation at the NC3Rs where I worked with over 40 pharmaceutical companies in the US and Europe to improve scientific and business processes which would reduce the use of animals in drug development. What have been your and Milner Therapeutics Institute’s biggest achievements over the past two years? Our first priority in 2016 was to develop a scientific, business andoperational strategy for the Institute which was financially viable and would produce world-leading research that would help patients. Our biggest achievement over the last two years has been to see that strategy come to fruition and evolve, particularly given the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. We opened in November 2019 and our vision was to create a physical environment that fostered interdisciplinary, cross-sector research, networking and physical sharing of space. In March 2020, at the start of the first lockdown, we had to amend our strategy significantly. Many of the organisations we were working with were switching to a virtual model and we had to put a whole range of new measures in place to enable us to open our Institute safely. This was at the same time as our scientists were working 24/7 to try to find a treatment for COVID and also continue the potentially life-saving research for new cancer therapies. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we have won awards for Innovation which have recognised what we have achieved in such a short time. We have housed 12 start-up companies in the Institute that have received approximately £25 million in venture capital investment and we have set up over 40 projects between academia and industry resulting in over £10 million of research funding. The partnerships we have put in place have resulted in 35 peerreviewed research publications covering advances in the fields of infectious diseases (COVID-19), cancer and inflammation (inflammatory bowel disease). What’s the most rewarding part about your role at Milner Therapeutics Institute? By far the most rewarding part of my role is working with an outstanding network of individuals towards a common vision that benefits patients. We are dedicated to forging new ground in the ways that we work, breaking down barriers between academia and business and changing the culture towards a more collaborative one, where all skills and expertise are recognised and used to their full advantage. It’s exciting to see what we can achieve when we bring all our strengths together. There are many complex therapeutic areas, for example, neurodegeneration where finding new treatments is a mammoth challenge that is impossible to overcome by working alone. By bringing together expert clinicians, academic researchers and industry scientists we bring hope that progress will be made. Can you add a few words about what this award means to you? I am really excited to receive this award. To me, it is recognition and celebration of all the hard work that the team and our collaborators have put in to make the Milner Therapeutics Institute a success. When you are starting up something entirely new you do not have a precedent to draw on and have to rely on a lot of goodwill and faith. People have believed in what we are doing at the Milner and this award shows that their faith was justified. I am very proud of what we have achieved at the Milner Therapeutics Institute and proud to receive this award that recognises our achievements. 19 www. ceotodaymagazine . com Uni ted Kingdom

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