I am sure I am not alone in remembering times as a young child when the interest in starting a dot-to-dot exercise was driven by the desire to know what picture would be revealed in the end. Reflecting on the first half of 2014, looking at a wider cross section of the sector than I had become accustomed to, I have begun wondering what picture is the end goal in our sector.
Stimulated by the West Coast
At the start of 2014 in the One Nucleus blog I shared some thoughts after being in the hub around San Francisco’s ‘JP Morgan’ week which had left me with a number of questions such as why such an event may not work in London and who the key stakeholders are that could address that. Since writing that reflective note in the grey and dismal days of January (or at least what felt that way having spent the preceding week in California), I’ve had my eyes opened considerably to some of the positives present here in the UK and Europe that sometimes remain in the shade for us locals. There are some individuals that straddle the science and technology interface with business and finance consummate ease, whilst there are others who have a far more limited grasp of all aspects. What can we each learn by engaging with different parts of our own environs?
Celebrating success closer to home
This month I’ve had the pleasure of attending the European Mediscience Awards (EMA) after collaborating with its organisers, Ford Sinclair, to promote the event to our audience with the aim of joining some dots within the sector. First off, I have to say that it was a wonderful event that served to place European success stories in the shop window. Such a concentration of high level life science entrepreneurs, investors, analysts, commentators and advisers was fantastic to see. Looking at the list of nominees across the nine categories it was easy to gain an appreciation of the breadth, yet interconnected nature of the medical science and investment sector. It also serves to demonstrate the different skills required to build a successful business in life sciences, with awards recognising not just great deals and breakthrough products, but some of the softer skills elements that are required such as great leadership and communications. I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to all the winners and nominees not just for making the shortlist, but for showcasing the excellence that exists in our sector. It would be remiss of me, of course, not to mention some One Nucleus members who received awards at the ceremony. These included Evotec, Horizon Discovery and Jonathan Milner of Abcam with a number of others on the shortlist. I was flattered to be asked to collect the Best Communications Award on behalf of John Carroll of FierceBiotech who was unable to attend, who narrowly won in a category where competition was clearly close with others including One Nucleus Partner, Scrip Intelligence.
The evening provided me with answers to some of the questions I had remaining when I wrote that previous blog. My question ‘Why isn’t there a JP Morgan and Fringe event in London?’ prompted a number of industry executives to suggest there is a scarcity of biotech analysts in London and indeed Europe compared to the US and this was a key factor. Taking that on board I was wondering what was cause and effect in terms of whether there were less deals due to less analysts or vice versa. Scanning the attendance list at the above Awards would suggest we have some extremely good biotech and medical technology analysts in London and other financial centres, clearly helping to stimulate some great successes. It may be that their advice is sometimes not what the local sector wishes to hear and may at times lead to fund managers placing their bets in the US markets. Nonetheless, I do get a sense that the expertise is certainly here. It cannot be denied either that there is a significant capital pool under management in Europe or that there is a world class supply of innovative ideas. Importantly, there is also a depth of talent pool in how to turn innovative ideas into commercially relevant products and businesses.
Is the BBB challenge still there?
For many years looking from the scientific perspective the abbreviation ‘BBB’ I have always associated with the Blood Brain Barrier. It was often held up as one of the major challenges of addressing central nervous system disorders, although there have been major advances to address this since my days as an active scientist! I think the ‘BBB’ abbreviation is still a suitable acronym in my current role that represents a major challenge. Nowadays perhaps the challenge it represents is how we can turn an excellent supply of innovation, capital and talent into Better healthcare outcomes for patients, Better return to investors and Better economic growth from the sector.
On a mission
The mission of One Nucleus is to enable our members to be globally competitive. We aim to support our members’ goals through nurturing a community that provokes questions, raises awareness of opportunity and connects them to potential investors, partners and effective facilitators. The core services around purchasing, events and training hold clear benefit. Supporting people doing their day jobs is critical to my thinking around any initiative, but it’s always exciting to look at things from a new angle. Looking for mechanisms that introduce our members to a related, but less familiar audience or that enable us to collectively delve into some key challenges are what drives innovation in a membership group’s offer. Our members are among the most innovative organisations and people on the planet, so if we don’t seek to be innovative in what we do and stimulate new thinking, there is an imbalance. With this in mind, we are delighted to have been able to promote the One Nucleus membership to the largely City-facing audience at the EMA, to have collaborated with the British Neuroscience Association on a leadership day focused on pain research and where the next products will come from and in July we’ll be working with DAC Beachcroft and Hume Brophy, kicking of a series of engagement opportunities to debate How the City works (or could work) for life sciences. Of course, there are the annual collaborative events with our MOU partners, BayBio, BIOCOM and MassBio around BIO2014 in San Diego looking to explore new opportunities for our members. You will have spotted that the common theme of these seemingly diverse examples of collaboration is very much about joining the dots across the life science innovation pipeline and enabling everyone to understand a little more about the other parts of the sector with whom they need to interface in order to translate great ideas into great products.
And the revealed shape is…?
If, through these initiatives, we are able to encourage our network to travel with us on a journey that provokes questions and new thinking about how the sector can work together in new ways, perhaps through a greater understanding of each other’s needs, decision making processes and aspirations, then each of us is able to at least play a part in this game of dot-to-dot and the shape that will be revealed won’t necessarily be ‘BBB’, but a slightly longer shape that looks like ‘SUCCESS’.
Written By Tony Jones, One Nucleus
The One Nucleus blog is written by individuals and is not necessarily a reflection of the views held by One Nucleus.