Why Life Sciences Innovators Need to Build the Right Teams

Great innovation needs great leadership.

The late, great Steve Jobs said: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” So, when it comes to spotting opportunities in the exciting cross-over fields of life sciences, technology, and consumer applications, the right leadership team is vital. Businesses may be set up with an original goal in mind, such as developing new tools for cancer screening. The potential applications for the technologies they innovate, however, could be far wider than the healthcare field.

Tarquin Bennett-Coles, Carmichael Fisher’s Principal Consultant in Life Sciences Practice, says the need for some members of leadership teams with broader skills and experience is now being widely recognised by companies in this cross-over space. The need for managerial agility in recognising skills gaps and plugging them with the right people is paramount for a successful business. “Original teams may well be very focused on the healthcare benefits of their potential projects and have extensive experience in that field,” he says. “Their skills may be highly specialised. “However, lucrative consumer applications could transform the future of a company. They could ensure its viability and its ability to carry out further research and development in important areas of life sciences.

“Failure to capitalise on these opportunities could have the opposite effect. Companies which fail to grasp them could be held back from performing important work. Leaders must be aware from the outset that there may be potential for the application of their technologies in different areas to those they initially target, and they must be open to the opportunities which arise. They must be open to changing direction. Then, people with the right kind of skills at every level must be brought in to develop these potentially lucrative consumer applications. As the project progresses, companies may need those with corporate skills or those experienced in the use of different technologies.”

Many of the consumer markets which may use applications may be radically different to the field of life sciences. “Leadership teams need people who understand these markets,” Mr Bennett-Coles says. “They also need those with excellent corporate skills. They will know whether companies need to be split and run separately to maximise the opportunities. There are also differences in timescales. In life sciences, teams might expect to see results after a five to twelve years development process. For those with experience of the consumer markets, they would perhaps be looking to develop a product or a service within 18 months. This speed is necessary to ensure the technology isn’t overtaken or another team moves more quickly to bring something to market.”

Two case studies show the importance of that approach:

How technology developed as a cancer diagnostic became a tool in the war on terror

TeraView Ltd, based in Cambridge, was originally set up as part of the Toshiba overseas research laboratories in the 1990s.

It began life as a way of researching cancer diagnostic tools using Terahertz light technology. X-rays give us images of our bones. Terahertz T-rays allow us to see molecular structures. TeraView uses T-ray light, which sits between microwaves and infrared, as a tool to carry out tests and inspections. The T-rays allow the creation of 3D images. Though the technology was originally developed as a tool in cancer diagnostics, it soon became obvious that it had several other applications which needed to be developed. Alongside medical testing, TeraView’s technology is used in the pharmaceutical, semi-conductor, and solar industries. It is also used to test for explosives, noxious gases, and non-metallic weapons.

Technology which began as a medical diagnostic is now an important tool in security screening. TeraView’s CEO Don Arnone says: “These opportunities became apparent quite early on. We could see there was potential in three or four different markets and we pulled in people with experience of operating in those markets. We knew we needed a team with the right technical skills and an entrepreneurial flair and professionals with a good knowledge of those markets to commercialise the technologies we were producing. Initially, we brought people in on a consultancy basis, then o contract. As we moved forward, they stayed with us. We brought in people who understand markets in the USA and those who have experience in the automotive market. As the company grew and we faced different challenges, we needed a technological team which could help us deliver solutions fairly rapidly. We also needed people who could develop and maintain customer relationships in our different markets. We’ve maintained a flat structure. We don’t have a bunch of expensive executives or vice presidents, for example.

“As we have developed, we have grasped opportunities and our team has developed knowledge and skill in different markets. We developed a product for the inspection of microchips in mobile phones for Intel in 2008/9. Since then, the team has developed contacts and experience in the semi-conductor industry after working with Intel’s engineers for eight years. As we’ve grown, our team has adapted to different markets and technologies, and there has been some convergence. However, there are still differences in markets which must be taken into account. Someone in sales in the semi-conductor market would not be particularly adaptable to selling in the automotive market, for example.”

Understanding different markets is helping one company expand overseas

For innovative company Ieso Digital Health, building a team with an understanding of different healthcare marketplaces has been a key building block to success. The Cambridgeshire company was launched in 2011. It delivers cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to patients through a ground-breaking online method. Its Director Dr Andy Richards explains: “There’s a well-known inhibition when a patient sees a therapist face-to-face. Freud recognised this. It takes several sessions to build trust and an honest dialogue. We deliver therapy online using a written method which helps our qualified therapists to develop trust with patients much more quickly than if they were physically seeing a therapist. Our system is highly secure and a written record of all sessions is kept – something which is useful to therapists and patients and allows improved protocols to be developed. Patients can access treatment via our online method more quickly than physically seeing a therapist, and out treatment has proved highly effective in many cases. We took the decision in the UK to work within the NHS, rather than privately, so our patients are referred to us by NHS trusts.

However, there is a growing market need for this approach overseas, and this is where the right leadership team has become an important element in Ieso Digital Health’s growth. Alongside skills in the commercial and technical fields, the company’s team has needed market-specific knowledge. Dr Richards says: “If you take the United States, the ‘behavioural health’ market is very under served, but healthcare is delivered in a very different way than within the NHS including Medicaid and the private healthcare segments. So, we have needed senior people with experience and skills in those markets, we have ‘aimed high’. An additional key factor for us is regulation. It can be a complex area. In the USA, regulation varies from state to state, and in Europe from country to country. We need people with a deep understanding of what’s needed to operate in these markets. Without the right people in place, companies will make a lot of mistakes.”

The opportunities in the cross-over space between therapy and technology are substantial. With one in four of us likely to suffer from mental illness in our lives, and a growing focus on preventative medicine for mental health issues, world-wide demand for online therapy is only likely to grow. For Mr Bennett-Coles, the lessons learned by companies like TeraView and Ieso Digital Health are vital for any forward-thinking business in the field of life sciences. Without the right skills and the right entrepreneurial spirit, teams will fail to take advantage of opportunities for experimentation and growth, he says. Future success starts with the visionary leadership to build those teams.

Tarquin's Blog

 Written by Tarquin Bennett-Coles, Principal Consultant at Carmichael Fisher and longstanding One Nucleus/ERBI member.

 The One Nucleus blog is written by individuals and is not necessarily a reflection of the views held by One Nucleus.




Posted in May 2017 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

One Nucleus Input to the Industrial Strategy


Dear One Nucleus members and esteemed readers

As many of you will know, the British Government launched a Green Paper for wide consultation regarding its future Industrial Strategy.

One Nucleus is delighted that at least 3 of the 10 pillars of the draft strategy reference sectors, the importance of place and clusters. With this in mind, I decided that it was important for One Nucleus to input to the draft strategy.

Below you will see my letter/response to the Government in this regard. It is written after lengthy discussions with members, key stakeholders, regional and national Government and others. I do hope you feel it is appropriate and reflects the needs and interests of our much treasured One Nucleus membership.

Letter to BEIS (dated 3 April 2017)

As Chief Executive of One Nucleus and one of the Prime Minister’s Business Ambassador’s for Life Sciences, I am delighted to send you the One Nucleus input to the Industrial Strategy.

One Nucleus is the largest membership organisation for the life science and healthcare sector in Europe with over 470 organisations as members. Full details are at Annex A below.

This response is formed of three parts:

  • Firstly, the role of Regions and Cities
  • Secondly, what One Nucleus believes the UK life science and healthcare sector needs from the Industrial Strategy and
  • Thirdly, what we believe the specific needs of the life science and healthcare sector across the Cambridge/London corridor are now and into the future (80% of our membership is based in this area).

I am intentionally not including a significant raft of data about the strengths of the UK life science and healthcare sector or the axis of Cambridge/London as these are very well known to HM Government. However, for ease of reference and background I attach:

  • a brief summary of the Cambridge ‘cluster’ – Bidwells (March 2016) (via e-mail)
  • a short overview of the UK sector compiled by UKTI (now DiT) that I use as core briefing in my Business Ambassador role (via e-mail)
  • a report compiled by the Growth Commission for the London Stansted Cambridge Consortium – LSCC (July 2016) plus a range of life sciences specific reports to which One Nucleus has contributed for the LSCC (all links below):


The One Nucleus response is written after consultation with Cabinet Office and BEIS during recent meetings I attended. The feedback from BEIS team members was clear – to focus a response on tangible actions that can be taken. I have therefore adopted that approach but am very happy to discuss any or all of the content of this submission in more detail with HM Government.

The Role of Regions and Cities

It is heartening to see the Prime Minister’s significant emphasis on ‘place’ in relation to the Industrial Strategy and her plans for the UK’s growth. As an organisation that has most of its members in a ‘region’ ie: the Cambridge/London corridor, One Nucleus believes that clusters/regions play a pivotal role in the economic development of and commercial advantage for the UK.

That said, I would also like to emphasis the role cities play in enabling growth. The establishment of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP’s) and City Deals are very welcome. More needs to be done though. I would suggest localisation of a proportion of innovation funding to cities to enable them to more proactively plan and support business growth across life sciences and other sectors.

Cities are better placed than central government to respond to locally specific market failures – drawing on close relationships with local business leaders and local institutions, having a better understanding of the unique environment local firms operate in, and an enhanced insight into where future opportunities may align.

Devolving, or ‘localising’, a proportion of existing innovation funding to provide cities with a flexible innovation pot would enable them to support greater coordination within and across sectors and cities, and enable the business leadership required to meet the growth ambitions set out in the industrial strategy. By ‘innovation funding’ – One Nucleus means early stage R &D and importantly also broader business-based innovation/process innovation/market innovation for scientific/healthcare products.

What does the UK sector need from the opportunity afforded by the Industrial Strategy:

  1. Patient capital and funding:
  • Patient capital – must play a pivotal role – supporting the key themes of the (East of England) Science and Innovation Audit (SIA) as well as the emerging fields of eg: Artificial Intelligence; robotics; digital health; the Internet of Things. The recent collaboration between Syncona and the Wellcome Trust is an excellent blueprint for what can be achieved
  • Funding: The BioMedical Catalyst Fund has worked very well – continuation of it/enhancement of EIS to encourage investment/an even more robust R & D tax credit system (particularly in light of BREXIT)/even more competitive levels of corporation tax
  • HM Treasury to create a model to fill potential gaps with the demise of Horizon 2020 – HM Government has announced it will safeguard this funding but details are yet to be provided
  • Broad reform of EIS and VCT reliefs to lock in cash for longer in return for enhanced tax reliefs to encourage enforced patient capital. It is our view that the tax system is the key way for universal behaviour change to be effected. In addition, if the scale threshold (the point at which EIS relief is lost) were increased significantly, it could allow a greater flow of new funds into EIS protected scale-ups. We also ask the Industrial Strategy to consider reliefs for small (innovative) businesses, which will support growth in new R & D sectors and regenerate geographies in the UK in need of growth
  • Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund – market it well and in a timely fashion
  • Support for Scale-up companies: a tailored package of support/incentives for companies that are seeking to remain and grow in the UK – rather than exit-sale or merger. This includes consideration of diversity of funding – helping SME’s to navigate late stage development and commercialise products without ‘selling out’ to big pharma
  • Government funding to support academic GMP manufacturing and cell processing capacity
  • Greater involvement of charities/patient groups in the creation of innovation funds (eg: a comparator for the Citizens Innovation Fund that is available in France)
  1. People and Skills
  • Creation of a UK BioPharma Academy – with graduate entry, external mentoring and coaching, growing the next generation of scientists and C level talent. One Nucleus would suggest this is an academy that industry is intensely involved in/supports in terms of funding and training resource
  • Creation of a fast-track life sciences and healthcare visa scheme
  • Support local institutions to maximise local strengths – and assess current networks and organisations on the basis of proven ability and reputation before creating new ones – against a clear set of criteria
  • Establish a ‘National Recruitment Fund’ to grow the UK’s life sciences talent pool by supporting the attraction and retention of overseas and home-grown scientific and entrepreneurial talent
  1. Regulation and Pricing/NHS
  • Reinforcement of the Accelerated Access Scheme (AAS) to create new ways of addressing regulatory issues and encouraging the faster uptake of innovation by the NHS. The Innovation and Technology Tariff is a case in point – this needs to be truly capitalised upon for maximum patient benefit. Vitally getting the AAS to work smoothly and effectively should help keep the UK at the forefront of getting new, innovative drugs to patients
  • The Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS): this is an excellent mechanism from the MHRA/NICE and needs to be taken further. We suggest some products should qualify for EAMS sooner (perhaps in specialist clinical centres) so real outcomes and commercial data can be garnered for NICE assessment. Consideration to be given to granting EAMS on well conducted exploratory studies in areas of high unmet medical need and run in parallel with confirmatory clinical studies – with patients directed to the latter in the first instance. This would ‘telescope down’ the process of regulatory approval, NICE decision making and NHS adoption. Paying SME’s a nominal price for their product while under EAMS would also help bridge the funding gap for regulatory development
  • Better access to clinical networks
  • Establish a ‘UK Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI)’ to ensure that UK companies and researchers do not lose out on opportunities to establish pre-competitive collaborations, which aim to speed up the development of better and safer medicines for patients
  1. New Technologies
  • Encourage the development and convergence of technologies
  • A UK strategy for digital health – with the NHS better expressing what it’s needs are and assessments done to assess the market for mobile applications for health monitoring and companies and the NHS working more closely together
  1. Department for International Trade (DiT)
  • A clearly defined and well-resourced international trade and investment offer which recognises the importance of supporting SME’s, harnesses the abilities of our commercial teams in our overseas Embassies and Consulates for company benefit and markets opportunities for UK companies in a timely fashion eg: far better notice of upcoming missions/conferences required
  • Recognition by the Department for International Trade (DiT) of the importance of SME’s both in biotechnology and medical technology (including devices and diagnostics). Business Plans from the Life Sciences Organisation (LSO) in DiT I have seen in the last several years have been very thin on actual practical support for SME’s in these areas. I am fully supportive of the ABHI (Association of British Healthcare Industries) response to the Industrial Strategy which I have been asked to contribute to, and have done so, by ABHI

What are the needs of the life science and healthcare sector across the Cambridge/London region:


Life Sciences is thriving in this ‘region’ with exciting growth, relocations, company formations (and exits), academia-industry strategic collaborations and a strongly entwined ecosystem. 25% of the UK total of biotechnology companies and 38% of all primary UK R & D companies developing novel therapeutics or diagnostics are in this region.

The innovation strength of this cluster is of national and international importance and a reflection of the entrepreneurial ecosystem that exists locally where seasoned life science entrepreneurs interact seamlessly with more recent science graduates and PhD’s with high aspirations and appetites to learn.

AstraZeneca locating its global headquarters in Cambridge, next to the world renowned Addenbrooke’s and MRC LMB is no coincidence: a testament to the strength of the science being developed in and around the City and also the deeply collaborative spirit.

In London of course we have the ‘jewel in the crown’ of scientific endeavour which is the Crick Institute – globally appreciated for what it is seeking to achieve in developing better drugs and outcomes for patients through collaboration and partnership.

Cambridge Points to Make:

Whilst Cambridge is experiencing faster growth currently than China (at 7%), the city and its environment has challenges that the Industrial Strategy could help address.

One Nucleus welcomed HM Government’s recent commissioning of a Science and Innovation Audit (SIA) for life sciences for the East of England. It is our understanding that the findings of the audits are pivotal to Government decision making with regard to investment policy. I firmly believe that the audit will showcase the world class excellence of the East of England in life sciences – with a particular emphasis on:

  1. Personalised medicine (drug discovery, development and diagnostics)
  2. Regenerative medicine (cell & gene therapies)
  3. Genomics
  4. Med tech
  5. Food, health and microbiome

Our recommendations:

  • The need for a Master Plan for the East of England to manage its growth in a way that benefits all locally and importantly (as an engine for the UK) spreads that success across the UK. Cambridge is a city based on ideas and is a ‘safe’ place to do ‘risky’ things – it’s important for Cambridge to continue to do it’s amazing science and R & D and for the surrounding areas to be further developed around it which have the skills to support that work eg: manufacturing in Harlow; and recognition of the expertise of complimentary life sciences eg: food and the microbiome in Norwich. I regularly discuss the East of England region for life sciences with local and national Government and continue to reinforce the point that the incredible life sciences cluster that is Massachusetts is not just about Boston – it’s about what the whole geography brings to the table. Cambridge and the region needs to think like that and plan for 2020 and beyond with that in mind – with investment in land opportunities eg: along the A11 to Norwich and the A14 to Bury St Edmunds
  • Retention of the two major cornerstone organisations: AstraZeneca and GSK
  • Infrastructure: it is vital that traffic congestion into the city centre is reduced, that there are strong transport networks between key locations across the East of England so that companies can move their teams easily in and out of the city and around the circumference plus north (to Norwich) and South (to Stevenage) and development in outlying (and important) areas of:
  • Affordable housing: for all levels of staff in organisations.
  • Funding: the City Deal was good but £500 million is a small amount given what needs to be done
  • Better planning: Councils are addressing planning needs but more could be done to release land for development more quickly to create more and better practical space, better shared facilities
  • Support for start-ups is strong in Cambridge and the region with a vibrant biotech centre and centres of excellence across the area, with entrepreneurs, investors and a very strong mentoring/coaching community. But there is a need to support companies to scale-up
  • Promotion of Cambridge internationally – a far better marketing machine is needed and a far better explanation of the impact Cambridge has both on the UK and overseas. The Cambridge Phenomenon books are exemplars but a Cambridge Promotion Agency is needed if the area is to continue to compete on a global stage and continue to win high quality foreign direct investment
  • A robust review of the creation/building/growth of incubator/lab space available in the ‘region’. Many reviews have been compiled about what is available but someone needs to take charge of overseeing what is going up where with a ‘helicopter view’ – an Incubator Tsar!
  • Create an even better Cambridge Science Centre to encourage science education
  • Better wireless connectivity across the whole region
  • Have Cambridge as a future City of Culture and create an International Visitors Centre – a one stop shop for tourists, investors, traders, students

London Points to Make:

The life science and healthcare sector alone in London generates over £21 billion GVA in London and the Greater South East. It is very important to harness the strength of London’s research base and support research and business collaboration nationally, across the EU and globally.

It will be critical for Government to continue to (at least) maintain existing levels of research spending in London and the Greater South East, including the level of research funding received from the EU, post 2020. It should also be remembered that there is clear evidence that the benefits of R&D spending are felt throughout the UK economy and not just in the region in which it occurs.

Our recommendations are:

  • the importance of better housing supply particularly in terms of London and the Wider South East. Median London house prices in 2016 were (for example) 14 times median London earnings, compared to four times in 1997, and this poses a significant risk to London – reducing ability to attract talented people, particularly in lower paying (but high value-generating fields such as creative industries or scientific research
  • Stronger access to finance – this remains a challenge for many businesses in London. Research by TheCityUK found that the UK has been less strong in equity financing than the US for a long time: for example, banks drive only 19% of external long-term financing in the US, compared with over 80% in the UK. [1] London ranks behind California and New York on the availability of mid-level growth capital[2], with these two hubs supported by a strong, risk-tolerant investor culture
  • Investment in infrastructure – to support regional growth is responsive to the specialisations and comparative advantages of regions. This includes London, where for example Crossrail 2 is essential to London’s growth as it will underwrite London’s productive central core
  • Deployment of research and proof of concept funding to tackle UK city-based challenges across MedTech and digital health applications (for example), using London and UK cities as a test bed
  • Trial, in collaboration with other UK cities, new approaches to supporting business to business innovation – linking innovating SMEs to corporate R&D need, strengthening innovation and collaboration across national supply chains
  • Create a science and technology inter-institutional collaboration fund across London and the Greater South East, which would be open to UK wide research and business partners
  • Improve the linkages and broker relationships between higher education infrastructure/equipment and expertise and business innovation need (including mechanisms to better link up foreign direct investment and domestic business growth requirements with the existing institutional offer)
  • Strengthen the entrepreneurial drive across London universities to inspire students, celebrate risk taking and failure, (for example, through drawing on the alumni base to advise and support existing student cohorts) and support a more commercial mind set across academia

My comments in relation to London are the result of consultation with the Greater London Authority (GLA) and London & Partners and the life sciences elements for London appear as part of their submission on the Industrial Strategy.

Harriet Fear
Chief Executive One Nucleus and UK Business Ambassador for the Prime Minister

[1] TheCityUK, 2013, Alternative Finance for SMEs and mid-market companies

[2] EY, 2015, Fintech – on the cutting edge, 2016; Pitchbook, Annual VC Funding Report.

Posted in November 2011 | Leave a comment

What is Neurodiversity and what are the effects on Cambridge business when the NHS and local authority do not address dyslexia and Asperger Syndrome in adult life.

I write this blog to share a personal story of some of my experiences and knowledge gained after a later life diagnosis of Dyslexia and Asperger syndrome in Cambridge.

What does Neurodiversity mean?

A recent research paper published by ACAS on, ‘Neurodiversity at work’, by Bewley, H. and Anitha, G. (2016) state that ’Neurodiversity refers to the diversity of the human brain and neurocognitive functioning’. It expresses neurodiversity as the umbrella term to encompass neurotypical and neurodivergent. The neurotypical brain is associated with what is considered ’normal’ functioning, whilst the neurodivergent differs from this ‘norm’. The report suggests that, ‘The neurodiversity paradigm embraces all neurocognitive functioning equally and that, the individual minority types are natural human variations, which are authentic forms of human diversity and self-expression, rather than pathologies’.

Neurodivergent encompasses cognitive differences including; dyslexia, dyspraxia, and dyscalculia, ADD/ADHD, Autism Spectrum conditions including Asperger syndrome, OCD and Tourette’s syndrome. The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) highlights that, ‘there are more people with Dyslexia/neurodiversity than all the other disabilities put together’, yet little publicity is given to them.

The social model of disability, which is supported by the Equality Act 2010, states that, ‘It is the way in which society organises itself that creates disability’. The infrastructure required to support neurodiversity needs to start with education for all, so that policy, practice and procedure can be inclusive, in every facet of life. It is not the Neurodivergent individual who needs to be squashed through society’s one-size-fits-all hoop, rather it is society that needs to be educated to provide a choice, to allow everyone a hoop of their choice.

Cambridge is a magnet for neurodivergence, because of the, mathematical, high tec. and research industries in the region. This is further reinforced by Roelfsema et al (2011) who identified that there are significantly more children with Autism in IT rich regions and Wei et al (2003) who suggests that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) students are more likely to choose STEM subjects. In addition, research by Julie Logan on dyslexic entrepreneur’s highlights that in the UK 20% of successful entrepreneurs have been identified as dyslexic and in the US the percentage is 13% higher. I would argue that the reason for this higher percentage is that the US are more open and forward thinking in the field of neurodiversity, resulting in this population flourishing.

The government has identified a goal to halve the disability employment gap by 2020. There is already legislation, indicated below, that should accommodate inclusion for this population. However, the lack of education in society does not allow this to follow through in practice.

  • 2006 The Public Sector Duty
  • 2009 The Autism Act –  It is identified that just 16% of Autistic adults are in full-time paid work and overall just 32% of Autistic adults are in some kind of work. (NAS) A talent pipeline waiting to be tapped.
  • 2010 Equality Act.

My experience

It is my passion to communicate to the employment world the extreme lack of healthcare, education and diagnosis of dyslexia and Asperger syndrome in the UK and more particular in Cambridge. It is difficult to deal with a problem until you accept that it exists. There is no diagnosis for adults with dyslexia and no support except in the private sector. For the last eighteen years, the NHS have contracted Cambridge Lifespan Asperger Syndrome Service (CLASS), to diagnose Aspergers in adults, but there is no help or support after diagnosis. As a result there are no doctors in Cambridge who have any knowledge of dyslexia and Asperger syndrome in adults. This creates two issues 1) that they cannot diagnose and do not know how or where to provide support and understanding to improve the quality of life and 2) they do not know the effects on an Asperger person so do not know how to change their behaviour and comply with Public Sector Duty. This is not the case in other Cities.


You may ask me how, I came to connect with dyslexia /Asperger syndrome as a mature adult. Well, I have spent a lifetime trying to find out what my differences were, with unaware doctors in the NHS and the education system. This is the story of many adults in the UK. It is so sad because we have lost a life of achievement. By the age of 7 a child knows that they are different from their peers, but they do not understand why and cannot express it. They then have to spend a lifetime hiding it, because education and employment condemn a person to believe that they are not bright, or good enough. I am sure you may know the saying ‘If you ask a fish to climb a tree it will believe that it is stupid for the whole of its life’. It is not the dyslexics who are stupid, it is society who is unaware of the challenges they face.

My first step on the road to diagnosis was in recognition of the difference between the wealth of knowledge in my head and the content of language that came out on paper or verbally. This recognition led me to question a friend on how she thought. I was aghast as she told me about a tick-a-tape of words running across her head. I could not comprehend that and I explained my own experience of visualising a beautiful, illuminated image with smaller detailed images springing up simultaneously within the main image. I don’t need words, I just know. However, the problem lies in when you have to tell other people what you know. The amount of information in my head at one moment in time, far exceeds my friend’s tick-a-tape of words, yet she would be regarded as brighter than me because she could just repeat a tick-a-tape sentence in an instance and I would struggle to be succinct. This is the story of a dyslexic. We are often highly intelligent, creative 3D thinkers who see the bigger picture. We have a different way of doing things and in seeing the world around us. It doesn’t make us dense, it makes us valuable. If you have a problem or a policy that is not working, find a dyslexic because their bigger picture thinking will provide a prompt, creative solution.

Dyslexia is about a spikey profile where some of your profile maybe in the 90 percentile whilst one or two may be in 30/40 percentile. The gap between the spikes is what dyslexia is. The low spikes tend to be in working memory and processing speed. In the non-dyslexic all the profile points would tend to be roughly along a straight line. In order for a person to understand their level of Dyslexia, an assessment needs to be performed by a trained expert. These are not provided free on the NHS or in education. Instead they have to be paid for privately. The cost is prohibitive at around £500-£600 per report. As they are in the private sector there is no standardised monitoring and critical research came out last year highlighting the poor performance of assessments.

Whilst the BDA currently advertise that 10% of the population has dyslexia, this was a view gained from the 1960/70s when a number of research documents were averaged. However, the government do not diagnose and there are many people who have dyslexia, but have not been diagnosed. So there is no capability to accurately identify the number of dyslexics in the UK.

There is a petition https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/168137 which is trying to get a diagnosis for dyslexia carried out by the NHS. This is where it should be diagnosed because it is about a brain difference. The government’s response may claim that they already fulfill the diagnosis need because they already diagnose in schools and produce education reports for diagnosed children. However, these education reports are not acceptable in a court of law and the government will not accept them when allocating Disability Students Allowance. An expert’s assessment is required. Indeed, one education authority will not accept the educational report of another, so where is the value?

I feel that the symptoms of dyslexia are similar to the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s and I asked the research charity if there was a correlation. I was told that someone in Canada found a gene in dyslexia and Alzheimer’s but they would need funding to do the research.

Asperger Syndrome

I soon realised that dyslexia did not cover all my problems and started researching on the internet. I came across Asperger syndrome and believed I presented with its symptoms. I found CLASS and downloaded all the information to take to a GP to request a referral. I was refused an assessment by CLASS because my parents died when I was teenager. CLASS was set up by researchers who needed a population for their research. They wanted an outcome of Asperger syndrome or High Functioning Autism and therefore developed their assessment tools to meet those requirements. The difference is that someone with High Functioning Autism may not begin to speak until later childhood e.g. 9/10 or later, whilst an Asperger person would speak at the normal childhood rate. They recommended I approach Leicester NHS for an assessment.  It took me over a year to obtain a confirmation that I had Aspergers syndrome. I have spent over 40 years in the NHS with doctors who were unable to consider Asperger syndrome because of their lack of education. A copy of the report was sent to my GP and Cambridge and Peterborough Foundation Trust. (CPFT) with a request to provide a care package. They responded by stating they did not deal with Asperger syndrome and from this point my years of struggle with all the public sector in Cambridge began.

Legislation states that the NHS and local authority have a legal duty to provide an assessment of needs for a vulnerable person and this has been the case since 1990. Yet, the statements that came flying at me from the NHS/Local Authority were ‘They would not deal with me because I had an IQ over 70’, ‘they have no doctors who have any knowledge of Asperger syndrome’. I was denied counselling because ‘I was no different to anyone else with the same condition’. This was all very disheartening because had I lived in Leicester I would have readily been provided with help and support. A diagnosis as an adult in both dyslexia and Asperger syndrome is a life changing experience and to leave someone with no support and understanding is quite shocking and a damming indictment on Cambridge for failing to comply with their legal duties. Over the years nothing has changed, they are just pretending to address the issue, to tick the boxes.

Why is understanding neurodiversity so important to the present and future of Cambridge?

The failure to address late diagnosis clearly has an effect on the economy, health and judicial system, but it also affects the talent pipeline for business in Cambridge. There are no programmes in the DWP/Job Centre to provide support for this population in getting into work, however, if you are lucky enough to secure employment, there is ‘Access to Work’ from the DWP, which will help initially, in funding for technical/support equipment and training for the team. This is helpful, but what we need is ‘education for all’ to transform the culture and behaviour within organisations. Business has a right to expect that corporate and local taxes will ensure that Cambridge is one of the most neurodiverse knowledgeable cities in the UK. We have a rich supply of talent in Cambridge and many international employees will always want to have Cambridge on their CV. Would someone for Silicon Valley want to come and bring their family to Cambridge knowing there was no support in this area? Dyslexia is hereditary but the question is out on Autism. We have a responsibility to grow the seeds and nurture the neurodivergent population, whilst it is with us. How can organisations address Wellbeing and stress if they don’t address dyslexia and Asperger syndrome first? The NHS, Education and employment do not yet have the knowledge and skills to accommodate this, but must develop the enquiring mind to do so.

We are competing in the global market place for talent, but are those who manage the recruitment and talent pipelines educated and sufficiently accommodating, to be inclusive of the neurodivergent population? In the world outside Cambridge, many organisations are recognising and targeting this population. Cambridge is being left behind. In the US Microsoft https://news.microsoft.com/stories/people/kyle-schwaneke.html and in Europe SAP http://www2.cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2016/05/16/sap-recruits-100-autistic-employees-in-three-years.aspx have been developing specific recruitment programmes for the autistic population. This is now being introduced in the UK in London https://news.microsoft.com/en-gb/2016/02/26/microsoft-extends-autism-and-inclusive-hiring-programme-to-uk/#sm.000qz6289173fd8ipv019xb9yiyky#ETprW4ZalYCh0gvk.97. GCHQ specifically recruit from the dyslexic population. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2764078/Government-intelligence-agency-employs-dozens-dyslexic-spies-special-skills-help-crack-codes.html. What is Cambridge doing?

Cambridge Neurodiversity Hub

I want to help Cambridge build a bridge into my world, so that you too can see and share the quality skills of the neurodivergent population. Cambridge Neurodiversity Hub, aims to educate and facilitate learning for Business in Cambridge. We are looking to create a membership organisation and seeking four founder members to guide its development.

To provide a step into learning, Neurodiversity Educational Workshops will be held in Cambridge in the near future.

If you are interested please check out the website: www.cambridgeneurodiversityhub.co.uk  or email at info@cambridgeneurodiversityhub.co.uk


Written by Carol Fowler, Learning and Development Manager and Cambridge Neurodiversity Hub.

The One Nucleus blog is written by individuals and is not necessarily a reflection of the views held by One Nucleus.

Posted in March 2017 | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Need to recruit multilingual, creative problem solvers experienced in working in teams and on a wide variety of challenges?

Go Dutch.

In 2015, Sophianum school in Gulpen were keen to work with a life sciences research centre in Cambridge. Harriet Fear, CEO of OneNucleus was approached and she worked hard to find an appropriate partner which would commit to a long term and hopefully, symbiotic relationship.

She succeeded – thank you Harriet.

The Babraham Institute accepted the challenge and a team of their scientists are presenting projects, in English, to the students in Gulpen (near Maastricht) as this is typed. The Dutch students are fluent in English and study at least three languages including their own. Communication throughout the exercise continues via email, weekly videos and Skype.

The Sophianum school sits on the border of Belgium and Germany and accepts students from the local area regardless of home address or nationality. They join at 12 and go through to pre-university.

There is a strong International outlook involving links and exchanges with schools in Hong Kong, Canada, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Norway and Spain. Despite their best efforts it has proved very difficult to maintain links with English schools.

Students engaged in their national Technasium scheme are required to respond to real life challenges set by a company or institution. This is not extra-curricular or an add on. It is very firmly part of the school’s approach and is nationally managed.

Dutch education has undergone some major changes in recent years. The Technasium approach recognises the demand for students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to ensure they can contribute and be happy as global citizens in the 21st century. The course called, Research and Design, places an emphasis on research, communication and team skills.

In 2016 the projects involved three diverse challenges set by the Babraham Institute, all of which developed in conjunction with staff in the Institute’s animal facility and related to the Institute’s openness about their use of animals in research:

Challenge 1: Design a solution to allow the top and bottom rows of cages in a rack to be efficiently checked with the minimum of risk to the technician.

Challenge 2: Communication between units in the facility

Challenge 3: Investigating legislation and public opinion

The projects for 2017 include a repeat of Challenge 1 from 2016, with new projects relating to the Institute’s research and one of its science facilities.

During the exercise the competencies of each team member are reviewed as they develop their own skills and support the group process. Assessing collaborative activity is notoriously difficult but the Technasium approach is innovative and works. 50% of the final grade is awarded for process actions – how effective they are at managing and executing the research and design activity.  The review involves an assessment team, self-assessment, peer review and teacher assessment.

None of the elements of Technasium are unique but the combination is globally, uncommon. Key factors are that each school accepts and commits to the ethos, and the firmly evidence based, learning approaches required. Teachers are carefully selected and given specific training in teaching and ‘scaffolding’ creative problem solving – not all teachers have the attributes necessary.

The assessment methods employed also recognise that traditional methods are inappropriate. Students peer review their work and teachers grade and approve attainment in key and transferable competencies using an established, carefully devised, European Union (EU) scheme. The competencies are hierarchical, accumulate, and can be used to support university and employment applications.

Of the eight EU competencies, three are key: Learning to learn – the ability to effectively manage one’s own learning, either individually or in groups, Social and civic competencies and a sense of initiative and entrepreneurship.

Boo, Mike and Dori Malcom BlogBoo Virk, Dori Horkai and Mike Hinton, from the Babraham Institute, brief the Dutch students in the newly-opened Technasium facilities at Sophianum School, Gulpen

In Sophianum the curriculum is broad and balanced and the accommodation for the Technasium groups is new and inviting.  An industrial design facility including 3D printers, systems and electronics kit and hand tools, together with well-equipped science facilities, ensure that students are using up to date, appropriate equipment.

The students are fortunate and enthusiastic. The Babraham Institute should be commended for their wisdom in engaging with this.

Why? Because the writer of this article has experience of students tackling real life, company inspired projects, including one which was adopted and resulted in a significant increase in production for a medical device. Collaboration enriches us all.

Our young people are creative and able – they only need to be offered the opportunities. Harriet, Mike and their teams are inspiring our scientists and technologists of the future – we need them!

Discover more:

The Technasium Network


Babraham Institute Report on the Project


Sophianum School, Technasium


EU Lifelong Learning key competences


Written by Malcolm Moss with the support of the partners

The One Nucleus blog is written by individuals and is not necessarily a reflection of the views held by One Nucleus.


Posted in March 2017 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Unlocking the Power of Genomics

The speed of Next Generation Sequencing now enables us to read every letter of every gene from DNA samples of patients in medical research. This is a significant advance on previous technology, which could only detect common differences between people at a much less precise level. For the first time, it is possible to uncover very rare differences between individuals – even ones found in only a single individual. These rare differences are what scientists believe lie behind common disease like asthma, diabetes and common cancers and could answer the question: “Given humans are all very alike, why do some get sick and some stay healthy?”

A unique partnership

AstraZeneca believes that embedding genomics across its research and development platforms will deliver novel insights into the biology of diseases and enable the identification of new targets for medicines. It will also support the selection of patients for clinical trials and allow patients to be matched with treatments more likely to benefit them.

As a result, the company entered into a long-term partnership with Human Longevity Inc. (HLI) in April 2016 to harness the power of genomic data as part of the launch of its integrated genomics initiative to drive the discovery and development of novel medicines across AstraZeneca’s main therapy areas.  HLI is a company founded by Dr. Craig Venter, a pioneer in human genomics. HLI is creating one of the most comprehensive genomic databases available in the world, comprised of up to one million integrated health records including whole genome, phenotype and clinical data. HLI is also a world-leader in machine learning, pattern recognition and analytical techniques to help interpret genomic data.

The collaboration aims to drive new drug target and biomarker identification and identify specific patients who can respond to treatment. It is unprecedented in scale and scope – the partnership will focus on the genomic sequencing and analysis of hundreds of thousands of samples drawn from AstraZeneca’s clinical trials over the next ten years.

Strategically, the partnership means that validation of targets and biomarkers and personalised medicine can begin and end in humans. For many centuries pharma R&D has relied on pre-clinical models for validation – models that are consistent only in their inconsistency in predicting human disease related events. To have information from human genetics coupled to human phenotypic data that leads to treatments in human diseases means there is less need to translate across species to build confidence in drug discovery approaches. Diseases are often polygenic – caused by a number of gene sequences – and this collaboration will be able to mine out these complexities and point to areas of converging biology where interventional tactics can be applied.

Patient privacy at the forefront

Protecting patients’ privacy is a responsibility that both partners take very seriously and the commitment to maintaining privacy forms a central theme of the collaboration.

AstraZeneca and HLI have set up a number of combined precautions that work to ensure no one who donates a genomic sample for this initiative will be identified from either their genomic or their clinical data.

  • Data access: there are strict rules to restrict access to sensitive data, so that researchers who work with patients’ genomic data are not able to access their personal details.
  • Data security: the database is protected by robust, state of the art security measures.
  • De-identification: Data fields will be removed or aggregated to reduce the risk of identification while preserving the scientific value of the research.

As partners, AstraZeneca and HLI will also ensure that each individual who donates a genomic sample to this initiative has given their consent to do so. Patients already have to give their consent when taking part in a clinical trial, however, AstraZeneca will seek their further optional consent to use samples they provide for genomics research, so that patients can make a properly informed choice.

A commitment to innovation

AstraZeneca and HLI have a shared commitment to develop the most innovative and impactful treatments for patients. By utilising each other’s complimentary expertise and capabilities, the two companies are able to collaborate on an innovative approach that is directly geared to patient benefit.

The collaboration will help build HLI’s extensive expertise in sequencing genomes and enable it to advance the understanding of this data in ways that have not been possible before. By accessing AstraZeneca’s samples, it will also be able to drastically expand its existing genomics database.

The partnership also has the potential to transform AstraZeneca’s drug discovery and development. The deal forms a key element of its recently announced initiative whereby, in addition to working with HLI, it is forming new collaborations with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, UK, and The Institute for Molecular Medicine, Finland.

AstraZeneca has also established an in-house Centre for Genomics Research which will develop a bespoke database comprising genome sequences from an unprecedented two million samples donated by patients in its clinical trials together with associated clinical and drug response data.  Ultimately, data from these genome sequences and associated phenotypic data will mean a better understanding of the underlying drivers of disease and as a result more effective treatments for patients.

AstraZeneca’s partnership with Human Longevity won the 2016 Scrip Awards’ Best Partnership Alliance of the Year category – a fringe event of the Genesis conference taking place in London today.

Written by Iain Comley, Business Development Director, Scientific Partnering and Alliances, AstraZeneca

The One Nucleus blog is written by individuals and is not necessarily a reflection of the views held by One Nucleus.


Posted in December 2016, November 2011 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Protecting Your Company Culture as You Hire and Expand Into New Markets

I joined the life science talent search sector after a rewarding period as a teacher. It was clear to me in the classroom that if you created the right environment then the students were much more receptive to the curriculum being delivered. This was never easy as you not only had to convince a sceptical group that you were acting in their interests whilst considering that each child would learn and develop at different speeds throughout the course of the year. I often reflect on how similar this is to creating a new company and then forming the right culture.

New people joining a business can have a big impact on the overall performance of the group. If the culture is strong then the existing team will gently re-inforce the expectations, behaviours and key messages of the business when new people come on-board. If the culture is weak then what can get passed on is the individual line manager’s views, which may not be aligned with the leadership.

Great culture and corporate identity are crucial parts when it comes to the successful retention of staff. Understanding exactly what you want your company culture to represent and stand for is the first step. The raw energy of a start-up culture is what can drive the team to work beyond any contractual hours and have them preach passionately about the company’s mission to the taxi driver, friend or relative. It is also what keeps them loyal in a highly competitive market.

Staff will be looking for a culture where they feel they belong. I still recall the powerful Apple TV campaign from 1997 “Think different” and it making me feel comfortable being part of the “Apple” family. Who doesn’t want to be associated with Gandhi, Einstein, Picasso or Kermit? Shire pharmaceuticals have got the right idea with two core messages for the business – “to be as brave as the people we help“ and “enabling people with life-altering conditions to lead better lives.” These are noble phrases and make it easy for employees to feel proud to be part of the company and to defend the mission.

The particulars of how team culture is enacted might change and evolve over time, but as long as staff remain motivated by the core values then the culture will persist. That said the culture that has been so instrumental in getting the business to where it is today, may be the very thing that holds it back in the future. Keep an open mind. Be prepared to accept that there are aspects of your culture that may need to change. Disruptive market changes may take the company in a new direction.

One local firm that has successfully transitioned from just 45 to nearly 1,000 staff and from one to 10 offices in a decade is Abcam. How have they maintained their culture? According to Jane Cooke,  Director People & Organisational Development, the key focus has been; scalability, flexibility, adaptability and making sure they kept their entrepreneurial focus by hiring staff who could continue to drive innovation and keep them ahead of the game. They also built a formal culture assessment into their recruitment process. If you can clearly articulate your culture then you can begin to piece together interview questions and assessments that will unearth the presence of these qualities in potential employees. This will seriously help mitigate the risk of hiring the “wrong” person particularly when you may have to hire people who might be working remotely for you.

Don’t be afraid to base culture-related decisions around behaviours that are already delivering unique value to your company. If you’re planning a big office move and the team is spending half their time collaborating in the kitchen, this might be the cue to create more inviting communal areas. If the staff is composed mostly of millennials who always hit their targets, then instituting early-morning start times might work against productivity instead of for it.

Preserving culture in a company that is several times larger than it was a few years ago is difficult and it might not even be a realistic goal. On the positive front culture is a moveable feast. It is adaptable and renewable. Rather than mandating company-wide practices, embrace the notion of individual team culture. Having recently read the excellent “Small Big” by Steve Martin (ex-life science industry) and Robert Cialdini it is clear that small changes can spark big influence and that different units or country teams may need to be allowed to generate their own distinct personalities, as long as they’re all moving in a unified direction in tune with the vision.

Look outside your sector as this may help you spot new ways of supporting employees that will help highlight what top talent is looking for in terms of culture, benefits, compensation and lifestyle. It is useful to remember that culture is made of people – their attitudes, work ethics, and personalities. It is not made out of processes and checklists. Hire well and be open to take on new people who will not only fit with your culture, but who will also add to it.

When bringing on new people take time to introduce them to the history of the company and get them excited about where the business is going.  Inductions are an incredibly important part of this communication. Ensure that the induction takes time to introduce the company and culture to every employee. As businesses grow, one of the biggest problems experienced is that the company starts to develop silos. It is part of human nature to develop connections with people that we feel we have most in common with, however, this can cause problems and weaken the culture at work if the “division” makes others feel alone or not part of the ‘it crowd’.

Think about ways you can still treat people differently so they feel like individuals as you expand. Flexible benefits systems can be very useful in allowing staff to choose benefits that they want during a particular stage of their working life – swapping pension contribution for paid holiday can be a powerful motivational tool. Consider offering events and activities that encourage interaction such as sports clubs, outings or a social committee. These activities can help create friendships and positive working relationships between different departments.

Ultimately culture is a living thing that will change over time and will alter with the number of people and partnerships the company is involved with. Get it right and you can create an environment that will help retain your best staff, energise your innovators and drive sales growth in the business. But be watchful because it can go the other way too.

Written By Tarquin Bennett-Coles, Client Partner, Euromedica


 The One Nucleus blog is written by individuals and is not necessarily a reflection of the views held by One Nucleus.




Posted in May 2016 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Translating discovery to patient benefits

ON HELIX_corpsite web banner
As a relatively new conference, ON Helix is rapidly becoming established as the key event for translational research in the UK. With a focus on the life science sector, it explores how to turn early stage inventions and ideas into innovative health treatments and provides an ideal forum for industry leaders and experts to share their work and ideas in this rapidly developing area of research.

Nick Lemoine

Today we spoke with Professor Nicholas Lemoine, one of the keynote speakers for this year’s ON Helix. Having completed a physiology degree, medical qualification, clinical training, and a PhD in molecular biology, Professor Lemoine became a group leader at Imperial College, and went on to became the first Clinical Scientist appointed by Cancer Research UK to develop research into molecular biology and cancer therapeutics. He now works as the Medical Director of the NIHR Clinical Research Network where his team conducts clinical trials in the NHS, for the NHS; Director of the Barts Cancer Institute in London; and Director of Research & Development for Cancer & Surgery at Barts Health NHS, the largest NHS trust in the UK. Ahead of his keynote at ON Helix, we asked Professor Lemoine a few questions:

Can you tell us a bit about what drove your interest in translational research?
I started my research at the start of the molecular revolution, at the beginning of the true understanding, diagnosis and treatment of human disease. Pancreatic cancer was always of particular interest to me, since due to its nature it is particularly hard to detect in its early stages, and just as challenging to treat. This highlighted the need to translate the discovery of malignancy drivers in order to enable early diagnosis and the development of novel therapeutics. Similar work was successfully being undertaken in parallel in other disease areas, which helped to demonstrate the results of this investment to the public (who essentially fund the research through taxes and charitable donations). It’s important that the public can see and understand that this research really makes an impact on the patients.

How do advances in translational science impact the research being undertaken at Barts Cancer Institute?
The Barts Cancer Institute is committed to translating basic discovery into tangible benefits for the population at risk of developing cancer. We take discovery from the lab and move it directly into early phase clinical trials – direct to the unmet clinical need, where we can see the impact on real problems, something that is very important to us as scientists and clinicians.

Have you attended ON Helix in the past? What made you decide to be a keynote speaker this year?
No I haven’t attended the conference in the past, but it looked like it provided a unique opportunity to network with a blend of academic and commercial leaders who are all making advances accessible to people in the real world.

Can you tell us a bit about what you plan to discuss in your keynote address at ON Helix?
Of course – without giving too much away, I plan to talk about harnessing the power of the NHS for clinical research and how the NIHR clinical research network can translate discovery to implementation in healthcare. My address will touch on the major global advances including the scope and scale of the clinical research network and how we provide direct access to patients for clinical studies. This will then be supported with some examples of where progress has been made to improve outcomes for diseases (infectious disease, cancer, etc)

What are you hoping to take away/learn from ON Helix?
I see it as providing a unique opportunity to learn from world leaders across the academic and commercial sectors – where there has been real translation from science to clinical impact.

To find out more from Professor Lemoine, be sure to attend his keynote address during ON Helix 2016 http://www.onhelix.com/ Follow us on twitter @OneNucleus using #onhelix16

Contact Nadia or Polly to learn more about ON Helix.

Posted in April 2016 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment