Skip to main content

Together we are beating cancer

Donate now
  • For Researchers

Promoting an academic culture of entrepreneurship at our first Innovation Summit

The Cancer Research UK logo
by Cancer Research UK | Research Feature

1 April 2019

0 comments 0 comments

We’re committed to creating an innovation ecosystem and fostering entrepreneurship in our research community. Our Innovation Summit and Innovation Prize are creating new opportunities to develop the translational and commercial potential of your breakthrough science.

At CRUK, our mission is to beat cancer sooner. We’re driven by the need to see our research ultimately make a difference for patients and people affected by cancer. That’s why we’re currently working to ensure that academic researchers have the right support to be able to take their research on the next steps of the translational journey.

In November, we gathered over 200 researchers for our first Innovation Summit. With a packed schedule of inspiring speakers, workshops, panel discussions and networking, the summit was a great way to exchange expertise and insight. Researchers at all career stages had the opportunity to learn from some of the most successful academics who have become entrepreneurs, and from leading commercialisation specialists, how to navigate the many different routes for translation of basic science.

Learning from olaparib

Prof Steve JacksonThe summit was opened by Professor Steve Jackson, Head of CRUK Laboratories at the Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge. Steve’s research has identified many DNA repair proteins, established how they function, and showed how their dysfunction yields cancer and other age-related diseases.

Alongside this bench work, Steve has founded or co-founded several spin-out biotech companies to translate his lab’s discoveries. One of these, KuDOS, generated the PARP inhibitor drug olaparib (Lynparza™) that is marketed worldwide by AstraZeneca for treating certain ovarian and breast cancers.

In 2010, Steve founded Mission Therapeutics to exploit recent advances in protein ubiquitylation and deubiquitylation to derive new medicines. Steve’s academic laboratory is currently further defining mechanisms of DNA repair and associated processes, with a view to identifying new therapeutic opportunities for cancer as well as various other genetic diseases.

During the Q&A session, Steve highlighted the valuable cross-talk between both aspects, academic and commercial, of his career, noting that they are mutually beneficial. He added that his team credibility combined with the vision and the passion to see the discovery in the clinic were key factors to win the investors.

Tips from a biotech expert

Jackie Hunter gave our second keynote, with an overview of her entrepreneurial journey so far, and her tips from the top of biotech. Jackie has held numerous senior leadership positions in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and innovation industries, and is currently the CEO of Benevolent AI, a company that uses artificial intelligence to disrupt the drug discovery and development process.

Jackie shared some great insight into realities of launching a world-leading challenger to the drug discovery status quo. Her key points were:

  • Ask forgiveness not permission!
  • Are your constraints real or imaginary? Challenge both.
  • Don’t choose ‘yes’ people. A good team has complementary skills and approaches and can have opposing opinions. 
  • Don’t overload an investor pitch with too much science. Discuss the team, anticipate the outcome, be clear on the financials.
  • Ensure you understand valuation and financials.
  • You may not become the CEO.
  • Be resilient and prepared that your venture might fail. Failure is OK but learn from it.
  • Choose your VC, advisors and development team carefully – this is vital, you need to have good rapport with them.
  • ‘You must feel passionate about your project and what it will do for the end-user / patient’. VCs invest in people.