The Electrospinning Company (ESC) was established in 2010 as a spin-out by the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). ESC is located in purpose-built clean-room facilities on the growing Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, near Oxford, in the UK.
After taking a degree in plant sciences, I spent 20 years working in management roles at multinational companies, ICI, Zeneca Agrochemicals and Syngenta. The training and experience I received gave me the skills I’d later need for running smaller companies. In particular, I gained invaluable experience of doing deals sitting on the big company side of the table which gave me insights into the dynamics of negotiations and transactions that would be really useful in the second half of my career.
After Syngenta, my first role in an early-stage company was at Oxitec as Head of Business Development. Following that I was Chief Operating Officer at Immunocore; CEO and then non-exec Director at Biosyntha and finally CEO of the Electrospinning Company, where I have been for the last 9 years. The thread that runs through all of this and that has made my career so enjoyable is the challenge of taking great science and moving it into the real world where it can find practical, innovative and useful applications. It’s a privilege working with scientists, after all I’m a nerd at heart! I’m able to find solutions to the challenges of IP, regulations, money, customers etc that help scientists bring their innovations to the world.
Pivoting and building a business
The Electrospinning Company (ESC) was a start-up when I arrived as a part-time CEO with a CSO and one other employee. At that time, we were applying our technology to 3D cell culture tools for drug development before we pivoted to tissue engineering, developing our electrospun polymer scaffolds as implantable components of regenerative medical devices. We’re now able to support the development of medical device concepts or prototypes through to the market and our multidisciplinary team has supported over 100 client projects in a range of therapeutic sectors including neuroscience, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, cardiovascular, wound care and cell therapy. We also offer manufacturing services for research and clinical grade materials, offering exceptional innovation and customer responsiveness.
We are now expanding our team and developing automation following a new investment round in April led by a strategic partner from the US with whom we’re developing a novel stent coating programme. In addition to medical device applications, we are developing tools for the cell therapy sector which is growing rapidly but facing challenges, such as protecting cells from host immune systems, that could be addressed with our biomaterials.
The right investors from the start
UKI2S was an investor from the beginning when the STFC spun out ESC. UKI2S brought in angel investors, which was really useful to get us going, and they provided strategic advice while we were evolving the business strategy. Although we’re now beyond seed investment, UKI2S is still a very supportive investor with an observer role on the Board and access to an excellent network.