I have always been interested in the entrepreneurial and commercial side of life-science disciplines and in particular drug development. As a young girl with a strong passion for science, I wanted to help re-shape the long-standing stereotype of a typical ‘innovative scientist’ and entered into the discipline with a strong desire to make a difference in healthcare. It soon became apparent that when mixing with different socially diverse groups at University, that most individuals associated particular characteristics with ability to succeed in certain areas. I soon became tired of being told by others what I can and can’t do, based on my social background and experience, and set out to commercialise the scientific knowledge and ideas which I had developed in the earlier stages of my career which began initially as a scientist in an early stage biotech and continued to registering as a Clinical Immunologist in the NHS. Whilst working the diagnostic environment, it became apparent that a technique used in everyday diagnosis could to utilised in the therapeutic setting to deliver novel, highly selective cancer drugs, despite a lack of confidence from certain peer groups. I do believe that these different disciplines and skill-sets, both within and outside the clinical setting, have helped to harness my business planning and certainly stimulated me to research further, the areas in which BiVictriX has now become involved.
BiVictriX is a young company, just approaching our third year of operations and we operate in the biotech sector which is dominated, historically, by male leaders with extensive experience in large pharmaceutical companies.
As a young female founder and CEO, based in Northern England, away from the “golden triangle” of drug development in the UK of Cambridge, Oxford and London, I do the feel the pressure of constantly striving to be heard, accepted and treated as an equal amongst peers, the vast majority of which are male and carry considerably more career experience. I always like to think of experience being relevant and suited to the role rather than a simple calculation on number of years in employment, although this has always represented a challenge for me personally. I have experienced media representatives stating that I do not ‘look right’ to represent a female scientist in industry and have on some occasions had some confusing looks when providing my business card to colleagues.
Currently, 75% of our staff are female which is going against the historical norm but which is becoming more diverse with highly qualified graduates and PhDs of all backgrounds wishing to start their career in the biotech or pharma sector.
I believe that through integration of diverse opinions, points of view and varying methods of achieving a common goal, the best outcome can be achieved be it through improved efficiencies or more creative thinking. When these various ways of thinking can be combined effectively is where the greatest collective gains can be sourced. Strong and decisive leadership can then effectively hone these ideas and navigate the best route, be it quicker, less risky or more commercially advantageous for the business. I am also a strong believer in encouraging opinions to be expressed and this is particularly relevant in our sector where innovation and new ideas are key to finding previously undiscovered strategies.
As a collective, we need to try to abolish the sigma that unfortunately remains in the tech space in the UK and particularly from my own experience in science, whereby position within an organisation, fitting the stereotype and degree of ‘war-wounds’ on show dictates whether or not your ideas are respected and heard. Often the most innovative ideas come from individuals who may be new to a particular setting or have an alternative set of experiences and I believe that by enabling these voices to be heard, learning from them and nurturing them, we can really enable the UK to be a leading force in the future of the tech industry.