Hannah Thompson | Using YES as a springboard
Cancer biologist shares passion for science
Hannah Thompson is a translational cancer biologist and passionate science communicator. Hannah was the first full-time employee at biotech start-up, Cambridge Cancer Genomics (CCG), where as Chief Product & People Officer she supported the team to drive business growth and has led development of efficient, clear, flexible and scalable processes required to build a product quickly.
Hannah is named in BioBeat’s 2019’s 50 Movers and Shakers in BioBusiness highlighting the trailblazers and trendsetters shaping the future of the UK life sciences sector. Nominated for her commitment to collaboration through her work, and her focus on simplifying software for monitoring cancer patients. This attention to patient care was also a key theme for Hannah’s team during their participation in the 2015 Biotechnology YES competition.
Passionate about improving patient care
Hannah took part in YES while studying for her PhD at Queen Mary University of London. Hannah’s team of five included fellow PhD students looking to improve patient care with a hypothetical idea for a product which would help speed up the healing time of wounds.
The team were brought together at one of the YES roadshow events which Hannah attended after looking for a little something extra to participate in while she felt her PhD was in a bit of a lull. When asked why she applied, for YES, Hannah says: “Generally, I just love to try new experiences! At that time, I wanted to be a bit closer to where the action was and to be really impacting people. I always go for any training that’s available and I’d never done anything like YES before.”
I think YES should be mandatory! It just helps you to be a bit more rounded and aware of other opportunities. You don’t have to want to go into business to take part; YES helps you develop the skills needed to collaborate with businesses in academia. It’s also about general life skills and takes you out of the academic bubble. YES allows you to expand your horizons.
Growing a professional network
During the YES workshops, Hannah’s team met Iwan Roberts, 2012 Biotechnology YES graduate and Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer at Puridify who was able to provide some advice as a mentor. Hannah says: “You gain so much new knowledge at YES. Our team received a lot of real-world business advice from the mentors which we took on to help us make our own decisions on what was right for us during the competition. It was good to be exposed to the finance side and learn how to get our story across in a pitch. We were lucky to meet Iwan Roberts who really helped us.”
Building her network is a priority to Hannah and as a result of YES, she has also connected with 2010 Environment YES participant and Co-founder of Seedball, Ana Attlee. Hannah has built a network of people who she describes as “knowing what you've been through” and can reach out to them when needed. Networking at the workshops and competition gave Hannah increased confidence to go out and meet and learn from others.
Developing communication skills
YES helps to hone communication skills and Hannah puts these skills to good use in communicating science to the wider world. Hannah is becoming a seasoned speaker after filling in for her supervisor at Pint of Science back in 2016. She credits YES as the catalyst for getting into public speaking after participating in some story-telling workshops since the competition and even expanding her repertoire to stand-up comedy at Edinburgh Fringe.
Part of Hannah’s role at CCG was hiring people and she looked for potential candidates who had taken the initiative to develop themselves to become well-rounded individuals. In a world where it’s increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd with a PhD or Postdoc qualification, Hannah believes it’s important to get involved in as many things as you can outside of your studies. Showing commitment to learning and growing as a person goes a long way towards demonstrating employability.
Prepared for the investment process
Hannah credits learning about intellectual property at the Biomedical workshop, hosted by GSK and Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst (SBC), as being instrumental in her future involvement with patenting at CCG.
At the end of 2018, CCG raised capital from a host of Silicon Valley investors, including Jerry Yang’s AME Cloud Ventures, Refactor Capital, Romulus Capital and Y Combinator, to support growing clinical operations in the UK, US and Singapore.
It was during Hannah’s first week in the job that she was brought in to support the investment logistics - replying to emails and booking in 36 calls in one week between the team and the investors. This is a process which Hannah says would have been more difficult without her Biotechnology YES experience.
Hannah was also involved with CCG’s entry to the 2017 Lee Kwan Yew Global Business Plan Competition where they finished as winner in the Health category. This is another experience that Hannah says YES helped her to feel confident in.
Impacts at CCG
Funding and investment
Raised $4.5m to build a precision AI platform for personalised cancer medicine.
69 claims in patents at time of writing.
There are 25 full-time employees.
17 interns in 2019.
Accessing crucial data
Secured the first industry access to data from Genomics England’s 100,000 Genomes Project.
Secured first pilot of the product
Visit Cambridge Cancer Genomics (CCG)