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Iwan Roberts | GE Healthcare

Single-use nanofibre purification

The global fight against disease requires far greater efficiency in biomolecule manufacturing. Puridify is developing safe and cost-effective bioprocessing platforms using nanofibres to improve current purification technologies and meet market demand for cheaper biotherapeutics.

Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Iwan Roberts learnt about translating bioscience discoveries during his four-year MEng degree in biochemical engineering at UCL. He then pursued an MRes before starting his EngD and took advantage of opportunities on offer including Biotechnology YES.

Iwan Roberts PuridifyHQ
“I see a lot of people who are working for start-ups that have come through YES. It’s great to recognise those faces and it goes to show that YES participants often do carry on to create something; that experience of being entrepreneurial is not just a flash in the pan. There really is an alternative to going into big pharma, biotechnology or consultancy.”
 
 

Applying bioscience discoveries

Iwan won academic prizes, but graduate employment prospects in 2008 were grim due to the recession. He stayed on and as a postgraduate was able to take modules in New Venture Development and Managing the Growing Business at London Business School, thanks to an arrangement it had with UCL.

Iwan gained further experience with a three month fellowship in the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) and four months as an intern with IMS Consultancy Group working on a novel drug launch for a pharmaceuticals company.

All this experience would help prepare Iwan to start Puridify with a fellow UCL EngD researcher in 2013.

YES consolidated knowledge

Biotechnology YES in 2012 condensed and applied what he’d learned as well as developing new skills. Going into YES, the team wanted to learn how to create the right narrative to explain the concept of their products in under ten minutes. The mentoring at YES helped the group hone their communication skills and refine their elevator pitch. Iwan also cites the support in navigating Intellectual Property as particularly valuable.

Iwan’s team won the Manchester heat and went to the Final. “It was good to make new connections,” he says. “Some judges’ faces came up again when we went for funding.”

Iwan has also re-visited YES for the last five years as a guest speaker.

 

Puridify from spinout to GE Healthcare

Puridify was spun out in 2013, backed by UCL and an Innovate UK Proof of Concept Bid to Smart Award. They won the SR One funded OneStart Competition in 2014 – £100,000 plus lab space in the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, backed by BIS, GlaxoSmithKline, the Wellcome Trust and Innovate UK – and, in 2015, gained an EPSRC and BBSRC Innovate UK Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst Project award.

In November 2017, Puridify was bought with all 17 employees joining GE Healthcare Life Sciences’ BioProcess business. The Puridify team remains at Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst which continues to serve as a research hub for BioProcess.

Iwan says that it was a smooth process melding with the GE team as their new colleagues were excited about having access to the technology. An added benefit of being sold at an early stage was the GE team were brought along on the R&D journey which helped with buy-in and bringing the two teams together.

Building the right team

Iwan shares some advice on building a successful team while scaling the business: “It’s not just about having the idea - it’s about the team and building that.

“Be careful when starting a company that you don’t just hire the same people. It’s important to have people from different backgrounds, whether that’s from academia and industry, big organisations or small companies. A varied culture is key.”

The Puridify team are mostly from biochemistry engineering backgrounds and the gender balance in science is still tipped towards male, but there can still be variety in background and experience. This variety can be realised by hiring both recent graduates and people with 20 years’ industry experience. The team has recognised that they need people who take different approaches.

More info

Visit Puridify

 

Young Entrepreneurs Scheme

  • Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Nottingham University Business School
  • Jubilee Campus
  • Nottingham, NG8 1BB