" I’VE SEEN INNOVATION FROM MULTIPLE SIDES OF THE TABLE IN THE BIOTECH SECTOR: GAMEKEEPER, POACHER AND THE QUARRY".- DR CAROLYN PORTER, CEO , CYTOSEEK
Carolyn Porter is CEO of CytoSeek a discovery stage biotech company spun out of Bristol University developing the next generation of cell therapies for treatment of cancer. Carolyn has spent the majority of her career in the biotech sector working in University spin-out biotech companies, in translation of University innovations or in companies interested in partnering with or investing in innovative companies in the biotech sector.
I’ve seen innovation from multiple sides of the table in the biotech sector: gamekeeper, poacher and the quarry. Your perspective on innovation can change depending on your seat at the table –whether you are the creator or the translator—but in each case you need to be able to envisage its potential. Several people have sought to define innovation and one concept I can relate to is that innovation is the commercialization of creativity.
A perspective on innovation most relevant to our industry, where our daily motivation is to translate innovation for the benefit of real patient need, was coined by Barak Obama who considered innovation as “the creation of something that improves the way we live our lives”. Innovation to me means creating something that can save lives. There are not many other industries where deploying innovation has the capability to do this which makes it an exciting sector to work in.
CytoSeek is developing cell therapies to treat cancer. Cell therapies have had success in the clinic treating patients with certain types of cancer but still face several challenges for widespread adoption which our technology is seeking to address. An ideal future in the field of cell therapy for patients are treatments that work more effectively than the current generation of therapies, can be delivered quickly and at an affordable price. Close connections between stakeholders in the innovation ecosystem are required to address this future aspiration; fostering a culture of innovation with a feedback loop to ensure market relevance of innovations and importantly in the biotech sector to facilitate translation of innovations to patients.
Bristol has an evolving capability in the cell therapy field for example one of the first patients in the UK treated with a new type of cell therapy called CAR-T cell therapy was in Bristol. In conjunction with several stakeholders in the region – NHS-BT, SMEs, the University and key service providers we have established a South West Cell & Gene Therapy network to provide a mechanism for creating these close connections and for highlighting the growing capability in the Bristol and surrounding ecosystem for this sector. Our challenge will be to raise visibility of the region nationally and globally so we can compete for partnerships and investment to bring our innovations to patients.
2020 has been a challenging year albeit the biotech sector, due to its role centre stage in developing COVID diagnostics, vaccines and therapies, has not been as hard hit as other industries such as hospitality or aviation. It has however brought resilience, tenacity and flexibility to the top of list as
key attributes to enable entrepreneurial success in any sector.
The biotech sector is unrivalled in terms of risk profile with high probabilities of failure and long product development cycles, so being successful in this sector requires these attributes absent COVID.