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3 November, 2021 - 12:17 By Tony Quested

BioBeat unveils top women Life Science influencers

Thirty women changing the face of Life Science in the UK are feted in the eighth annual Movers and Shakers in BioBusiness report from Cambridge-based network BioBeat. Founder Miranda Weston-Smith says the trendsetters are “tackling some of the biggest health challenges of our time.”

All are creating new opportunities for growth by combining a human understanding of technology and data with the drive to make healthcare improvements more accessible.

Weston-Smith says: “2021 has been a vindication of the power of science to make a difference to human health and the UK life sciences community continues to lead the way.

“Ranging from academia to industry and public sector to private equity, the leaders featured in this year’s report are shaping the healthcare landscape of the future.”

The report is released in advance of the BioBeat21 Summit: Transforming medicine development through digital innovation on Tuesday November 9, 14.00–16.30 GMT – livestreamed from AstraZeneca’s global R & D centre in Cambridge. The 30 influencers in their categories are as follows:

Science & Technology: Developing revolutionary bioscience products for healthcare

Jenny Barnett (CEO and Founder, Monument Therapeutics)
Jenny founded Monument Therapeutics to develop unique digital biomarkers for neuroscience drug discovery. Licensed from Cambridge Cognition, Monument’s cognitive tests define subgroups of patients for matching with repurposed and reformulated drugs.

Alexandra Johnstone (Rowett Institute, University of Aberdeen)
Understanding the importance of meal timing for health, Alex’s work in the emerging field of chrono-nutrition is exploring the relationship between when we eat and our health.

Helen Philippou (Professor of Translational Medicine, University of Leeds)
By targeting activated Factor XII in blood clotting, Helen initiated and led the development of first-in-class anticoagulant treatment with minimal risk of bleeding.

Caroline Phillips (Head of Oncology, Redx)
Preclinical evidence suggested that Redx’s RXC004 drug is effective in colorectal cancer patients with R-spondin (RSPO) gene fusions. Caroline led her team to build a novel assay to identify patients with these fusions, enabling the stratification of patients for the planned Phase 2 trial of RXC004. 

Holly Reeve (CEO and Founder, HydRegen)
Holly has developed a system that decarbonises biocatalytic processes and replaces toxic metal catalysts, transforming the production of drugs and speciality chemicals. 

Ola Wlodek (CTO and  co-founder, Reflection Therapeutics)
Ola and her team are creating new cell therapies for devastating neurological conditions. She is using synthetic DNA to direct anti-inflammatory regulatory T cells to motor neurons and remain in the brain. 
Finance - Shaping entrepreneurial bioscience through investment

Ana Bernardo-Gancedo (Healthcare Analyst, Amadeus Capital Partners)
Ana partners with entrepreneurs to transform healthcare delivery and fast-track fundamental science into outcome-driven products. Specialising in DeepTech, she leads scientific and commercial due diligence while supporting companies to develop business strategies. 

Ailsa Craig (Joint lead manager, International Biotechnology Trust)
Through a £300 million portfolio, Ailsa backs companies making differences to patients with rare diseases such as PTC Therapeutics, which is developing drugs for rare childhood conditions.

Samantha Roberts (Managing director, Health and Care, Legal & General)
Sam partners with potential and current investee companies to refine their use case, validate their technology and develop their reimbursement model, making them more likely to succeed in bringing innovations to patients.

Uciane Scarlett (MPM Capital)
Uciane forms biotech companies alongside industry experts to incorporate scientific operations early into their business plans.

Melissa Strange (CFO, Closed Loop Medicine)
By re-designing Closed Loop’s approach to strategic planning and financial management, Melissa has embedded rapid decision making and prioritisation. Her approach is underpinning the company’s ambition to get the first combination drug and digital product to market within the next year. 

Clare Terlouw (Head, LifeArc Ventures)
Clare is creating LifeArc’s investment strategy to focus on unmet patient needs alongside financial returns through direct investing in new, growing companies and indirect investing via long term commitments.

Collaboration – Accelerating the innovation pipeline

Emily Adams (Reader in Infectious Diseases, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine)
After designing a way to evaluate diagnostic tests for SARS-CoV-2, Emily and her team assessed more than 50 types of rapid COVID-19 tests to ensure they’re fit for purpose. Their data is contributing to the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics and WHO regulatory approvals.

Burcu Bronner-Anar (Technician commitment manager, Wellcome Sanger Institute)
Burcu is challenging scientific culture by improving the visibility of technical staff at the heart of research. She is embedding a career framework for the 600-strong team of technical staff at the Institute, reshaping job descriptions for 200 research assistants and creating a role solely dedicated to retaining highly skilled technical specialists. 

Maria Chatzou Dunford (CEO and founder, Lifebit)
Tackling the issues around data sharing head on, Maria created software to securely analyse sensitive patient data from multiple large-scale projects and organisations. A cloud operating system brings computation to where the data is, enabling users to perform multi-omics analyses in a collaborative way. 

Julie Huxley-Jones (VP, Research Solutions, GSK)
Since 2020, Julie’s team has freed up 40,000 hours per year for scientists to focus on their research by introducing simpler digital ecosystems. Julie is unlocking the speed and power of scientific collaborations through enabling AI and GSK-in-a-box strategies.

Fiona Marston (Royal Society Entrepreneur in Residence, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine)
Fiona is building responsive relationships between the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and its commercial partners, navigating external and internal negotiation challenges.

Laura Roca-Alonso (CBO, e-therapeutics)
By working to change the views of partners and investors, Laura is taking e-therapeutics’ computational biology platform beyond a drug discovery service. Since 2020, Laura has helped e-therapeutics raise £34 million, double its headcount and expand into RNA interference.

Patient Impact: Transforming patient access to healthcare

Louise Allen (Consultant ophthalmic surgeon, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust)
Cataracts in newborn babies are the leading preventable cause of childhood blindness in the world. Invented by Louise, Neocam is a handheld, infrared digital imaging device which will use AI to improve screening for newborn cataracts. 

Cristina Durán (Chief digital health officer  R & D, AstraZeneca)
Under Cristina’s leadership, AstraZeneca is on track to achieve its 2021 target of 90 per cent of studies having a digital health strategy, with a 20 per cent improvement in patient experiences.

Chiara Heide (CEO and founder, BrightCure)
Chiara is using a strain of microbes for proactive urinary tract care without disrupting the vaginal microbiome. A cream based on these ‘good bugs’ will be available over the counter from the end of 2022.

Amber Hill (CEO and founder, R.Grid)
Amber is speeding up time-intensive clinical trial processes using AI. One system accelerates clinical trial operations from months to minutes.

Anita Lim (Senior epidemiologist, cancer prevention group, King’s College London)
Anita is expanding screening and protecting more women from cervical cancer. She designed the YouScreen clinical trial – the first time that DIY cervical screening has been offered in the NHS.

Isla Mackenzie (Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Dundee)
Isla is making trials more patient-centred through digital technologies that allow them to participate from home. This should lead to greater inclusion and diversity in trials, making results more generalisable and relevant to patients in real world settings.

Infrastructure – Supporting innovation from concept to market

Gemma Buckland-Merrett (Science & research Lead, Drug Resistant Infections, Wellcome)
Gemma halped to establish SPIDAAR – a Surveillance Partnership to Improve Data for Action on Drug Resistant Infections operating across eight hospitals in Africa. The programme is putting actionable data in the hands of decision makers to guide patient care and tackle the spread of drug resistant infections.

Francesca Gliubich (Director London Advanced Therapies, UK Advanced Therapies)
During the lockdown over the autumn and winter of 2020/21, Francesca led the mobilisation of a UK-wide network of networks focused on cell and gene-based therapies.

Farzana Rahman (CEO and co-founder, Hexarad)
Farzana and her co-founders set up their diagnostic platform to connect healthcare providers with radiologists around the UK, reporting nearly 10,000 scans every month and reducing the time it takes for patients to get results. 

Kristen McLeod (Director, Office for Life Sciences, Departments for BEIS and DHSC)
In implementing the Government’s Life Sciences Strategy, Kristen is driving the creation of opportunities in early detection of disease, digital and AI, and advanced therapies.

Jo Parfrey (Chair, Babraham Research Campus)
Jo is steering campus development to support fast-growing life sciences companies. The [email protected] programme provides mentorship at the start of this journey, identifying key milestones and instilling robust financial and management processes in the crucial early phases of development.

Clare Wareing (CEO and founder, Cumulus Oncology)
Clare founded Cumulus to put oncology expertise and entrepreneurship at the heart of biotech creation, with Cumulus’ centralised team globally founding and managing early stage companies.

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