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9 June, 2018 - 08:17 By Tony Quested

Cambridge life science evangelist Darrin Disley wins OBE

One of the Cambridge UK science and technology cluster’s most celebrated entrepreneurs – Dr Darrin Disley – has been awarded the OBE to book another visit to the Palace.

Dr Disley, until recently CEO of global gene editing business Horizon Discovery, is awarded the OBE for “achievement most recently as CEO of Horizon Discovery Group and for business, enterprise and healthcare.”

He has been a continuous champion of student entrepreneurship at Cambridge University through support for CUE and CUTEC and a committed campaigner for social enterprise such as the Footprint Cafes venture which he helped launch in Cambodia.

Since he left the CEO role at Horizon, the company’s share price has suffered which begs the question of why a quoted UK company would allow such a talent to slip through its grasp.

Dr Disley previously won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion for his contribution to promoting enterprise in others in the Life Science sector – one of a very few ever to do this and among the first in the Cambridge cluster. 

He is an adviser, investor and philanthropist, supporting over 40 life science business ventures, several social enterprises, and numerous educational and entrepreneurship schemes aimed at promoting social mobility for the economically underprivileged. 

He has a track record of raising c£375 million business financing from private and public sources as well as closing c£450 million of product, service, and licensing deals.

He transformed Horizon Discovery into a global leader in gene editing and gene modulation technologies – taking the formative business from a seed funding in March 2008 to a record £69 million IPO on AIM in 2014, four international acquisitions and a peak market capitalisation of £440m in 2017.

Dr Disley supports educational, business plan competition, enterprise clubs and mentoring programmes via a 10-year endowment of the Professor Christopher R Lowe Carpe Diem Enterprise Fund. 

Through this programme he provides invaluable inspiration, guidance and financial support to student entrepreneurs and has led to the foundation of scores of new business ventures many of which he has gone on to invest in and mentor. 

This led to him being conferred with a lifetime-held Queens Award for Enterprise Promotion in 2016. In recent years he was named Cambridge Business Person of the Year twice, UK Quoted Company Entrepreneur, UK Life Science Public Company CEO, UK Iconic Male Entrepreneur, European Life Science Business Leader and Scrip Biotech and Pharma Executive of Year as well as one of the 100 game-changing disruptive UK entrepreneurs and one of the 100 Faces of a Vibrant UK Economy. 

Dr Disley holds a BSc in Chemistry from the University of Salford and a PhD in Biotechnology from the University of Cambridge. He is an Enterprise Fellow at the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology and Honorary Fellow of the Judge Business School, both at the University of Cambridge. 

He is also an Honorary Visiting Fellow and adviser on science and industry to the University of Salford. 

Regarding the OBE, he said: “Having received the individual lifetime Queens Award in 2016 for my work promoting enterprise in others I was shocked and humbled to have received the OBE for services to business, enterprise and health. 

“It is a privilege to get up every day and work with so many great scientists, educators, entrepreneurs and students and be able to make a difference in the community and country I love.”

• PHOTOGRAPH: Darrin Disley with Hanadi Jabado, Executive Director of the Entrepreneurship Centre at University of Cambridge Judge Business School

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