What led you to working on the Life Sciences Team at UCLTF?
I've always enjoyed working at the nexus of cutting-edge science and finance. My undergrad was a combined Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne in which I specialised in both neuroscience and finance; going directly from discounted cashflow tutorials to neuroanatomy dissections was great fun. I worked at a major global investment bank with a similar name to my own in Melbourne, starting in the printing and stationery department as a uni job, but I also spent a couple of years on the healthcare and biotech equities research team which brought the two strands together. After my PhD and postdoc in neuroscience in Cambridge I then worked in a number of startup biotechs, the most recent of which was a UCL spinout funded by Albion VC - and then joined Albion to run the UCL Technology Fund (UCLTF) in 2015, just before it finally got off the ground.
Is there anything you miss about being an academic?
Academia is so different from the commercial world. When I arrived in Cambridge to do my PhD having just left Goldman Sachs after almost 8 years it was difficult to adjust to the idea that I had one single thing to do and it was due in three or four years time...Whilst investment banking has you doing 50 things at once every day (and the UCLTF is no different!) it's a completely different approach in academia where I often spent whole days literally just thinking about my experimental design or my results (or, more often, my terrible code) without typing or writing a word. That freedom and space is so crucial for scientific progress - and though I do still enjoy writing the odd blog or tweet there's often not much much time to think about the bigger picture when you're hard at the UCL coalface.
What is your favourite part of working with UCL academic founders?
Hands down the all-pervading ethic of solving problems in a productive, interdisciplinary way. I find it amusing that the tropes about different universities hold so true even today. I still live (and teach a tiny bit) in Cambridge and the attitude there is one of blue-sky, big thinking...probably goes well with the enormity of the Fens. UCL still has that Jeremy Bentham, down in London, roll-up-the-sleeves approach - a clinician has this group of patients here, and they don't have a solution for their disorder, what can we do and right now? It's such a refreshing, can-do approach and I see it throughout the university and its hospitals - and in the innovations that are out there in the world, making a massive difference.
And your least favourite part...?
There are a lot of problems to solve! Staying on track is therefore quite hard. This comes back to the commercial versus the academic worlds - we provide funding at UCLTF for translation of innovation, which requires Gantt charts and milestones and project meetings, etc. And of course new ideas and new approaches arise as you're working through a programme, but there's also great discipline required in sticking to the goals and the plan. We're helping a lot of people at UCL find other sources of funding for earlier stage research which might be outside of our remit. But new ideas are great fun too. It's a matter of finding a balance.
Are there any particular exciting investments that you're working on at the moment?