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Celebrating British Science Week

last modified Mar 12, 2020 04:35 PM
To celebrate British Science Week we spoke to three of our Founders about their innovative ideas, their story and the challenges they face. With three offices across Cambridge we wanted to feature a venture from each… Elyn Shen, Founder of Tenoke - a venture that uses ground-breaking technology to transform cardiovascular diseases prevention, is based at ideaSpace South on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. Ruchi Sharma, a member at ideaSpace West is the Founder of Stemnovate – a venture redefining drug discovery through data. Attila Csordas, member of ideaSpace City and Founder of AgeCurve – World’s First Deep Age Profiling from Home.

British Science Week

1.Tell us a bit about your venture

Elyn
Tenoke offers medical imaging solutions to enable healthcare providers to complete effective and precise cardiovascular diagnosis. The company was incorporated in December 2017 in China and July 2019 in Cambridge and now in total we have 24 team members. We launched two products in 2019: atherosclerosis plaque (the leading cause of stroke and heart attack) segmentation and brain volumetrics for brain atrophy detection. We have successfully had CE marking in Europe and are currently at the final stage of getting CDFA clearance in China. 

Ruchi 
Stemnovate is a Cambridge based disruptive technology company that provides an integrated solution for reliable human data for precision drug discovery combining stem cell expertise and microengineering. We do this by using a human platform of cells that we reprogram and differentiate further into different cell types such as liver, neurons, heart cells etc. We then uniquely perform drug screening and toxicity studies on microphysiological systems developed in our laboratory. This provides a way of testing which drugs will work on a particular set of human – this is known as precision drug discovery. 

So that’s our venture. A bit about me and how I ended up founding Stemnovate - I’m a physiologist, a veterinarian then did my PHD in cell reprogramming and tissue engineering. I also did my Post-Doctoral at the University of Cambridge in a UK Regenerative Medicine Platform for cellular therapies. The cellular technology has huge potential, but the problem in the industry is translation because these are not only complicated techniques but for application development it requires engineering as well as biology expertise to come together. This is a challenge for any team to take in, so the idea is that we integrate microengineering and stem cells and provide a user friendly integrated solution that provides genetic and physiological information for predictive modelling of human response to new drugs more efficiently and meet industrial scale and standards.

Attila 
The scientific problem of understanding biological aging is twofold: We want to understand what processes change with age and we want to understand the disconnect between chronological and biological aging. Both are needed in order to develop robust interventions to slow or to stop particular negative aging processes. At AgeCurve, we measure thousands of proteins in saliva, both in DTC and in B2B setting and select the ones showing relevant patterns to build biological aging scores, amongst others. Aging is not a disease clinically speaking but we started to work with clinicians to see how our high throughput protein measurements can provide actionable information.

 

2. What has been your biggest challenge so far and how did you approach it? 

Elyn
There have been a lot of challenges, product validation, thriving on limited resources, and constant change. But the biggest one for me is to get the right people. The first year was a complete “failure”. I went back to China, after being abroad for 14 years and set up an office in a city I had only been to twice, without any computer science or life science background. I didn’t even know who I should hire and or what our end product should look like. My co-founder is a full-time University researcher and although he’s super brilliant and very supportive, the time he could spend on recruitment was limited. All the engineers we hired in 2018 left the company. One of my strengths, however, is that I am a quick learner and quite resilient. We eventually got a couple of the right engineers and managed to expand the team to 20 by the end of 2019. I think it’s simply the nature of running a start-up. There are always more ways to overcome obstacles than obstacles themselves.

Ruchi 
The biggest challenge so far is always the integration of different strings of science, engineering, biology and data science. For example, Human cells have unique requirement for growth that includes media, factors and matrices and for creating physiological relevant systems in laboratory engineering material, design parameters and manufacturing technique can become a limiting factor. The big data that we create in the process further challenges us and for achieving efficiencies we are exploring deep learning.

We have established a compliant platform and work in partnership with world experts from multidisciplinary fields and diverse manufacturers creating an ecosystem for innovation.

Attila 
Getting the word out, educating people about what proteomics can and cannot deliver. This is a pretty new field still and the longevity industry we are part of, is also just emerging.

 

3.What is the one piece of advice you would give to an early stage start up?

Elyn
One thing I found very useful is open communication. We had a company OKR (objective and key results) even when we had only 2 people in the team. It’s critical to align objectives with everyone in the company so they know milestones and where we are heading. Because everyone works at breakneck speed, to share critical information up down and sideways/good or bad ensures that everyone is informed - it builds trust in the team too. 

Ruchi 
The best advice I can give is just go ahead and give it a shot because we learn during the process. The recent Coronavirus episode affirms a requirement for new innovations. So, our focus stays on creating the best product and services for real-world problems. We strive to attain standards, compliance and bring to market technology that is not only adaptable and user friendly, but also has a real impact. The vision of safer medicine and affordable healthcare for all keeps us motivated to continue to innovate and create a sustainable business with equal opportunities.

Attila 
Avoid reaching out to investors proactively. Build your product, get some sales and investors will find you. Then you have a good position to engage.

 

Find out more about TenokeStemnovate and AgeCurve and if you would like to know more about joining our community of founders and entrepreneurs please get in touch on enquiries@ideaspace.cam.ac.uk or call 01223 330971.

 

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