Great North Research and Innovation
We needed a company, a commercial entity, in order to collaborate with other organisations and commercial partners. So I established a company called Great North Research and Innovation and that has allowed us to work with other organisations across the country.
Initially, the project started so we could create a test to help diagnose sepsis and make treatment easier. This project was in a purely academic form, which requires research; but if you want to drive it forward you need to have some form of funding which will come from commercial entities and enterprises who are interested enough in your project to invest.
They wouldn’t put money in me as a person, but they would be much more inclined to put it into a commercial entity, which is organised, audited and follows certain regulations. This helps guarantee that the money they are putting in has certain safeguards so it reaches the intended purpose.
That is why the company started in the first place. The project will eventually be commercial, we will have a test and we will provide it to a hospital, to a GP or any other healthcare facility that can make use of it.
What made you start your own business?
I work in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) and sepsis is one of the main reasons for babies coming in. Babies immune systems are still immature so they cannot fight infections as well as adults. So when they have an infection, they usually deteriorate very rapidly, within hours, and can actually die as a consequence.
They require a lot of care if they have an infection so that we can prevent it from turning into sepsis. The current tests available for sepsis take a very long time to tell us what the cause of sepsis is. I thought there might be a way of finding out a bit faster than what was already available. So I thought that I would pursue this.
Through the foundership we had access to experts to validate my theory. To say yes, that seems a good idea, you can carry on; or no, that is not going to work, it’s something fictional. I’m glad it was good enough to carry on.
Achievements so far...
First of all it is getting myself to know the world of business and diagnostics. I have not been in that position before. I have also met lots of people with lots of experience in the field of research and business which combined is really valuable for any start up business.
The Foundership has allowed me to tap into the expertise of people who have been doing this for years. The Foundership also provided me with a lab space, to do the first set of experimentation which was required for the project; and the experiments were funded through the Foundership grant. All these have a great value when you consider them as a package.
Within the next couple of years I would hope for the test to be in the hospitals. The next stage is getting into prototyping, testing and validating this prototype and then we will go to the regulatory bodies to get the authorisation of using this in a healthcare setting. After that we will try to implement it into these healthcare settings. In two years’ time I hope to have achieved all that.
Experiences on the Foundership Programme
My background is in medicine, I’m a doctor, so I don’t have any commercial experience. This was one of the reasons that I liked the Founderships programme. They could offer me the business support that I required to do my project. The project is sound scientifically but how can we turn that into a commercial product? This is happening through the Foundership.
The foundership helped me develop my business skills and has helped me to see what happens on the other side of the equation, how these tests get into the market; the same way as with any other diagnostic company.
Through the advice that was offered, I could see that my way of thinking was different from someone who has had experience in business. They have different priorities and they want to have a certain purpose for their investment.
The Foundership has put me in contact with people that know my business area, so I can utilise this relationship and their knowledge for my project.
What advice would you give for starting a new business?
Always listen. Listen to the advice. Think about how your project stands among other projects that are either in the market or in the process of being developed. If you know everything about your project, before talking to anyone else you will know if it will have the potential to achieve what it is supposed to achieve or if it is going to be very hard to do so.
It is not wise to take a route which would not lead you anywhere; it would be a waste of time. It is better to invest this time in something that is really going to make a difference.