Making your own luck

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for University of Bath spinout company Glythera. A year ago it had great technology but was in a holding position whilst raising the investment it needed to expand. Twelve months on and it’s raised £2 million, has its own dedicated facilities and has grown to eight people. Dave Simpson joined Glythera as COO in March 2012 to lead the set up the development of the business from its new home in Newcastle.

Dave uses the phrase “I’ve been lucky enough” a lot. From work, to family to travel, Dave considers himself a lucky guy. But reading between the lines, it’s clear that luck has nothing to do with his success.

I’ve always worked hard and been lucky enough to be promoted through the ranks quickly with all my companies. I like to get involved with as many aspects as possible, mainly because I still like to learn – and because on some occasions I can actually bring some value!”

Considerable value, it would seem. Prior to Glythera, Dave set up Virodigm to support his consultancy work, and still consults once or twice a month for companies with products in clinical trials, as well as operationally for a large US corporation. “I shamelessly pitch for Glythera under my consultancy banner.”

Before that Dave spent six years with Eden Biodesign, moving to lead its biosimilar product development programme when Watson Pharmaceuticals acquired it in 2010. And before that he was responsible for developing patented, commercially available expression technologies at Cobra Biologics.

Following investment from the IP Group and the Finance for Business North East Technology Fund, Glythera relocated to the Newcastle-upon-Tyne INEX incubator facility in 2012. After supporting its fundraising activities, Dave took up the role of COO at this time to set up the development of the business from its new NE location.

Glythera’s core technologies – Permalink ™ and Permacarb ™ – allow the selective and stable functionalisation and glycosylation of biopharmaceuticals for improved stability, bioavailability and efficacy. Glythera’s key tasks are to transfer the technical knowledge and company assets from University of Bath to the North East; and test the technologies in relevant biotherapeutics models, says Dave.

We’ve been lucky enough to have worked with large Pharma as well as the FDA, which has allowed us to generate valuable data over the last year and really position ourselves with some key market opportunities.”

Its funding is based on the completion of technical and commercial milestones over three years; such is its ‘luck’ that after only ten months of operational activities Glythera drew down its year two finances.

When asked if he considers himself ambitious, Dave is circumspect. “I’ve always wanted to lead the set up and expansion of a company, so I guess that equates with being in a certain position in your career. I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside some very talented people and learnt a lot from them. I like to succeed (I’m ex-front front row so failure is definitely not an option!) and I like others around me to be successful and grow their own ambitions and careers.”

There’s no doubt that Dave is excited by leadership and strategic roles, and pushes himself and those in his team as hard as necessary to achieve success. But he’s still a scientist at heart, and it’s the science that drives him. He’s learned that the science team is much closer to the technology than he is and to give them room to develop their ideas – a difficult transition for any scientist moving into a managerial position.

Dave has enjoyed the move to the North East. He hadn’t understood why competitors’ websites in the region sold so heavily on the countryside, coast and city life – “now I live here, I get it”. And no long daily commute means he sees much more of his wife and two young children. While ‘old age’ and injuries (including a broken neck!) may have put a stop to his love of playing rugby, a house in need of TLC and the discovery of golf take up his newly found time. Although, by his own admission, his rugby mentality when playing golf means that “just hitting it harder” often results in some curious shots. But no doubt he’ll hit some lucky ones along the way.

 

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