Now is the time

There is wave-like a pattern of devolving and merging in Geoff Davison’s career, rather like the ebb and flow of the waters he loves to windsurf on.

In 2011, Geoff Davison successfully led the establishment of Bionow Ltd as a standalone company focused on the needs of life science and healthcare businesses in the north west of England; before then it was hosted by the Northwest Regional Development Agency. A year later he oversaw its merger with the North East’s Cels (Centre of Excellence for Life Sciences) Ltd. Back in 2003, Geoff was involved in the merger between Biorite and Advanced Biomedical, spin-out companies from the University of Manchester of which he was founder and Technical Director, respectively.

It’s a pulsing route of growth and development that the natural businessperson within Geoff intrinsically understands. Like most leaders in the pharmaceutical field, Geoff began as a scientist, gaining a BSc (Hons.) degree in Biochemistry and then a PhD from the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Manchester University. He stayed with the University for the next four years as a Postdoctoral Research Associate, leaving to form and run Biorite and Advanced Biomedical specifically to commercialise the intellectual property he’d developed during his research there.

At Biorite and Advanced Biomedical Geoff and his team developed novel stable liposome preparations and peptides that could carry a range of payloads, such as flurophores, colorimetric reagents or other ‘signals’. These payloads could detect the presence of drugs, bacteria and other cells in less than one hour, and often required little or no complex detection equipment.

There were a lot of synergies between the two companies,” said Geoff, “and we brought together the various patents needed to address the rapid point of care diagnostics markets.”

But having developed a significant amount of knowledge and experience in spinning out a technology and commercialising it, Geoff realised he wanted to use this to help other businesses, not just his own. So, in July 2007, he joined the Bionow team as Sector Development Manager for the biomedical cluster, progressing to lead the team in 2009 as Sector Head Biomedical for NWDA.

Two years later Geoff established Bionow Ltd as a stand-alone not for profit membership organisation; and just a year ago took it on to merge with Cels from the North East to expand its geography to comprehensively cover the whole of the north of England. It is now the industry’s leading regional membership organisation, offering the established and growing Bionow membership services along with the networking expertise of Cels. The resultant Bionow teams of experienced sector experts have retained offices in Manchester and Newcastle upon Tyne.

I think I’ve found myself in an enjoyable position which plays to my talents and keeps me in touch with the exciting developments being made within the sector.”

I really enjoy the learning and aspirational nature of science, but the day-to-day practice isn’t something I really miss, to be honest. I’m close enough to many companies generating the science to get excited about their approaches and chances for making a breakthrough, so I get a buzz from that. I think I’ve found myself in an enjoyable position which plays to my talents and keeps me in touch with the exciting developments being made within the sector.”

The “best bit of the job”, says Geoff, is when a member company tells them their support has helped, or when they really make a difference to a project or development within any of their member companies. Bionow’s two annual awards events – in the Northeast and Northwest – are two other real highlights for him, celebrating the sector’s regional developments, people and technologies.

Geoff grew up in Rainford, close to Liverpool, and travelled across Australia, Bali, Java, Sumatra, Malaysia and Thailand for a couple of years after university. Settled for the last 12 years in Glossop, Derbyshire, living on the edge of the Peak District with his partner, in his time off Geoff can be found in the freezing lake waters, wind surfing. Passionate about his hobby, holidays see him in the warmer waters of Turkey, doing the same thing.

But there’s no doubt that work is equally a passion. And while trying to establish and grow a small business with no public sector support and at the same time ensuring that the services it offers makes a difference to its members is challenging, it’s a challenge he thrives on. Bionow currently has 180 members, and Geoff intends to grow this to at least 300 over the next couple of years. “This will really place us in the position we want to be, which is representative and supportive of the Northern cluster of life sciences businesses,” explains Geoff. “In this way we can ensure that the sector in the North is taken seriously by the UK as an area which needs special attention and support.”


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