Creating teams. Shaping futures.

Product | People | Potential – our chat with PetMedix

We caught up with Jolyon Martin, one of the founders of PetMedix, as part of ‘Product | People | Potential’. PetMedix is using the highest quality science to make the medicines our pets need and deserve, keeping them healthier, happier, and for longer.

The purpose of article series ‘Product | People | Potential’ is to feature and showcase the very best UK start-ups with great potential, truly inspiring businesses that are shaking up their sector. We capture and share the stories behind the name. We collate authentic peer to peer real-talk, while celebrating the growth and success thus far and gather a glimpse of what’s ahead.

Zoe @ADLIB: Hi Jolyon, great to meet you! Please can you kick us off with an introduction to yourself and PetMedix.

Jolyon: I am one of the Founders of PetMedix and head up Business Development there. PetMedix is looking to bring the cutting-edge technology of human antibody therapeutics to the companion animal space (dogs and cats). We have built a transgenic platform that expresses fully canine antibody sequences to make novel therapeutics. In human medicine, antibody therapeutics have been used for the past 30 years. The most advanced way of making them is by editing the mouse genome to express the antibodies that are needed and then they become a “drug factory” that produce therapeutic-quality antibodies that you do not need to spend any time or money manipulating further.

In terms of financing, we have raised our Series A and have just kick-started our series B funding. We have built the first version of our dog platform; and our cat platform is underway. The platforms are being used for drug discovery, and we hope to have our first asset in dogs in the next 6 months. So 2021 will be focused primarily on early clinical development with the aim to be approved as a therapeutic by 2024/2025.

Zoe @ADLIB: Can you share the story behind the origin of PetMedix?

Jolyon: The background to PetMedix links to our scientific founder, Professor Allan Bradley, who has had a long and celebrated career in mouse genomics, including at Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Cambridge. He has always been good at identifying translational scientific ideas, incubating them in his lab and then spinning them out into companies when it is the right time to do so. In 2010, during his time as the Director of the Wellcome Sanger Institute, he spun out a human antibody company, Kymab, who have fully humanised the mouse immune system and have been successfully using it as a drug discovery platform.

I was building the early version of the dog mouse (Ky9™) during my PhD supervised by Professor Allan Bradley when the idea of PetMedix was born. Since then I have moved out of the lab and onto the business side of things. Something I find is helped by my understanding of the science.

The third Co-Founder is Dr Thomas Weaver, who has been a successful founding CEO of many life sciences companies in the UK. The company was spun out in February 2019, when we received our Series A funding and have since moved to labs on the Babraham Campus, Cambridge and have 30 employees.

Zoe @ADLIB: What has been your approach to understanding and implementing product-market fit?

Jolyon: Although we are still a few years away from having a product on the market, speaking to end-users has been critical. In our case, the end-users are the veterinarians that will be prescribing our medicines. Speaking to them about what their needs are and what areas they feel are underserved has been critical. It is also good to look at broader industry trends. The first antibody therapeutic for pets was introduced two and a half years ago when we were already underway with PetMedix. Prior to this point they were unsure it was possible, as human antibody therapies are very expensive, but now their potential in animal health at an affordable price-point is well established.

Zoe @ADLIB: What challenges have you had to overcome to create PetMedix?

Jolyon: Most of the team have come from a human therapeutics and mice genetics background, where the model systems are both well established. Less basic science has been done in animal health, so the team have had to adapt and develop many things from scratch. This ranges from identifying the canine antibody genes in the first place, through to developing custom in-house assays and reagents.

Zoe @ADLIB: Investment can often be a challenge for start-ups & scale-ups. Do you have any piece of wisdom you could share around best approach?

Jolyon: My three pieces of wisdom are that investment takes longer than you think, network widely, and do your homework. The process for fundraising typically takes six months to a year, so plan accordingly. In terms of networking widely, I would recommend looking at related industries that work with the VCs, for example bankers and lawyers, and take meetings with people who are not VCs, as they can often help you achieve your financing and company goals in ways you might not anticipate. The last point is to do your homework. Make sure you are only speaking to VCs that invest the amount you are looking for, and in the area you work in.

More generalist advice is to not underestimate the amount of free advice that people are willing to give. Find people that you aspire to be like and ask them how they got to where they are. Also, if you get a no from a VC then ask for feedback. Much of the time they won’t reply, a lot of time they will give you something generic, but sometimes they will respond with something you can action and that will help you going forwards.

Thank you so much for your time.

Green Tech Matters – creating an evidence-based approach to tackling the climate crisis

We caught up with the next GreenTech South West speaker to talk about ‘creating an evidence-based approach to tackling the climate crisis in a fair and equitable way in cities’ ahead of the event. Here, our chat with Sara Telahoun, Senior Consultant and Cities Specialist at Anthesis.

ADLIB: You have an incredibly interesting role, what does it entail?

Sara: As a senior consultant in the cities and regions team, my role focuses on providing consultancy support to local governments on their climate action strategies. This could be anything from developing a carbon footprint for a council as an organisation to running workshops with local business to identify challenges and opportunities in collaborating on climate action. I also help paint the picture of what action is needed from local government climate strategies and work with councils to engage their citizens and stakeholders in the process of defining how these actions can be implemented locally.

ADLIB: Bristol has declared a climate emergency and is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2030. Can you give us a bite-size summary of the challenges they face and how are they doing?

Sara: The biggest challenge Bristol is facing is ensuring the diverse communities and individuals across the city are invited to participate in the climate and ecological emergency response and are not left out of the conversation. Bristol is a complex city, dealing with deep racial and social inequalities whilst simultaneously striving to lead with ambitious sustainability goals.

All eyes are on Bristol as one of the most ambitious councils working to tackle both climate emergency and ecological emergency with a fair and just response. I also sit on the Bristol One City Environmental Sustainability Board, who earlier this year released the One City Climate Strategy to explore how the city might start to break down its ambitious climate goals into key areas of focus with clear ownership. The board is currently working on the One City Ecological Emergency Strategy, which sets out some of the changes we will all need to make to restore a healthy natural environment for people and wildlife.

ADLIB: In your talk, you’ll be discussing some of the tools you use to help measure carbon emissions, what are they?

Sara: The best climate strategies are developed with a solid evidence base, and software can be a great enabler for this. Local government resources are extremely stretched, especially during the current pandemic, which means robust and easy-to-use technology services are really needed. Anthesis have been funded by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to develop a piece of software accessible for free to local governments in the UK to calculate their area’s greenhouse gas footprint and model scenarios for what emissions could look like to 2050. The SCATTER tool is now being used by hundreds of local and county councils across the UK, providing them with a robust evidence base for their climate action planning.

ADLIB: Without giving away too many spoilers, can you tell us more about your work with Catalyse Change?

Sara: Catalyse Change is an amazing community interest company that I’ve been involved with for the past couple of years, who run a mentoring program to enable young women and girls that are interested in sustainability with the tools they need to succeed. I am a mentor and a member of the Catalyse Change Advisory Board, so I support the organisation strategically while also delivering talks and mentoring to the young women they support. As well as mentoring, Catalyse Change runs a bootcamp to inspire and connect young women with a variety of female sustainability professionals, allow them to share knowledge and ideas while gaining confidence in their own abilities.

ADLIB: Where can we get more info on the topics you will be covering?

Sara: A few resources here in advance:

Video: Introduction to SCATTER Pathways
Web: Catalyse Change
Report: Bristol’s One City Climate Strategy

Thank you Sara for the chat.

Sara will take the virtual stage at our Green Tech SW meetup on Tuesday 29th of September at 12.30 pm. She will share her knowledge about creating an evidence-based approach to tackling the climate crisis in a fair and equitable way in cities.

Head over to the meetup page to RSVP for free.

About GreenTech South West:
We’re here to provide you with expert insight and thought-provoking discussions on how technology can improve our physical environment and battle the massive, urgent issue of climate change. We are a community/people-focused group with an open and inclusive ethos. We run regular meet-ups, both physical and virtual, with a range of lightning presentations, round-room debates and panel discussions from those working or researching green technology. Sponsored by ADLIB and supported by Future Economy Network and Climate Action Tech.

Product | People | Potential – our chat with Talisman Therapeutics

We caught up with Dr Mark Treherne, Chairman of Talisman Therapeutics as part of ‘Product | People | Potential’. Talisman Therapeutics is committed to revolutionizing the discovery of disease-modifying treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.

The purpose of article series ‘Product | People | Potential’ is to feature and showcase the very best UK start-ups with great potential, truly inspiring businesses that are shaking up their sector. We capture and share the stories behind the name. We collate authentic peer to peer real-talk, while celebrating the growth and success thus far and gather a glimpse of what’s ahead.

Zoe @ADLIB: Hi Mark, great to meet you! Please can you kick us off with an introduction to yourself and Talisman Therapeutics?

Mark: Great to meet you too! I am the Chairman of Talisman Therapeutics, who are exploiting pluripotent stem cells to develop novel assay systems that enable improved drug discovery outcomes for neurodegenerative diseases. We mainly focus on dementia treatments and Alzheimer’s disease. We are a revenue-generating company, who has multiple pharmaceutical partners and we help other companies to find new compounds and other therapies for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. We take stem cells from patients with the appropriate approvals and ethical permission and then make iPSC (induced Pluripotent Stem Cells), whereby we can remodel many of the neurological consequences of dementia and other neurological diseases using tissue culture techniques in the lab.

Talisman was founded in the spring of 2013 and, with some initial investment from O2H Ventures, have set up collaborations with both small and large pharma and have built an experienced team at the Babraham Research Campus in Cambridge. The other co-founders alongside myself are Professor Rick Livesey and Dr Emily Scraggs. At that time, Rick was at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge.

Zoe @ADLIB: Can you share the story behind the origin of Talisman Therapeutics?

Mark: Rick Livesey was looking to do a spin-out and got in touch as we had both been in the dementia field for many years, I have been more on the industrial/commercial side, whilst Rick is more on the scientific side. Rick and Emily both believe that if we can deploy the iPSC technology it will help identify the compounds that are more likely to work on the clinic from those that are less likely to work.

Occasionally, we take an existing project and spin it out into a new company, which can take a novel therapeutic product further on towards the clinic.

Zoe @ADLIB: Can you share some challenges you have faced when looking for people to join?

Mark: Being in Cambridge there are a lot of bright and clever people around and so far, have had no problems with recruiting good scientists, but finding lab space is a struggle and we are very pleased to be on the Babraham Research Campus. The real issue we have is that the lab-based techniques we use are very complex, so we spend a lot of our time developing and supporting our staff, so they have the right skills.

Zoe @ADLIB: What has been your approach to understanding and implementing product market fit?

Mark: The market opportunity was obvious to us, as a lot of disease-modifying therapies for Alzheimer’s have failed or have not shown the expected results at the end of the clinical development process. We thought there must be some better earlier stage assays to better predict clinical outcomes and demonstrate improved “predictive validity” towards the human pathology. Therefore, our technology platform would be more likely to discover therapies that would succeed in the clinic.

Zoe @ADLIB: What challenges have you had to overcome to create Talisman Therapeutics?

Mark: The main challenges that we faced and still face are primarily scientific, as dementia is a complex disease and, lot of the past approaches have not delivered the anticipated clinical outcomes. It’s a huge risk to discover a new drug, but we can mitigate that risk. Dementia research is 10 years behind that of cancer but can be accelerated by inserting assays and biological knowledge into the drug discovery process. This approach will help ween out the less promising compounds, antibodies, and other therapies from the more promising approaches, so companies can refocus investment on research and development that is more likely to succeed.

Zoe @ADLIB: Investment can often be a challenge for start-ups & scale-ups. Do you have any piece of wisdom you could share around the best approach?

Mark: Working for a start-up, especially during the COVID pandemic, has been challenging but because of the unmet medical need of dementia sufferers, investors are still willing to invest in this area. The main piece of wisdom I’d like to share is that finding the right investors is key, as this will de-risk the scientific challenges that will be faced and then overcome. Those investors must understand the technology and have done it before. Relevant sector experience should not be underestimated in the Life Sciences!

Thank you so much for your time.