Biotechnology & PharmaceuticalsView profile
We caught up with Alasdair Pettigrew, CEO at MeOmics, the global provider in Precision Psychiatry.
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.
Alasdair Pettigrew: I’m Alasdair, I work for MeOmics, which has created the only platform for neural biomarker discovery for psychiatric disorders. We have developed a unique genetic and stem cell technology to capture and combine patient data to create a Precision Psychiatry Platform. Initially, this technology will be offered as a screening service to pharmaceutical companies to improve drug discovery for psychiatric disorders. Ultimately our vision is to transform mental healthcare through better biological measures. Personalising mental healthcare, to enable getting the right therapy to patients more quickly for better outcomes. We are initially focusing on Schizophrenia, but this has the potential to be expanded for use in a range of neurological disorders, such as bipolar disorder and autism.
We hope to make a difference in a field of medicine which has been under-innovated in previously, we are trying to achieve a biological measure, an objective, consistent measure of psychiatric disorders. Feedback from psychiatrists suggests that they would love to have a screening test which indicates successful drugs for patients, which is a longer term vision for MeOmics. Initially, we are trying to provide information for drug companies who are going into Phase III Clinical Trials by reducing the drug failure rate, and therefore reducing costs, and risk.
Alasdair Pettigrew: MeOmics is a spinout from Cardiff University, founded by two senior Professors, Adrian Harwood and Jeremy Hall, with support from other talented scientists and specialists at the University. I was connected with the team in 2020 to help with the spinout process and scaling-up the business. I am neither a scientist, nor do I have much experience in biotech, but rather my background is in commercialisation of technology. I do have a great deal of experience in manufacturing and automation, so I am looking forward to pitching-in to ramp-up the MeOmics process and increasing throughput. The MeOmics solution is a classic example of innovation, in that it brings together well-understood technologies in a unique and novel way to deliver benefit to society.
Alasdair Pettigrew: I believe that innovative breakthroughs most commonly happen at the boundaries of domain expertise. From a personal perspective, I am excited to have this opportunity to work in biotech and to bring my experience from other industry domains to the mix. Likewise, as we grow the team, we will continue to target recruitment of talented people with broad experiences, and we will always place a premium value on diversity.
Alasdair Pettigrew: We are in a process and remain at quite an early stage. Our technology is proven in concept and is the subject of peer-reviewed published scientific papers. The next step is to scale-up the technology so we can collect data to better understand and demonstrate the value of the signals we detect from patient stem-cell derived neural networks at higher sample numbers. We are hoping to collect data from hundreds of patients to begin with, this in itself is huge progress as it has never been done before. The cost of this R&D work is not insignificant, so we are looking for funding. The most appealing source is through grants of course, since we all want to hold on to our equity, however we are open to investment under the correct circumstances. We are completely confident of creating valuable IP assets in the very short-term, even before we secure our first customer revenue, so the RoI is clear and the risk is managed, even at this early stage. Our absolute focus at this time is to get to those value inflection points in as cost-efficient way as possible.
Alasdair Pettigrew: The team out of Cardiff University have been working this challenge for some time, and it is fair to say that they have overcome significant scepticism as to whether it would be even possible to detect mental health biological markers in the way that has been achieved. Having overcome that primary technical hurdle, we are now all completely committed to battling through the inevitable barriers we will continue to meet before we realise our vision. We have built some fantastic partnerships which bolster our confidence and will guide the development of our product offerings through our development process. We have had some interest already from some big-name pharma companies, but hope to gain more interest as the project develops.
Alasdair Pettigrew: I believe it is absolutely crucial to put yourself into the minds of prospective investors. What is their agenda? What will make them look good, advance their career, achieve the targets of their organisation and satisfies their investors? How can you, in partnership, help them to achieve their objectives? I am not interested in overselling MeOmics. We know the incredible potential we have to make a positive impact to the world. We know this has never been done before, and we know it is going to be very hard to achieve our ultimate vision. We also know from the economics of the problem that by delivering these benefits to society we have the potential to create a huge amount of financial value in MeOmics. We will continue to apply for grant funding and have sensible conversations with potential investors until we secure the funds to press on with our mission, focusing on achieving each value inflection point at a time and locking down the IP tight as we go.