As part of this passion, we are showcasing a handful of great female talent we have worked with as part of our Fuelling Ambition initiative.
This week, we spoke to Suzy Dilly, co-founder of the Magic Tag technology and the CEO at joint venture, ValiSeek Ltd, who work to reformulate clinical drugs to enable the use in the treatment of cancer. Suzy is also a Director at Points North Consultancy Limited, the company that was shortlisted for the UK infocus Women in Innovation Award.
Suzy talks us through the formation of the business, the impact on the pharmaceutical industry and advice she would give other entrepreneurs following in her footsteps.
1. Hi Suzy – could you tell us a little about how the Magic Tag technology started?
“The technology behind all my research around the Magic Tag technology was born from a collaboration between chemists and biologists long before I was brought in to help solve the problem!
The problem the biologists were having was that they needed to immobilise a chemical, in this case a small molecule plant hormone either onto polystyrene beads or into a 96-well plate. As synthetic chemists, this was easy, so we synthesised the molecule onto the plates and handed it back – but of course a few weeks later the biologists returned, this time with a more complicated molecule, again requesting it onto a plate.
After a few episodes of this process, we came up with the Magic Tag system, a type of 96-well plate onto which the biologists could quickly and easily immobilise any and every molecule in a biologically relevant format, with no knowledge of the structure-activity relationship and in a manner appropriate for many biological assays. That kept them quiet for a bit longer and proved a useful tool in the exploration of drugs that eventually led to my discovery of a drug now being tested in the treatment of lung cancer.”
2. How did you get going – what were your first steps?
“After a couple of years of running the system as a service to the pharmaceutical industry including multiple Top 20 pharma companies and international academic groups. We ceased the service to set up Tangent Reprofiling Limited and carry out our own research using Magic Tag happily funded by private investment via the SEEK group. When our lead candidate for lung cancer emerged from the research this moved into the joint venture between Valirx and Tangent Reprofiling Limited, known as ValiSeek Limited which is now testing VAL401 for the treatment of lung cancer.
Meanwhile, as the Magic Tag technology is still relevant and effective, the scientist within me cannot resist finding ways to re-exploit the process and kick-start a new drug development program. With the original team of scientists still available to input ideas and interpretation of results, and with bioinformatics providing far greater understanding of gene impacts than when we last ran the system, now the opportunity and chance of success is even greater! Which is where Points North Consultancy Limited steps in.”
3. What help and support did you receive?
“After being shortlisted as a finalist in the Innovate UK infocus Women in Innovation award in November 2016, we received business support from an innovation advisor at Newable.
Our initial discussions and activities revolved around developing a business model for Points North Consultancy, taking into consideration all the relationships that had previously been developed.
This business model is essential for us to understand any new relationships that are still to be developed, as well as to identify the new sources of revenue. The plan we worked on provided details of finance options available, as well as key partnerships for the business.”
5. What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
“The most rewarding part of the job to date is the scientific interactions I still have on a daily basis with those around me.
Nothing beats the moment you explain what your technology does, and see the listener not only understands and appreciates, but also sees the opportunities to exploit it within their own systems and work flows.
Spinning ideas around opportunities and putting those into practise is something that will never lose its thrill.”
6. What advice would you give someone who has just had their lightbulb moment and was just starting out?
“Completely and utterly believe in your own work! Only you know how much passion, dedication and heartache has gone into doing what you do, so while it’s always useful to listen to external opinions and look for ideas and opportunities in everyone’s comments, never doubt that you can make it happen in some form or other.
I’ve had to shelve my ideas at various times while waiting for funding or for other elements of the commercial scene to fall into place, but I’ve never stopped believing.”
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