As part of a collaboration between BioInnovation Institute (BII) and Imperial College London, Professor Molly Stevens will head a translational research project in BII’s Bio Studio program.
We spoke with Molly about what she expects from the project and her experiences with translating research into innovative solutions to the benefit of people and society.
What is the main purpose of the project?
Our main goal is to deliver a transformative approach to early diagnostics and monitoring of diseases. Our cost-effective diagnostic platform will provide artificial intelligence (AI)-based evaluation of molecular fingerprints to inform clinical decisions to help slow disease progression and improve treatment plans.
Which key milestones need to be achieved for the project to become a success (spin-out)?
To fulfill our challenging but exciting project requirements, we need to ensure the achievement of both scientific and business milestones. Key to this will be head-to-head validation of our technology with target samples and subsequent clinical validation of the working prototype, along with training in AI architectures and data pipelines. These key milestones will be aligned with the finalization of the business model and ultimately incorporation of the spinout.
From a commercial perspective – what do you think makes your project particularly interesting?
Traditional diagnosis of our target diseases often revolves around performing multiple tests that require specialized facilities and knowledge and may also involve the detection of specific biomarkers. Our target-agnostic biosensing platform challenges established approaches by offering a more holistic approach to diagnostics in a fashion that has a high potential for miniaturization and mass production at an attractive price point, relative to existing solutions. We also foresee economic incentives behind our technology that will offer strong competition in the diagnostics market.
How come you find it interesting to work on a translational research project to bring ideas to life and research to market?
Translating research outcomes that will reach those most in need has been a core focus of my research career. I am a passionate advocate for the democratization of medicine and accessibility of healthcare to all and I actively seek opportunities to help me achieve this goal. Developing technologies that could positively impact healthcare continues to drive my research and bringing it from the lab to the point of need is critical in my view.
What are your initial thoughts about participating in the Bio Studio program?
It’s been brilliant, both from a unique approach to funding and in terms of providing an opportunity to translate our team’s research. The process has been extremely professional and offered an opportunity to support our approach to biosensing while working in concert with the BII team to develop the strongest proposal possible. We are very much looking forward to starting this exciting project with the BII.
From a scientific perspective, what makes this project interesting? How did you come up with the idea of developing this biosensing platform and deploying it for early detection and monitoring of highly debilitating diseases?
This proposed project builds on the longstanding expertise my group has in developing ultrasensitive biosensing approaches, including highly sensitive point-of-care tests for HIV amongst other diseases. More recently we developed a unique ultrasensitive target-agnostic biosensing technology that lays the foundation for a transformative approach to provide a data-driven and holistic assessment of diseases at the point of need.
What experience do you have when it comes to conducting research and translating into products or technologies that can benefit people and society?
I have developed many patented technologies and established entrepreneurial and translational frameworks. For example, I am currently serving as Director of the UK Regenerative Medicine Programme Hub and have structured this to have embedded commercial, manufacturing, safety, immunology, and regulatory expert panels. I have also previously been CSO of a spin-out company and am currently supporting the spinout of three startups from my Group. In addition, I co-established an ISO 13485 Quality Management System at Imperial College London to facilitate medical device development. I will exploit all these competencies to drive this project forward with BII.
For how long have you worked on this project, and do you have a specific plan outlined that shows what you need to achieve in year 1, year 2 and year 3?
This project has a great foundation. Over the past few years, we have conducted state-of-the-art research. We have identified suitable target product profiles and are refining appropriate business models for our project. With key recognition of the scientific and regulatory pathways, we have structured years 1, 2 and 3 to ensure the project’s success, which is the translation of technology from the lab to those who need it most.
Which things from a personal perspective do you expect to get out of being part of the Bio Studio program at BII?
I am truly excited about working with a team dedicated to supporting the translation of our science into innovative products and solutions. As I mentioned, translating my research into solutions that help democratize medicine and accessibility of healthcare is a strong focus of mine and something I believe the Bio Studio program will help me achieve. The opportunity to work with a dedicated Entrepreneur in Residence from project inception will be of enormous benefit in helping achieve our translational and commercial goals, which is a brilliant innovation from BII. Through this project, I also expect to establish new collaborations and expand my industrial contacts through BII’s extensive corporate and VC network. Very much so looking forward to getting started with this exciting program.
How big of an advantage do you believe it is that you are already working extensively with the industry and will be able to leverage that network in this project?
It will certainly be an advantage to be able to leverage my existing network. Through my existing contacts within the UK, and throughout the world, we expect to be able to rapidly set up new contracts to progress clinical validation and device design development. These existing relationships are also expected to ensure product quality and help bring the final reader to large-scale production and ultimately to market more efficiently. My access to an established group of investors and VCs will also complement the BII’s network and ultimately support future investment in the start-up company.