Shisong is an Oxford University researcher in the Department of Oncology, and the CTO of Oxford Vacmedix, which has developed a technique to grow overlapping peptides in bacteria, to use for cellular immunity vaccines. Oxford Vacmedix has raised almost £1 million in funding, and is now looking to raise a second round of around £10 million. There are two centres, one in Oxford and one in China, working on this technology.
I studied medicine in China, and then came to London and Harvard for my PhD and initial post doc post. I had been involved in immunology in London and the US, and was working on HIV and peptide segments for vaccines when I came to Oxford. I started looking into ways of producing these overlapping peptide segments, and starting using bacteria as a cheap method.
The process of making a discovery or idea become material, or become a product to help people, is entrepreneurship.
While studying medicine here, in China and in the US, I realised that I really wanted my research to help people. Not just one person, or a couple, but populations of people. I wanted to save as many lives as possible. As an academic it is hard to make your discovery into something, as you are always pushed to publish rather than to make something. But in order to help people, you have to do something with your research. So that’s what I am doing.
You need curiosity to discover new things, as innovation comes out of curiosity. Persistence is also very important, even if it means being labelled as stubborn! You need to believe in yourself, and your ideas. Being a good collaborator and working well with others is also good. Oh, and a bit of luck!
Actually moving the project forward, prove that the concept works. The technology being improved, and progress being made.
Martin Gordon, a former investment banker who set up Barry & Martin’s Trust, which provides education and treatment for HIV patients in China. I have learned a lot from him how to run a small enterprise and how to unite people to work together. The way he does things has always been my example.
How he manages to get so much support in China. Chinese leaders are always meeting him, and he is always in China and welcomed. I have asked him how he has been so successful . . .Persistence!
Watching the in vitro trials succeeded. Getting funding! Bench to bed is most important – any milestone realised makes me excited.
Not really a mistake, but more of a lesson: make sure you have a good team. You will need a good team to help with every step of the journey, which will support you and do the things they say they will.
Oxford has a very good reputation worldwide. For example, people bow to me in China because of my position in the University! There is a lot of support from different departments, Isis, OSEM. Prof Len Seymour (University of Oxford), and James Mallinson (OSEM) have given me lots of support for the company.
However, in Oxford there is pressure to publish in order to keep your position, and creating a company doesn’t count as part of your achievement. We don’t encourage people to do entrepreneurship here. The assessment system is much more heavily weighted to publishing than commercialisation.
Think about yourself first, and how you can develop this yourself. Look if this project is innovative enough to develop into something. Is it eligible? Then go to Isis.
EnSpire Oxford is a University of Oxford initiative to help connect people to the entrepreneurship resources they need, and to promote entrepreneurship across Oxfordshire.
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