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Magda Papadaki, interim Lead Technologist at Innovate UK

Regenerative medicine is one of the government’s “eight great future technologies”. Magda Papadaki (MPhil in Bioscience Enterprise, 2012) is part of the team leading the charge.

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When it comes to diseases such as cancer and Parkinson’s, regenerative medicine and cell therapy are the new frontier. But today’s innovators need support to bring the drugs and technologies to tomorrow’s patients.

Which is where Magda Papadaki comes in. Newly appointed Lead Technologist for regenerative medicine and cell therapy at Innovate UK (a non-departmental public body that funds, supports and connects innovative businesses), part of her role will involve organising an annual competition for companies working at the cutting edge of regenerative medicine and cell therapies. The winners will share £8m worth of investment.

“Innovation in this sector is full of inherent risk, and one of the ways to make it less risky is to keep learning,” she says. “I want to foster knowledge-sharing between all the stakeholders involved – researchers, academics, business and regulators, as well as patients – in bringing a healthcare innovation to market and the clinic. It’s all about building a pathway from concept to commercialisation, and creating an entire ecosystem around that pathway.”

Operating in the space where medical science meets entrepreneurship comes naturally to Papadaki. After gaining a PhD in gene and cell therapy, she took up a role in regulation at global drug company Novartis – and in 2012, she completed an MPhil in Bioscience Enterprise at Cambridge Judge Business School that, she says, was hugely influential in her thinking. “The way that they approached the management and innovation of technology was really illuminating. We had the opportunity to learn, hands-on, how technology is marketed, managed, and commercialised. It was covered excellently both at a theoretical and practical level.

“We had a real-world consulting project with companies from the St John’s Innovation Centre, for example, and bigger global players from different fields and pharma companies. We worked with a company, addressing actual real-world business development, business strategy and commerce or supply concerns that they were facing. The company acknowledged and considered our recommendations.”

Traditionally, the healthcare innovation pathway has been broken into silos – starting with the science, then moving through animal testing, clinical testing and regulatory submission, and finally to health economics and, somewhere at the end of the line, adoption by patients and clinicians. It is a fragmented and complex process – and something Papadaki wants to change.

“We need to start looking at that process as a continuum that needs to be managed in a coordinated and integrated way and done in a more collaborative manner,” she says. “So, for example, bringing to the table different stakeholders as soon as possible so they can understand what are the associated risks and necessary trade-offs. Or meeting with regulators much earlier, so that a company knows that the evidence it is producing will be acceptable, and there are no unpleasant surprises further down the line.”

The stakes are high – and not just for patients. Regenerative medicine has been named as one of the UK government’s “eight great future technologies” – it is estimated that the global market for such treatments could be worth $5bn (£3.15bn) by 2021. The UK is already at the forefront of the field, and Papadaki is eager to capitalise on its collaborative culture. It’s very different, she says, from the US.

“In the US innovation business field, you don’t traditionally share knowledge – the atmosphere is competitive rather than collaborative,” she points out. “That means it’s very entrepreneurial but it’s also hard to generate best business practice and learn from others. In the UK, the strategy is much more about building an infrastructure on a government level that can help enterprise and innovation. One of the core strategies of achieving that big vision is cultivating networking, collaboration and partnership building. It partly why it’s such an exciting area to be working in – I can’t wait to be a part of it.”

Magda is interested in meeting…

…innovators and really out-of-the-box thinkers – people who have taken risks and pulled through.