Medicines Discovery Catapult appoints new chair

Dr Robin Brown

Medicines Discovery Catapult has appointed Dr Robin Brown as its new chairman. The company has established itself rapidly within the UK community and is now engaged in multiple R&D collaborations with UK biotech and academia.

As a national centre, Medicines Discovery Catapult supports the UK biotech sector by running applied R&D projects, which industrialise new technologies and improve access to valuable UK R&D resources that can help them. It operates from a base at Alderley Park, Cheshire.

Dr Brown succeeds Professor Graham Boulnois, the Catapult’s founding chairman. He brings experience of academic research, biotech, big pharma and US venture capital to the role.

Dr Brown has a deep knowledge of managing day-to-day research and development plans, harnessed through many years managing early stage investments in biotechnology and emerging pharmaceuticals.

Ian Campbell, Interim executive chairman of Innovate UK, said: “We thank Graham for giving Medicines Discovery Catapult such a strong foundation of expertise and in guiding its formation. It is now very well placed to deliver value to the UK sector. We also welcome Robin as his successor. His skills are ideally suited to the emerging needs of the sector and enable the Medicines Discovery Catapult to flourish in its next phase of delivery.”

Dr Brown’s appointment follows the setting of Medicines Discovery Catapult’s delivery strategy, which was designed to address the six major R&D challenges for UK biotech, as identified in the recent State of the Discovery Nation sector report in January 2018.

The report recommended the need to reshape the R&D model of therapeutics to better meet patient needs, ensuring the biotech industry is provided with straightforward, well-governed access to consented patient data and human tissue samples – an acute problem for SMEs in the sector.

It also highlighted the need for the industry to focus on emerging technologies which humanise drug discovery as animals are a “poor approximations of humans” – evidenced by 40% of new drugs failing when first tried in human patients.

Dr Brown said: “Applying more predictive discovery and data technologies can make a massive difference to the global and regional challenges in pharmaceutical productivity. These emerging technologies and new models of multiparty collaboration need to be proven and diffused into industry, which is why I am embracing the role the Catapult is playing to help the sector thrive.”

Most recently Dr Brown was the CEO of KWS BioTest, a specialist immunology-based contract research organisation. In January 2018 KWS was acquired by Charles River Laboratories.

Immediately before joining KWS, Robin spent 8 years as a venture partner at Advent Healthcare Ventures (US) and was responsible for the scientific direction and corporate governance of a number of companies within the investment portfolios.

Prior to this he was the Chief Scientific Officer of Devgen (acquired by Syngenta) and Galapagos NV. Dr Brown also spent 9 years at GSK, latterly as head of cell biology and as an academic gained his PhD in the laboratory of Professor Alan Hall at the Institute of Cancer Research, London.