VisusNano Ltd. is a privately held pre-clinical company developing a drug-eluting intraocular lens implant, for use in patients undergoing cataract surgery. By improving patient outcomes, obviating the need for eye drops after surgery, and avoiding the need for laser treatment after surgery, the project has the potential to revolutionise cataract surgery in both the human and veterinary markets.
We spoke to VisusNano’s CEO, Joanna Gould, about her time on the Accelerate@Babraham programme and what the next steps are for the company.
Joanna obtained her PhD in developmental Neuroscience at the University of Southampton. After her MRes Joanna had a career change and went into corporate banking at Bank of America before deciding to come back to science. Joanna has also worked in research and development at an SME.
Why did you apply for Accelerate@Babraham?
I liked the fact that is was so focused on biotech. It didn’t seem scared by things that are going to take a long time. A lot of other accelerators can be quite pushy, wanting quick returns. But at Accelerate@Babraham, they didn’t really seem to impose that pressure, and I liked that they so obviously wanted to help with no biased agenda. Plus, there’s its reputation and name - it’s ‘Babraham’!
Was the Babraham Research Campus’ reputation, and location within the wider life science cluster in Cambridge, a factor for you in terms of applying?
Yes 100%. We have met a whole different set of investors here than in London and I’ve really enjoyed that because the investors here are so much more life sciences focussed. It’s not as hard a sell, and that’s what’s great about being in Cambridge - people understand your technology.
Some non-Cambridge investors think we’ve got a heart rate monitor on an app, but in reality it’s a drug-releasing lens which has got a lot of regulation problems!
Here, everyone seems to get it, and everyone knows someone that can help you if they don’t know how to help you themselves. For example, meeting David Grainger (Co-founder and Chief Scientific Advisor at Medicxi, a life-science focused investment firm) has been incredible and he’s so helpful.
How do you feel about the Campus itself?
We have got to the point that we are a little bit sad that we might leave - we would like to stay!
Which parts of the programme have you found most valuable to date?
Meeting the investors and getting their perspective has been invaluable. I wasn’t convinced at first, but it has been really helpful. There have been a lot of things that we didn’t know we needed. For example, Tailwind taught us how to create a reporting strategy, which we hadn’t considered we needed with only four of us. They really make you think about the growing of the business as a whole - what sort of company do we want to be, not just “come on, you have got to raise your next round!”
As part of your winning package you got £20,000, what has that enabled you to do?
Practically, we spent it on lab equipment, lab consumables and IP. But the money also allowed us not to take as much investment for equity - we don’t have to take another angel because of this. So, it’s given us a bit more freedom to own our own equity and freed up time to get on with the lab work as opposed to looking for new fundraising.
In your three months here, have you managed to, or are you planning to, do any critical experiments or build a prototype?
We have done a lot of crucial experiments and trouble-shooting so it has been great in terms of the lab work. And one of our team, Darren, is building our prototype in the lab as we speak, so yes!
Have you experienced any measurable development in your business, not necessarily from a lab perspective, but from an overall business perspective?
We got picked as the Top 500 for Hello Tomorrow, that was quite good.
Then we won the best healthcare company in Hong Kong. We had to pitch to two judges in an elevator in the Sky 100 building in Hong Kong, their tallest building! We spoke to a lot of Chinese investors off the back of that and we have been advertised as one of the leading companies to watch by the British Consulate over there.
The minute you say you are based at the Babraham Research Campus in Cambridge everyone gets very excited so that’s really useful. Especially in China, the prestige of saying that you are from the Babraham Research Campus in Cambridge is a big deal, they love that.
On a personal note, I’ve also been included in this year’s ‘50 Movers and Shakers’, so in terms of publicity we have had a decent run!
We’ve also been approached by two major lens companies.
If you had to describe the programme in three words, what would those three words be?
Intense, useful and educational.
Where would you like your start-up to be in a years’ time?
In a years’ time, I hope that all of the in vivo trials will have worked well and that we’ve got a product that would shortly be entering the veterinary market in the UK. And we would have raised our next Series A round - that would be great.
(+44) 1223 496 000
Babraham Bioscience Technologies Ltd
Babraham Research Campus
CB22 3AT, United Kingdom
01223 813 557