Today, the medicine sector is receiving attention much more than it has ever been in human history. With human health taking the centre stage, standards for the industry and its associated technologies are being set higher day by day. For many, these constraints may act as roadblocks to any endeavours of attaining zeniths in this field. But a few who are uncompromisingly wilful to contribute for the welfare of society through their wisdom and knowledge, turn those stumbling blocks into the steps leading to success. Dr Caroline Barelle, Chief Executive Officer, Elasmogen Ltd is one such resolute leader whose unfaltering drive towards developing new medicines has brought her from academia into the world of commercial biotechnology.
A PhD student studying fibrinolysis and very much eager to work in applied sciences, Dr Caroline Barelle depicts her path from research scientist to founding a biotech company.
A New Dawn in Biologics
As Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks once said, “In this ever-changing society, most powerful brands are built from the heart and with strength of the human spirit.” Empathy and team work are the two main attributes Caroline found of prime importance when she founded Elasmogen in 2016 by the shores of port city Aberdeen, Scotland. Elasmogen Ltd is a next generation therapeutic biologics company discovering and developing soloMER™ for the treatment of auto-immune mediated, inflammatory diseases and cancer. Utilising its unique soloMER™ platform, Elasmogen exploits the power of biologics as drugs but in small, simple, and stable formats that are amenable to sitespecific delivery.
A Quest from Knowledge to Application
From the start, Caroline had affinity towards applied sciences which she believes is the first step on the road to designing and delivering new, effective drugs to patients. Her career in commercial science began in an antibody discovery company called Haptogen which subsequently got acquired by Wyeth Inc. and Pfizer in 2007 and 2011 respectively. It was during these years that she learnt a lot about drug discovery and finally came full circle to found Elasmogen.
Creation through Cohesion
As a CEO of an emerging company, Caroline understands the importance of valuing and giving credit to her teammates’ efforts. Transparency, inclusiveness and appreciation are the pillars in the making process of a great leader, she asserts. “We have created a great organisational culture where we work incredibly hard but not a day goes by when we do not laugh and that means a huge amount to me”, she emphasizes on work culture to ensure growth and expansion of the company.
Sowing Many Seeds
Listening to the external environment and responding as best to changing needs, Caroline puts focus on. “Ultimately, our current business model it is to find good quality partners who will work with us to deliver market-ready, market-desirable products.” Change is the norm in therapeutic drug development. Therefore having a number of different discovery and later stage development programs going on with different partners in different fields is the key for survival for a small company like Elasmogen, Caroline elucidates.
Right People at the Right Place
Despite Biologics dominating the market, barriers to entry for any small biotech company are substantial given the cost of taking a product through to clinical trials. The key to success in Caroline’s experience as a small player is multiple fold. She enlists a few of them. 1) Surround yourself with the right kind of support both at a technical and corporate level. A good team is critical to success; 2) have a flexible and nimble business model. Firstly, Elasmogen’s soloMER drug technology is inherently flexible ready to be fit for purpose for multiple disease indications. Secondly, they adopt a partnership model where co-developing products, often combining technologies to address medical challenges; 3) be resource smart by knowing the players who can outsource the job for you. And finally, 4) be aware of external forces. The Biotech industry, as with many, is evolving rapidly and the power has shifted from pharma to the patient. Being aware and embracing change when possible will help your company develop and be relevant in an incredibly competitive sector.
Connecting Dormant Aspirations to Opportunities
“I personally gained a huge amount from talking to women in leadership roles and gleaning from them shared experiences and advice”, Caroline revisits her moments of inspiration. She overtly points out the imbalance between women at the bench and women in the boardroom, and reiterates the need to instil a ‘can do’ mentality for making more women to step up to leadership positions. “I feel that fostering talent from an early stage, providing insights, inspiration and critical support for them to thrive.”
Feed to Blossoming Go-Getters
“Surround yourself with the right people. Do not forget the reason you started this venture as that passion will fuel your drive and on occasions remember to take some time for yourself”, Dr. Caroline Barelle shares her words of experience.
A Great Cause with Great People During her voyage of creating a new business, Caroline has been thrown into situations, negotiations and decisions which at the time felt overwhelming but made her learn many things and grow against adversities. It gave her abundance of lessons professionally as well as personally from founding this company and making it go from strength to strength ever since. “My objective is to grow the company, to employ and reward great people and ultimately be a small part of the drug that makes to the clinic and helps improve the lives of patients.”