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Exclusive Interview: Dr Melanie Goward, Finance Wales

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Dr Melanie Goward Manages the Wales Technology Seed Fund. She started her career as a geneticist working on the human genome project near Cambridge, before moving into venture capital and funding for science and technology start-ups and early growth companies. She has been with Finance Wales for six years.

Portrait_16Tell us about yourself and your organisation.

I am Wales Technology Seed Fund Manager at Finance Wales. This is a £7.5 million fund set up by the Welsh Government to invest in 50 early stage high growth companies, including life sciences businesses. I also look after a portfolio of life sciences companies.

What are your plans for the next five years, and where do you see your challenges and opportunities?

Our plans are to continue to invest in a pipeline of early stage companies and supporting their management teams; we are in the third year of a five-year investment phase. In life sciences there is often a long phase of product development before bringing a product to market. There are quite a few challenges, not least uncertainty over Brexit. But our funds are secure. And there are plenty of good opportunities out there.

Why do you think life sciences is such an exciting sector to be involved with at the moment?

I’m originally a geneticist and gained my PHD at Cambridge working on the human genome project. For me it’s exciting to see that science now beginning to impact patient treatments. It’s also exciting for me to work on such a wide-ranging portfolio of companies in areas as diverse as healthcare, IT, big data, pharmaceutical. I get to meet some expert people with really fantastic experience who are great to work with.

What advice would you give to anyone who is interested in working in the life sciences sector?

The best advice is to talk to people already working in the sector. Get yourself down to the Hub and talk to people working in that industry. There are so many roles and opportunities that you might not be aware of. For example I had no experience of venture capital investment when I was in research, but technology investment is a great career.

What do you think are the most important qualities for success in the life sciences sector?

It’s about patients and solving real problems. People who remember that and keep it at the front of their minds seem to progress. It’s a very complex industry and you also need patience, perseverance and an open mind. You can have the best idea in the world that solves a real clinical problem but getting it developed and gaining regulatory approval is only the beginning of it.