Dr. Bowen is a Lecturer at the Cardiff School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, where she gained her own qualifications, and leads the start-up company CMD (Cotton Mouton Diagnostics).
Life Sciences Q&A: Dr Jenna Bowen
Tell us about yourself and your business:
I qualified as a pharmacist in 2007 and I’ve been conducting research in an academic setting ever since. In 2014 myself and colleagues from Cardiff and Exeter universities spun out Cotton Mouton Diagnostics, to commercialise the work we had been doing. We are a medical diagnostic company, developing systems to more rapidly diagnose diseases such as sepsis. These are systems that can be used at the point of need, such as in a hospital ward or GP surgery, rather than having to send samples off to laboratories and wait a couple of days for the results.
What are your plans for the next five years, and where do you see your challenges and opportunities?
We’re still in the startup phase and have just secured our first round of private seed investment. The next 12-18 months will be spent securing a more significant round of investment. We are looking to expand substantially in terms of staff and hope to be developing the technology alongside strategic partners, exploring licensing opportunities both within and outside healthcare. Our main challenge is to keep growing, both in terms of money and people. We need to expand rapidly to achieve our goals.
Why do you think life sciences is such an exciting sector to be involved with at the moment?
At a local level Wales has invested heavily in life sciences to bring significant growth to the area to put Wales on the map. As a result many external companies have been attracted in. Using the facilities at the GE Healthcare Innovation Village [in Cardiff] allows us to do our work. In Wales we are fortunate to have a relatively high density of leading universities with a strong medical and healthcare focus. It’s the combination of academic and clinical expertise and the buzz of business activity that makes it such an exciting eco-system.
What is exciting about your particular field/area?
There’s been a lot of talk over the last five years about how we need to move to a more personalised approach in healthcare. Beside a few examples in the cancer field we have never been able to achieve that. Part of the reason is a lack of clinically useful technologies, so being involved in creating the technology that will allow us to use medicines more efficiently and effectively and improve patient outcomes is really exciting.
What new innovations and developments can we expect to see soon?
There’s a huge focus on developing point of care applications and getting away from sending samples to laboratories where they disappear for a couple of days. There’s also a move towards not just looking for one biomarker in patients but patterns, multi-marker approaches.
What advice would you give to anyone who is interested in working in the life sciences sector?
Get out there and start talking to people in the sector. We have benefitted hugely from having the Life Sciences Hub Wales on our doorstep; there’s a building and a network full of people who have done it before you from which you can learn.
It’s a good time to work in the sector because there’s a lot of support in terms of expertise and investment.
What do you think are the most important qualities for success in the life sciences sector?
It’s important you work with your end users when developing new technologies. You should engage them from the outset to make sure you know what the industry actually needs. You might have a really good ‘blue-sky’ idea but from a business perspective you need much more than that – you need to know someone’s going to buy it. You almost have to reign in your own specific interest and see the bigger picture.