A key appointment to support the strategic growth agenda of a nascent, high growth Biotechnology business.

Newcells Biotech


Newcells Biotech is a PE backed, commercial stage life science Company exploiting its proprietary technology in stem cells (iPSC) and cell biology to build models of human tissues. This pioneering modelling technology improves the ability to generate data on the safety, efficacy, and pharmacology of drugs prior to human trials. Their vision is to bring the best in vitro biology to market, improving the productivity of drug discovery and development.


Over the last two years, the business has made huge progress in bringing their innovative products and services to market that have delivered significant value to their global pharmaceutical customers. Longstanding clients include Pfizer, Takeda, Roche, Novartis and Sanofi. Selected newly acquired clients include Genentech, ShapeTx, Janssen, Hemoshear, MazeTx, Dompe and VergeTx with many more logo’s captured. 


During this time, the business has fully commercialised its activities and has expanded its footprint into North America, seen by the board as a key strategic growth market. To further underline their commitment to servicing the North American market, the business has also established an experienced business development and sales team responsible for driving relationships with customers and key opinion leaders in academia, biotech, CROs/CMOs and pharmaceutical companies.


Due to this rapid growth and as part of its natural evolution from R&D to full commercialisation, the business wanted to appoint a Director of Operations who would lead and take ownership of professionalising the technical operations of the company encompassing the end-to-end activities associated with production, technology transfer and scale-up of assay platforms, the efficient operation of service projects, supply chain and logistics, infrastructure and quality.


Given the emphasis on transformational change against a backdrop of commercialisation and growth, it was agreed that the incoming Director of Operations would be required to exhibit core competencies and capabilities in driving the ‘scaling up’ and development of operations gained within a technical product environment.  It was also deemed to be essential that the incoming Executive possessed strong leadership skills underpinned with high emotional intelligence to lead people, including early career staff, within an established culture and working styles and lead them on a journey as the business goes through positive change to enhance and build out its operational infrastructure. Linked to this, and of equal importance, is the ability to be able to operate and a desire to operate within a small company environment where adaptability and flexibility are key to success.


Newcells indicated it was interested in evaluating candidates from a wide range of technical operations backgrounds; ideally those with exposure to human/mammalian live cell production environments, but would also consider strong candidates from across the broader Life Sciences domain. We focused our research on identifying venture/growth stage businesses across stem cell technology such as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), other cellular and organoid technology offerings as well as the broader contract research organisations (CROs) that provide research services such as assay development or drug discovery and contract manufacturing organisations (CMOs). We then refined our search to identify businesses that had had a sizeable liquidity event within the last 2 years, indicating a potential investment in infrastructure, resources and growth. From this data, we were able to identify approximately 50 operationally focused leaders and executives with appropriate domain knowledge and experience across the aforementioned categories. During the engagement stage, the key was to identify an executive who demonstrated a sound understanding of the challenges facing accelerated growth across international markets coupled with strong technical operational leadership and conclusive experience in driving transformation whilst continuing to maintain high levels of customer service.


Following an extensive search, we presented a strong shortlist of four candidates all with experience in building out scalable operational functions and frameworks in early stage businesses. Candidate 1 was a biotech scientist/professional with 14+ years’ experience in biologics late stage development, manufacturing, manufacturing support and commercialisation. Candidate 2 was a pharma and biopharma professional with 30 years’ experience as an Operations and manufacturing leader; managing end-to-end activities across a variety of manufacturing facilities including cell based production and API production. Candidate 3 was a People and Customer focused business leader with a manufacturing, science and technical/engineering background and 20 years’ experience across the life sciences vertical including several years working in the USA. Candidate 4 was a customer and delivery focused operations and manufacturing leader with 22 years’ experience working within the pharmaceutical and life sciences vertical for several pharma CDMO and CRO businesses.


Client interviews identified strong interest in two of the four that went through to second and third round interviews. The third round interview process provided excellent feedback on both candidates suggesting that either one could be offered the role. However, one individual stood out due to their highly engaging and collaborative leadership style underlined by their experience in both large corporate and SME environments and their exposure to the USA market. 


The appointed candidate was a very experienced manufacturing and transformational business leader with a proven track record of; reducing variation, reducing Cost of Poor Quality, Lean transformations, productivity gains, organizational design, High Performance Team development and improved customer service for both large Corporates and smaller SMEs. They boasted a strong Scientific, Technical, Manufacturing and Engineering background, gained within filtration and single-use technologies for Bio-Pharm, F&B, Healthcare, Micro- Electronics, Industrial and Medical Device market segments. Alongside this wealth of experience, the candidate also brings a world-wide view to Newcells having had extensive experience expanding and building out lab facilities and production environments across a number of locations in USA, EU, Latin America, Scandinavia and Asia. 

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