Mark Treherne

BioLeaders Interview – Mark Treherne (November 2019)

Mark has over 25 years’ experience in the discovery of novel treatments for diseases with unmet medical need. he formerly worked at Pfizer where he was responsible for research into neurodegenerative diseases. Mark then set up Cambridge Drug Discovery as Chief Executive, which was sold to BioFocus (now part of Charles River). Since then, Mark has worked with many early-stage biotechnology companies from foundation through to trade sale.‎ More recently, he was Chief Executive of the Life Sciences Organisation of UK Trade & Investment, which helped UK-based Life Sciences companies raise investment and export overseas. Mark joined Cellesce, as Chief Executive, last year.

Key milestones in your career journey to date?

Meeting people who have benefited from medicines or therapies that you have worked on. Most recently, joining Cellesce to transform the way cancer drug discovery is currently conducted.

Who has had the greatest influence over your career?

My father, who got me interested in biology and showed me how it could be used as a force for good.

Your approach to spotting and developing top talent?

Spotting enthusiasm and drive, especially when combined with a laser like focus on getting the job done. Also, working with experts in the field, who have good network and an established track record of finding the right people.

What attributes make an outstanding leader in today’s world?

Being able to spot trends before they happen and then being ready with the right team to exploit them. Timing is always critical. Natural leaders need to bring teams with them by transmitting their own in-built enthusiasm and not by just nagging them along from behind!

What is our industry’s contribution to improving climate change?

Hopefully, not too little, too late! The carbon cycle is the basis of all biology on our planet and understanding this dynamic is the key to coming up with effective solutions. At Cellesce, we work with biopsies from patients tumours that reduce the need for animal models and can reduce the carbon footprint of discovering new cancer therapies.

How do you create a culture of continual learning, innovation and curiosity?

By recruiting the right people and supporting their development. Qualifications are a beginning and not an end for learning. You are never too old to learn.

What’s your hidden talent or something that might surprise others about you?

Speaking a few words of Cornish (but don’t try testing me).

Thoughts on the current funding model for early stage companies?

What has changed significantly in my time is the emergence of direct investments through the Enterprise Incentive Scheme, for example, which has enabled much-needed new streams of capital into Life Sciences companies. At Cellesce, this has enabled us to get going with a supportive shareholder base. As a result, revenue-generating companies have become much more popular than they once were.

What will be the biggest technological transformation in the industry over the next 5 years?

Clearly, I’m biased but tumour-derived organoids will significantly enable the transformation of success rates in early cancer drug discovery. Less than 10% of development candidates make it on to the market, which means that at least 90% of research budgets are being written off. This is unsustainable and needs to change drive down the costs of new medicines.

Your views on encouraging volunteering amongst colleagues?

Volunteering is a really great opportunity to get involved and stay young. However, I don’t practice what I preach yet!

Your legacy to the sector?

More cost-effective drugs to be made as widely available as possible.

Your simple philosophy on life?

Do one thing well rather many things badly.

Words of wisdom?

  • Best advice I was given: “Medicine is not only a science; it is also an art. It does not consist of compounding pills and plasters; it deals with the very processes of life, which must be understood before they may be guided.” – Paracelsus (a fellow academic from the University of Basel but a bit before my time, as he died in 1541).
  • Advice I would give: “Opportunities don’t just happen by chance: you create them.”
  • What I wish I’d known: “Life goes much more quickly than I had expected!”