In this interview conducted in anticipation of ELRIG UK's Drug Discovery 2023 Conference, we spoke to Nick Clare, Vendor Strategy Work Group Lead for ELRIG UK, about what vendors can gain from attending ELRIG events, such as Drug Discovery 2023.
Please can you introduce yourself and tell us about your professional background?
My name is Nick Clare, and I've been in biotech and pharma for about 20 years. I started and came into it a little bit differently from others. I'm dyslexic, so I decided to go straight to work and worked for companies such as Cancer Research UK, Merck Sharp & Dohme, and AstraZeneca.
AstraZeneca paid for my degree, which I did part-time, studying cellular biology and neuroscience while working and getting lots of experience in the lab. That allowed me to have a lot of lab experience before I even had a degree. I spent 16 years running labs, overseeing cell culture, building cell models and disease models, and working predominantly in stem cells towards the end, which I really loved.
Then through serendipity, I got into the commercial world. I always thought that that was a little stopgap to get me through something, but I actually ended up loving it and loving the engagement I get to have daily with scientists.
You were recently appointed to the ELRIG UK board as Vendor Strategy Work Group Lead. What did it mean to you to be appointed to the ELRIG board?
I was really proud to be appointed to the ELRIG board. I've been part of ELRIG, whether as a delegate, a speaker, or even as a vendor, for probably almost a decade. I've been to different events, and I've always seen that it's high-quality science, the delegates bringing value to the meeting, and then the vendor's interaction with those.
Being appointed to the board and being a strategic part of that is quite a proud moment for me.
In your new appointment, you will chair and lead the Vendor Strategy Work Group. Could you tell us more about what this will entail and your hopes for the group?
First of all, this will entail bringing together a group of people within ELRIG that are very smart, very qualified people that can help me engage more with the vendors. What's key about that is we want ELRIG to grow and progress and move forward with the community, so having that voice of the vendor within the board and ELRIG directly is really important.
What I hope for the future is that we start to engage a wider vendor community as well across more disciplines within the drug discovery landscape.
I'm a bit of a tech geek as well, so I would like to add some more technology platforms and elements into ELRIG in the future that allow us to engage with the vendors not just at the meeting but add value to the vendors around the meeting, to giving them more tools, resources, networking, and engagement.
One of the upcoming ELRIG UK events is Drug Discovery 2023. What can potential vendors expect from Drug Discovery 2023?
The important part of Drug Discovery is the high-quality science and delegates that bring people across all sectors from pharma, biotech, CROs, academia, and all levels from early career professionals to VPs, directors, and CEOs. It means they can expect a high level of engagement in high-quality science. The vendors get great access to that science and those people to discuss their needs and projects and be able to engage with them.
The theme for Drug Discovery 2023 is "Diverse Thinking – New Perspectives." What does this theme mean to you, and what can potential vendors gain from this theme?
Last year we were coming out of the pandemic, and we were bringing science back together. The COVID-19 pandemic showed us how important collaboration is in science. That collaboration across all different diverse thinkings and sectors actually propelled science, not only in time, but in technology, forward so fast that we could see that that was a direct result that people needed to come together and work quickly together on something.
This diverse thinking is about being an ecosystem and an environment that allows that diverse thinking across pharma, biotechs, CROs, providers, technology platforms, and even the diversity of the people within that from all different backgrounds and career stages. That's how you get those ideas and bring those technologies and science together to do something great. That's what I think ELRIG has the potential to do this year.
Drug Discovery 2023 will feature a range of scientific content. How important is the exchange between commercial members and the scientific community? How can events such as Drug Discovery facilitate these conversations and collaborations?
The quality of the science and the delegates is extraordinary for a free-to-attend event. Likewise, the vendors try to come forward and bring high-quality science with them.
In my own life, you talk to a customer, and actually, by just listening to them as a vendor, you're able to derive a new process or product or something that fits a niche you weren't even aware of because of the collaboration between and discussion between these two groups. Likewise, vendors that are focused on the science can talk to scientists and solve problems for them. When we see each other as collaborators and not as customer-vendors, we get a much greater experience, and I think everybody comes away better because of it.
How can vendors showcase their company and products at ELRIG events, such as Drug Discovery 2023?
What vendors can do is, before ELRIG, is look at what kind of package facilitates what they're looking at. Is it brand awareness, or is it a product launch? Then pick a package that suits you around ELRIG, such as a booth. Is it a large spotlight section, or do you want a poster? When you pick the correct thing that suits your need, you can get a huge impact from that Drug Discovery platform.
But the biggest tip I can give anyone, whether you are attending as a commercial delegate or actual vendor, is to just engage. Some so many people are willing to engage with you, and if you stand on the peripheries and don't engage, you miss so much. Take advantage of the networking, the coffee breaks and your booth, and just speak to everybody and enjoy it. That is what is the biggest thing you can get out of this.
For vendors showcasing their company and products, what unique opportunities can ELRIG events provide?
There are a lot of conferences. What is unique about ELRIG, I think, is that it is free to attend and has high-quality science. Because it's high-quality science and free to attend, nobody's excluded from this, and anybody can attend, from a Ph.D. student with no budget but great ideas to the CEO. And everybody does attend.
What's unique is your access to unrivaled delegates. To be able to collaborate with those people is fairly unique. The other unique thing is that the delegates know the vendors are supporting their science here, so there's much greater engagement from the delegates' side towards the vendors in ELRIG than you would normally get for a paid community.
What is the current state of the biotech industry landscape, and how do you foresee the industry changing over the next ten years?
A couple of decades ago, they were quite insular, quite protective, and already you can see how many collaborations, acquisitions, mergers happen around those to engage with the smaller companies that have the high-tech attitude and fast pace. I think we're going to see a continuation of that and a continuation of the bioclusters pop up around Europe. We're still going to have the hubs as Cambridge and Oxford, but I think we're going to see other key hubs pop up around the UK and Europe.
Then the other thing is, particularly for vendors and companies, how they have to be seen to be attractive to investors will change. I think that the days of huge funding for an idea are over. You need to be able to show you're commercially viable to get more funding.
That's where conferences such as ELRIG can help you get out in front of your customers and showcase your technology so that we can see it through so that patients benefit from it in the end.
What is next for you and your work? Do you have any exciting projects coming up?
I have my day job, which is always exciting and high-tech. And for ELRIG, this is just the start of the vendor community group for me. I want to hear from as many vendors now that are current vendors. Anybody reading this that is not a current vendor, I want to hear from these people so that we can guide ELRIG to being great for all vendors and communities. I think putting that front and center for ELRIG is a big task for me at the moment.
Where can readers find more information?
About Nick Clare
Nick brings twenty years of industrial life science experience, with a diverse portfolio spanning scientific and commercial roles in large pharmaceutical companies and startups. Whilst in the lab, Nick was a scientist and laboratory head in R&D, leading efforts to develop cell/genetic models for drug discovery and disease modeling. He currently serves as VP at DefiniGEN. Over recent years, Nick has been instrumental in guiding scientists in selecting tools and workflows for stem cell and CRISPR applications, all to accelerate the development of novel treatments. Now as Vendor Strategy Work Group Leader and board member at ELRIG UK, Nick hopes to help vendors grow and support them to get the tools and technologies into the hands of scientists and ultimately improve the lives of more patients.