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From Academia to Entrepreneurship: Navigating Biotech's Frontier

with Amith Nathwani, CEO Novalgen

Life Sciences

Posted

Founder Stories University Edition is a collection of fireside chats with the leading academic founders backed by the AlbionVC team. Having invested in over 30 university spinouts from the leading UK universities including UCL, Imperial College London, University of Oxford and University of Cambridge, the series highlights personal stories of those who made the leap from academia to entrepreneurship.  


In this episode Professor Amit Nathwani, CEO of Novalgen and a leading global mind in gene therapy research, walks Simon Goldman, Partner at AlbionVC, through his academic and business career and what still drives him today.

Amit reflects on his journey from academia to entrepreneurship, how his early years as a clinician have influenced his licensing deals with big pharmaceutical companies and later his two spinout companies. Amit’s years of successfully building biotech companies brings discipline into his research today, where the needs of the regulators, investors and end patients are considered from the very beginning. 

Amit realised early in his career that existing medicine had limitations and this drove him to create novel techniques and approaches for patients with an unmet need. Following an impressive career in academia, in 2015 Amit co-founded Freeline Therapeutics, a UCL spinout developing transformative gene therapies for people with chronic debilitating diseases (AlbionVC was one of the backers via the UCL Technology Fund). The company went public on Nasdaq in 2020. 

Amit then went on to found Novalgen, another UCL Technology Fund backed biotech company, developing breakthrough bispecific therapies that can safely harness the immune system to fight cancer.

“The UCL Tech Fund for me has enabled two of my spinout companies. It’s extremely important for us and UCL as an environment. I think for me has been crucial because I could not have done what we’ve been able to do.”

Prof. Amit Nathwani, CEO, NovalGen 

The duo discuss the unique environment at UCL that facilitates entrepreneurship. Amit’s key advice is to learn from failure, have a blue-sky thinking mindset, and build a strong interdisciplinary team to navigate obstacles in drug development as it takes a village to bring drugs from the lab to market. He advises early career researchers to believe in their ideas, seek feedback, and think creatively to address unmet medical needs. 

Amit highlights the humbling experience of administering gene therapy to patients and witnessing its positive effects first hand. Positive patient outcomes have driven him throughout his career, and today he continues to learn, innovate and feels privileged to be working during an exciting era for biotech. 

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