The Faculty of Medicine’s first Associate Dean for Enterprise will play an important role in advancing the College's translational research
Dr Mike Romanos is a highly experienced biotech industry executive who recently joined Imperial as Associate Dean for Enterprise in the Faculty of Medicine.
Having spent over 35 years in the pharma and biotech industry, Mike has deep experience in all aspects of building and running bioscience enterprises in a wide range of platforms and therapeutics. He also has experience in academic biomedical research, the charity sector, and venture capital investment.
We spoke to Mike about his ambitions for the role and his background.
What are your ambitions in this role?
I'm very keen to raise the game in translation and commercialisation for the Faculty of Medicine and for biomedicine generally. Imperial is a powerhouse of biomedical science but has scope for greater societal and commercial impact. For me, success looks like many more biotech spinouts and licences, and more strategic collaborations with pharma and charities, all ultimately leading to new medicines, devices, diagnostics and digital health applications. I want to bring my sector expertise to help enhance translation through College-wide improvements to our translational ecosystem and also to bring direct advice to academics.
How can our academics benefit from your experience?
I have unusually broad and deep scientific and business experience across the pharmaceutical and biotech industry that is valuable to academics. I'm here to provide our research community with advice based on my knowledge, experience, and connections.
I view offering direct advice to investigators to navigate their translational journey as a big part of this role. The areas include translational strategy, intellectual property, grant funding, alternative commercialisation options, as well as personal roles and contractual aspects. With a very large network across the industry, I’m also able to bring in my contacts and connect them with Imperial researchers and the Enterprise Team for more specialised advice as needed. I am very keen to identify those principal investigators seeking advice on projects with translational potential, so please get in touch if you think you could benefit from my help.
What aspects of your career and experience are relevant to your role at Imperial?
Most recently, in the biotech sector I founded three companies: Microbiotica, a microbiome precision medicine spinout of the Wellcome Sanger Institute developing therapeutics in oncology and inflammatory bowel disease for which I raised $67m in 2022; Crescendo Biologics a bispecific antibody fragment platform company spun out of the Babraham Institute with a pipeline in oncology and inflammation, and NK:IO, an NK cell therapy spinout of Imperial. These experiences give me an intimate knowledge of everything needed to spin out, fund and build a company.
Prior to biotech I held global roles in GSK R&D where I led major divisions that helped shape the company’s pipelines and platforms across a broad range of therapeutic areas, technologies and modalities. In my last role at GSK, as VP Discovery Technology, I built and led the global genomics and platform biology division operating in 6 sites in UK, US and Italy with over 300 scientists; this group delivered novel targets, target validation, biomarkers and translational data packages for medicines. Previously, at different times, I led global biologics provision for Discovery, including novel therapeutics and scale-up; UK Molecular Discovery, comprising all target and lead discovery activities; and have worked specifically on anti-virals, vaccines, novel genomic targets, gene therapy, and antibodies. I also played a leading role in shaping IP strategy and co-led the R&D IP working group that shaped IP strategy at the GSK merger.
Currently, I am a non-executive director of the biomedical translational charity LifeArc and a member of the Crick Institute Translational Advisory Group. In 2019, I was part of the LifeArc Keytruda Royalty Monetisation team which brought in the charity’s $1.3bn endowment. Previously I was non-executive director of the BioIndustry Association, Venture Partner for UKI2S seed investor, and panel member on the MRC’s Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme.
Through all these experiences I have got to know the investor, entrepreneur, and pharma community very well and will be using my network to benefit Imperial.
I am also an alumnus of Imperial where I did a PhD in molecular virology following a degree in Natural Sciences at Cambridge. I followed that with academic research at the MRC’s National Institute for Medical Research and the Leicester Biocentre in influenza virology and yeast biotechnology, respectively. I am a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology.
What motivated you to take on this role?
Ultimately what drew me to the role is the enormous potential to continue developing the translational ecosystem at the Faculty of Medicine. I was previously a Translator in Residence at Imperial from 2015 to 2017 where I advised principal investigators on translating their biomedical research. This gave me a real sense of where the opportunities and barriers to translation were at Imperial. It’s a privilege to come back to the College and offer my own expertise and networks to help exploit more of our discoveries into commercial opportunities.
How does your role interact with the Faculty of Medicine, Enterprise team and Associate Deans of Enterprise across other faculties?
I work closely with the Dean of Medicine, Prof Jonathan Weber, and the Vice Dean (Research), Prof Graham Cooke (formerly Prof Martin Wilkins) to discuss strategic priorities for the Faculty and to target my time to faculty members and topics that can most benefit.
I coordinate closely with Imperial Enterprise, especially Dr Vjera Magdalenic-Moussavi (Director of Industry Partnerships & Commercialisation for Medicine) and her team so that we can effectively support the Faculty. We have complementary roles in translation, and they help me navigate the Faculty and its projects, while I provide them advice on translation, deals or relationships where I can.
I work closely on cross-College translational issues with my Associate Dean colleagues Prof Peter Cawley (Engineering) and Prof David Klug (Natural Sciences), and with Prof Ramana Nanda (Business School, Deep Tech Institute) and Dr Simon Hepworth (Enterprise). We work collectively, since much of Imperial’s translational research is cross-Faculty and we can together enhance the translational system College-wide. This includes initiatives such as the Founders’ Choice review, UKRI Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) funding, and Deep Tech Prime funding for translational support.
I recently joined as a member of the newly-formed University Research and Enterprise Board chaired by the Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise), Prof Mary Ryan.
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