Earlier this month, Eva Diagnostics was announced as this year’s winner of the OneStart award. Here Oliver Hardick, CEO and founder of last year’s winner Puridify, gives an account of how winning the award in 2013 has propelled the company over the last twelve months right up to this week’s news of an £850,000 seed financing round.

On the evening of the 15th May I was sat next to Toby Basey-Fisher, founder of Eva Diagnostics, at the gala dinner for this year’s OneStart award ceremony. Having addressed the audience earlier in the evening, detailing the leaps and bounds that Puridify had made over the past year and thanking the organisers and sponsors for what is a truly ‘company-life changing’ opportunity, I ended by giving the following advice: “I urge all ten fantastic finalists to make the most of this opportunity whether or not they win tonight, because the people that you will have met along the OneStart journey will be the people that you need to make your venture a success.”

When Jens Eckstein, President of SR One, announced the winners as Eva Diagnostics I can’t say I was surprised; I had seen Toby and Millie (Clive-Smith, also part of the winning team) in the semi-finals where they delivered a concise pitch that had a clear plan to effectively use £100,000 over the next 12 months to generate further value in Eva Diagnostics and to bring their anaemia diagnostics product (AnemiStat) to market. I certainly wish the team all the best and sincerely look forward to hearing more on their progress over the coming months.

At the 2014 OneStart awards: Jen Eckstein (SR One); Rob Balfour (Eva Diagnostics); Ian Tomlinson (GSK); Toby Basey-Fisher (Eva Diagnostics); Millie Clive-Smith (Eva Diagnostics)

At the 2014 OneStart awards: Jen Eckstein (SR One); Rob Balfour (Eva Diagnostics); Ian Tomlinson (GSK); Toby Basey-Fisher (Eva Diagnostics); Millie Clive-Smith (Eva Diagnostics)

The beginnings to Puridify started in 2008 with a discussion between Dr Daniel Bracewell (University College London; UCL) and Dr Robert Stevens (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory; RAL) which bore life to my Engineering Doctoral project based between the Advanced Centre for Biochemical Engineering and RAL. I was tasked with developing new materials to overcome the establishing limitations of downstream bioprocessing, or more specifically, the purification of therapeutic proteins by affinity chromatography. Four years later, with a couple of papers and a patent application under my belt, I secured an enterprise fellowship with the Royal Society of Edinburgh funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council. This was a unique opportunity which supported me for 12 months, through funding and mentoring, to spin-out the technology that I had developed during my doctorate. Half way through this year an old classmate, Iwan Roberts, drew my attention to an email he had received from Oxbridge Biotech Roundtable advertising OneStart. This was the beginning of Puridify as an entity and the formation of the three man management team: myself, Iwan and Tom Haywood (UCL alum now studying for an MBA at London Business School).

Through the help of a countless number of mentors and advisors (Barbara Domanye-Hayman, Andy Sandham, Michelle Scott & Will West to name but a few), and to our deep surprise, we won the inaugural OneStart competition. We’ve had a very busy year since then, raising over £780,000 in non-dilutive capital through three separate Technology Strategy Board awards. We were invited to present our technology at two leading international conferences, and we now have an extensive list of global biotechs in line to help develop and evaluate our platform purification technology. Our team is expanding; currently with four full-time scientists on board, where work focused on commercialisation is taking place in our labs at the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst and UCL’s industrial pilot plant. Most significantly, however, we are incredibly pleased to announce our first equity funding round led by Imperial Innovations & SR One.

Tom Haywood, Oliver Hardick and Iwan Roberts of Puridfy, at the 2013 OneStart awards

Tom Haywood, Oliver Hardick and Iwan Roberts of Puridfy, at the 2013 OneStart awards

I can confidently say that we would not be in this strong position today if it wasn’t for OneStart. Part of the prize was a years’ membership with the BIA who have been a fantastic support for Puridify, and me personally, while facilitating exposure of Puridify to the biotech scene. In particular I would like to highlight the CEO Investor Forum, a great event that allowed me to interact with a number of key industrial people. Also, the BIA Manufacturing Advisory Committee of which I have been a keen participant, has fostered new collaborations for Puridify and highlighted current issues in the industry. We have utilised access to reduced rate services like OAMPs insurance and of course the UK Bioscience Forum, a great event highlighting key industrial developments of the past year followed by the fantastic BIA Gala Dinner.

I stand by the advice I gave at the OneStart gala dinner in that it’s the people that make ventures a success in biotech, and not only the ones immediately around you. The one thing I’ve been amazed by in my short journey so far is how willing so many people are to give their time and share their expertise; it’s certainly allowed Puridify to flourish and I hope we’re able to do the same for companies like Eva Diagnostics in the future.