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Accelerate Cambridge mentors

Dr Naseem Akhtar

Skills: Advanced control engineering; functional safety and product cyber security; innovation strategy

A chartered engineer with Doctorate in aerospace engineering from Cranfield University, Masters in Electrical Engineering from Imperial College and MBA from the University of Birmingham. Currently working in Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) R&D and Innovation department with responsibilities for functional safety and cyber security. Previously managed an innovation network for JLR comprising of world leading business schools to identify customer hidden needs at a global scale and provide inputs to the innovation strategy development process.

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Becky Balzano

Skills: Coaching skills; general HR; management; resilience training; leadership; emotional Intelligence

As a former Business owner and HR Director of a successful Cambridge business I am well versed at managing small teams and increasing revenue in a fast-paced retail and food sector environment. Continued professional development motivated me to build a second business coaching individuals like myself who run SME’s in particular those who have a passion for food. The shift from running a retail-based company and coaching the teams there to now coaching CEO’s account directors and senior leadership teams gives me a unique insight into being both employer and employee. I now have several years of direct coaching experience at an award winning retail marketing agency, as well as with CEOs of SME’s including Agri start-up food tech companies and talented professionals who recognise increases in performance as a result of holistic wellbeing, resilience and emotional intelligence. My complimentary blend of solid management skills and accredited coaching is bolstered with an authentic passion for companies particularly in sustainable health food sector. With qualifications from ILM, CIPD, Coaching and SFEDI (coaching entrepreneurs qualification) alongside forthcoming ICF accreditation, I can be both empathetic, supportive and motivational. Coaching 1:1 for many years allows me to recognise the delicate balance between coaching, mentoring and managing at all levels from Director to trainee. Developing and delivering effective resilience and well-being training, aimed at increasing productivity in high stress environments ensures that I can also give employees the tools they need to navigate stressful and toxic scenarios whilst remaining focused and calm even across distributed workforces. Additionally, I facilitate the needs of organisations to reduce presenteeism and increase innovation and creativity through focused, time efficient workshops. In terms of personal values, I am passionate about holistic health, personal growth and sustainability and have a passion for hiking.

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Farnaz Behroozi

Farnaz Behroozi is currently a consultant at Deloitte’s London and prior to that was a consultant based in McKinsey0s Istanbul. Farnaz specializes in Life Sciences with nearly 11 years of combined research and consulting experience. Farnaz has management consulting experience leading corporate and business unit strategy, digital transformation, big data strategy, operating model transformation, organizational model redesign, capability design, productivity improvement, business process re-engineering, and business case development for clients. Farnaz primarily focuses on clients in the Healthcare Life sciences space, namely the pharmaceutical sector. Farnaz also has experience serving clients in other industries including: medical device, retail, financial services, consumer packaged goods, nonprofit and the international public sector. Her strong soft skills and work experience at a global level has enabled her to engage with teams and clients at all levels. Farnaz is an active volunteer at United Nations developing partnership and communications strategy for the community hospital construction and operations. She also initiated and currently leads the Next Generation Women in Leadership at Deloitte with the mission of empowering females in becoming future leaders and reducing existing gender gap.

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George Chalmers

Skills: Finance; company building; fundraising; start-ups

George is currently an investor at Draper Esprit, which is a pan-European venture capital investor, investing anything from £5-50 million in series-A companies upwards. Prior to joining Draper Esprit he was a founder of a consumer fintech business which he exited to Octopus Energy. As founder-CEO, George developed and brought our product to market, fundraised, built out our team, and helped shape a new category. Before starting his own business, George was an investment banker at Credit Suisse in London for six years. He is also a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), a trustee for a large Multi-Academy Trust in South London, have a Masters in Management from CJBS, and has worked on social entrepreneurship projects in India with TATA.

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Bingbing Chang

Skills: Investment; negotiations; deal structuring; financial discipline; allocation of scarce capital

Bingbing Chang is a multi-faceted Entrepreneur, Business executive, Investor and Mentor. She managed >£20 billion and led mergers & acquisitions of hundreds of millions £s in the Energy industry and she led ambitious growth agenda of Renewables businesses as CFO.

Bingbing built a multi-million pound property business funded by investors. She holds non-executive board directorship of an early year education start-up with scale-up plan to £100 million valuation within five years.

Bingbing makes space for quality time with her husband and two boys. She confesses, “it wasn’t always like this. In 2015, I went through a personal low driven by the challenges of motherhood and work commitment as senior executive in a large corporate. That pushed me to build my own high-yield real estate business and achieved personal & professional break-through from a successful albeit single-dimensioned career to an inspired and yet multi-faceted life, with a sharp purpose on climate.” She is now on a mission to help start-ups that seek to build profitable scalable businesses while benefiting our planet.

Executive experiences highlights

  • Highest profit in one transaction of >£400 million.
  • Extensive network in the New Energies industry among technical and commercial leaders Real Estate Start-up
  • Founded property business that creates high-end co-living accommodations filling a gap in Cambridgeshire.
  • Return on Equity > 25% with revenue growth of >20% year on year five years in a row Mentorship Success.
  • Hosted educational seminars to 1000s of attendees on scaling while sustaining profitability
  • Mentored entrepreneurs who built own profitable business via acquisitions within nine-twelve months.

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Victoria Coxen

Victoria Coxen is a uniquely qualified and experienced people professional, Systemic Team Coach® and ICF Coach (PCC) with 30 years of proven success in achieving progress for people and organisations.

She has worked across borders, industries and functions blending in-house strategic and operational execution with management consultancy in ‘Big Six’ and boutique consultancies and coaching. This has given Victoria multi-sector experience with resilience and breadth to tackle substantial people challenges. Combining HR, project management, management consulting tools and coaching, she is innovative, focused and work in partnership with people to execute bold ideas to time, cost and quality. Having led teams and qualified in systemic team coaching, Victoria brings the human touch to business balancing commercial goals with well-being and making working life enjoyable.

Victoria’s clients are dynamic growing businesses who favour a personalised approach. She majors in coaching modern leaders, teams and entrepreneurs – clever people who choose to accelerate their leadership maturity, impact and performance for greater purpose.

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Pantea Loftian

Pantea has more than 15 years’ experience in innovation and strategy consulting that spans various industries including manufacturing, engineering chemicals energy, pharmaceuticals, and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs). She is a founder and director of strategy consultancy Camrosh, Non-Executive Director of Ridgeway Information, and has served on boards of the Science Council and Pepal. She has a multidisciplinary background in both science and technology with a PhD in Biochemical engineering and MPhil in Technology Policy. She has built and led teams of scientists and engineers to deliver consulting projects while providing inspirational and inclusive leadership, balancing the need for world-class expertise and approachability.

Pantea has a proven track record of working with businesses, governmental and academic organisation to redefine their challenges and find new opportunities. She brings new insights and ways of thinking to complex, hard to address challenges. She also has considerable experience working with startups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in a mentoring and advisory capacity.

Charles Nixon

Skills: Market research; market planning; marcomms; new product launches; branding and strategy

Charles Nixon has 40 years experience in marketing and growing companies. He has successfully navigated through 3 major recessions and 2 tech booms. And has worked in textiles; telecommunications; software; data processing; financial services and education. Working for Courtaulds, IWS, Accenture , Mercury communications, Extel and Societe General. His specialism is marketing and strategy ; encompassing market research ( founding one of the UK’s first computerised marketing intelligence systems), market planning ; marcomms ; new product launches ; branding and strategy. He co-founded a consultancy and Fintech startup in the 1980s and then founded Cambridge Marketing College in 1991, growing it to a dominant position in its sector before retiring in 2016 to run a publishing venture and establish his foundation. He is an author of numerous articles and textbooks on marketing. ( Profile on Amazon ). He is a visiting lecturer in marketing and innovation. He is also vice chair of trustees for the Cromwell Museum. Charles has a degree in Modern History and Economics from Manchester University and an MBA from Warwick Business School. He is on the Advisory Panel of Harvard Business Review, a Fellow of the Royal Society of arts, an advisor for Astia and a Chartered marketer. In 2017 he was voted one of the most influential businessmen in Cambridge.

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Roberta Re

Roberta is a senior executive with over 20 years of professional experience within the Food and Beverage Industry sector, with specific expertise in Nutrition and Health, Regulatory Framework, Product Positioning, Consumer and Business Strategy.

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Simon Rycraft

Simon is a profit and operations improvement specialist/advisor, Founder of Advisory firm Hacks Capital and author of the best-selling book, Negotiation Hacks. He is a Partner at Genpact and a mentor at the Entrepreneurship program at Draper University. Simon is the former COO and CCO of the startup Reef Technology and he has advisory board positions with several startups (inLieu, Lookthrough, OffTheGrid and ProfVal).

Simon received his MBA from the Wharton Business School and his BA in Business and Economics from Nottingham and an MCIPS from the Chartered.

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Rohit Singh

Rohit Singh is head of Innovation and digital disruption at KPMG’s Advanced Analytics division and brings 20+ years of banking and capital markets experience in data and technology-led innovation. Prior to KPMG, Rohit co-led the banking and capital markets analytics team at Deloitte and has a proven track record of converting new competencies into robust multimillion-dollar businesses. An expert in the field of innovation methods, design thinking and applied intelligence, Rohit specialises in building high-performance digital partnerships and ecosystems. Rohit regularly advises CxO level stakeholders of top financial institutions to leverage new and emerging capabilities in the field of Data Science, Applied AI, regtech and fintech to improve customer experience, reduce cost and increase profitability. Adept at creating a high-performance culture, Rohit is a John C Maxwell certified leadership coach and an experienced Tiny Habits® coach. Tiny Habits is a breakthrough way to form habits, based on 20 years of research in human behaviour by Dr BJ Fogg, Director of Behaviour Design Lab at Stanford University. Combining his leadership methods with principles of behaviour change, Rohit enables his clients to make small changes to have a big impact on their personal and professional life. A strong proponent of developing sustainable competitive advantage through customer empathy, business storytelling and tech-driven innovation, Rohit mentors start-ups and early-stage businesses to launch, scale and grow.

Connect with Rohit if you are looking for guidance on business strategy, customer and market analysis, product/service positioning, design and execution, leadership skills or developing a powerful narrative to raise funds for your business.

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Jan Storgårds

Jan Storgårds is Director and CEO of his company, working on video games-related things. He also does voluntary mentoring for startups in Cambridge and beyond.

Prior to his current role Sector Lead for Digital and Creative industries at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU). Between 2016-2019, Director of REACTOR, program focusing on gamifying products and services. His role at ARU was about making and keeping Anglia Ruskin University as a key player in these sectors by working closely technology startups/small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and connecting them to ARU academics.

Jan’s personal mission is about making creative thinking tangible; he is passionate about working with early-stage technology companies that make innovation happen.

Jan considers himself as an entrepreneur; his experience and interests are in

  • Startups/SMEs, early stage technology and creative companies
  • Entrepreneurial thinking
  • Cluster and entrepreneurial ecosystem development
  • Research, program development, international collaboration
  • Fund raising for research programs
  • Finance and investment readiness
  • Volunteering in supporting young entrepreneurship
  • Games industry
  • Gamification
  • Software industry with all of its aspects eg IoT, Smart Cities, Health

Almost all the companies Jan have worked with have been making software of some kind.

Jan is also a co-founder of several entrepreneurial and education initiatives such as:

  • GAMEX – Game Executive Training Program (Aalto University)
  • Ship – The Startup Festival, Finland
    Cambridge Venture Camp (Finland, several universities)
  • Latvian Cambridge Venture Camp (Latvia among other countries)

Recently Jan also co-designed and ran full 13 module professional MBA for Finnish executives.

Before joining ARU, Jan worked his way up the cluster development and startup ladder as an entrepreneur, founder, and CEO of the sports software start-up company – Suunto Software Solutions. Since then, he has worked on over 500 IT startups in different roles, and 150 development and research projects. He’s built a company from scratch, developed many more and pursued business opportunities across digital, financial, sport and healthcare technology fields.

Although he’s worked across a range of digital technology industries, Jan has particular experience working with wearables, sports software, digital games, health and finance.

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Miranda Weston-Smith

Miranda helps early-stage biomedical businesses attract investment and develop their business strategy. She founded BioBeat to spur entrepreneurial growth in life sciences and connect entrepreneurs with leaders in the sector.

She has worked with many entrepreneurs on fundraising, business planning and technology transfer. She brings experience as a Technology Transfer Manager at Cambridge Enterprise, University of Cambridge, where she assessed and marketed life science technologies, negotiated licences, and spun-out companies. She was responsible for technology transfer at the University of Cambridge for the Cambridge-MIT Institute. In her five years at the seed capital firm, Cambridge Research and Innovation, she identified and invested in early-stage technologies. Miranda co-founded Cambridge Network with Hermann Hauser.

Miranda studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge and has a Diploma from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. She is a Fellow of the Linnean Society and has edited eight science books.

Martin Wickham

Skills: Early stage commercialisation; business planning; IP; product positioning

Martin Wickham is accomplished in multi-disciplinary commercialisation and research opportunities within the Food and Pharmaceutical space. Providing direction and innovative expert input into the formation and management of existing or early-stage new technology spin-out opportunities, predominantly in the life science area. Working with academics and incoming management teams to build valuable commercialisation propositions. A recent example includes Reacta Biotech Limited an early stage company exploiting standardised and validated food allergen challenge materials, to be used within tested and safe clinical protocols for routine diagnosis of food allergy. Martin took this technology out of the University of Manchester and built a sustainable high innovation manufacturing company with a current market value in excess of £10M. Martin was previously Head of Nutrition at Leatherhead Food Research, UK, and Model Gut Platform Leader at the Institute of Food Research, UK. Martin is a Biophysicist with over 20 years’ experience in modelling human digestion. His research interests were centred on understanding human gut physiology, through the development of in vitro models of digestion, with particular emphasis on the human response to complex food and pharmaceutical systems. He is a BBSRC/ Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellow, has a PhD from the University of East Anglia and has an MBA from University of Dundee.

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Jon Wilson

Skills: Leadership coaching; team coaching; mental fitness training

Jon brings an entrepreneurial mindset, the experience of 26 years in tech, 20 years in start-ups, and the founding/co-founding of four companies, combined with coaching, training and mentoring to support leaders to operate with peak performance, peace of mind and sustained fulfilment. He primarily works with leaders and teams in technology companies.

He is passionate about the outdoors, adventure and sustainability, and he brings these into his work.

“Most people tiptoe their way through life, hoping they make it safely to death.” — Earl Nightingale

Jon is here to support those who don’t want to tiptoe through life.

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Miika Ahdesmäki


Miika Ahdesmäki is an Associate Director in AstraZeneca Oncology Bioinformatics, leading a team of data scientists focused on utilising expert knowledge and AI to uncover novel cancer targets and insights. Over the years Miika has worked in small biotechs/CROs as well as big pharma and has a PhD in computational systems biology from 2007.

Miika is also the founder of Cambridge UK Computational Biology and Bioinformatics meetups, a community of several hundred like-minded scientists in the Cambridge area.

Can help with: building bioinformatics teams and strategies, statistical machine learning and signal processing, computational biomarker discovery and validation.

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Mohammad Babar

Mohammad Babar obtained his MChem from the University of Liverpool in 2017. He then joined the Analytical & Science Technology department at Novartis focussing on GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice).

In 2018, he joined Manchester Organics Ltd. as a Synthetic Organic Chemist working on route design, process development and the scale up of primarily organofluoride compounds. Since 2019, Mohammad has held various roles at AstraZeneca, currently working flexibly between Process Chemistry and the Large Scale Laboratory within Early Chemical Development at Macclesfield, UK.

His key responsibilities involve developing robust processes of key intermediates & APIs, whilst also planning the accommodation of GMP drug substance manufactures.

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Andrew Foxley BA (Hons) MFPM (Hon)

VP and R&D Franchise Head

Andrew’s career in pharmaceutical R&D spans more than 30 years and all phases of drug development. Originally from an arts background, he has worked in cardiovascular and oncology clinical research focused primarily on clinical stage development. Within AstraZeneca, he has held positions in both clinical operations and strategic drug development including project and line management roles and has led groups varying in size from 10 to over 100 staff. His current role involves strategic development and delivery of two of AstraZeneca’s late stage novel oncology therapeutics with accountability for leading the development of business cases to secure internal investment to bring the assets to launch and expansion through life cycle management approaches. He has also represented AZ at interactions with health authorities as part of securing approval for clinical and diagnostic development strategies.

Before joining AstraZeneca, Andrew was part of Nottingham Clinical Research Limited, a university spin-off company established as a CRO specialising in the conduct of large-scale cardiovascular studies which he joined as a graduate recruit in 1988. There, he held positions of increasing responsibility and was appointed an Executive Director in 1997 and served as a member on the Company Board until 2002. During this time, he was responsible for spearheading the definition and launch of new service offerings and the development of novel approaches to the challenges of conducting large-scale clinical studies. Andrew also took the lead in developing a refreshed external identity for the company, securing a grant from the Department of Trade and Industry as part of a government scheme aimed at spring-boarding SMEs.

Andrew is recognised as an expert in the wider research community; he is Co-Chair and a founder member of the UK Clinical Pharmacology Skills Alliance, Chair of the New Medicines and Data Strategic Leadership Group at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and in 2016 was awarded honorary membership of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians. Andrew is a regular visiting industry mentor at the Cambridge Judge Business School where he provides support to start-ups on the Accelerate program. He has also mentored a number of teams through the preparation stages of competitions for new ventures.

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Vincenzo Garzya

Head of Business Planning, Operations, Strategy and Chief of Staff to the VP of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence

Prior to his current role, Vincenzo was the Operation Officer and Chief of Staff for Enterprise Data & Analytics Programme, PMO director for Optimising Medical Evidence Generation Activities and Patient Centricity Excellence Director responsible for the strategic direction and delivery leadership of the overall capability programs to enable lifecycle teams to build patient value in R&D.

Following his passion for advancement of medicines for patients, before joining AstraZeneca, Vincenzo has led several projects at GlaxoSmithKline-UK in World Wide Business Development, in the Centres of Excellence for Drug Discovery, in Global Project & Portfolio Management and in Global Medical Affairs. Vincenzo has contributed to several patented inventions, successfully led the in-licensing of gene-therapy treatments and built the global strategy, operations and governance for externally sponsored research.

Vincenzo is a doctor in medicinal chemistry with an international project management accreditation and an MBA in strategic management.

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Sergio Martinez Cuesta

Senior Bioinformatics Data Scientist

An enthusiastic bioinformatics research scientist with a background in bioinformatics and computational biology applying state-of-the-art computational methods to a broad range of chemical, biological and disease phenomena using different types of data, including genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and genome-wide drug screens.

Extensive experience in developing and applying bioinformatics and statistical algorithms (Python, R and Linux) using high performance computing and motivated by collaborations with chemists and biologists. Co-leading small teams of researchers interpreting -omics data generated in the experimental laboratory. Teaches university level courses in academia and industry on bioinformatics, programming, data management and analysis in multiple programming languages.

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Jonathan Rolin

CMC Regulatory Manager

Jon joined Astrazeneca September 2020 and is currently working as a CMC Regulatory Manager based in Cambridge, UK.

Started as a bench chemist, progressing to the analytical process and equipment validation lead in a GMP manufacturing facility. Moved into a small pharmaceutical company as the analytical and GMP subject matter expert, successfully supporting the scale up and validation of the DS and DP manufacturing process and authoring module 3 of the Company’s first MAA in all the ICH regions. Joined AstraZeneca and supported MAA submissions across International markets, Clinical Trials and major CMC changes as a Regulatory Affairs Manager and now as a CMC Regulatory Manager.

An experienced project manager and Chartered Chemist with expertise in Quality, Regulatory and CMC delivering business critical projects across all sizes of pharmaceutical company.

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Xuyang Song

Director, Clinical Pharmacology & Quantitative Pharmacology

Xuyang has 10+ years of combined experience in drug development at academia, industry, and FDA including experience in non-clinical and clinical drug development with multiple IND and BLA submissions and regulatory knowledge.

He leads a group of 16 experienced clinical pharmacology scientists and pharmacometricians supporting IO programs (eg Durvalumab, Tremelimumab, Monalizumab, MEDI5752, etc.) with over 70 clinical trials from non-clinical through to late-stage/life cycle management.

He is the key oncology functional leader for project development strategy at advisory boards with KoLs/PIs, governance meetings, and regulatory interactions. He is mentoring multiple life science start-ups to support scientific and business planning in the platform of AZ- University of Cambridge and AZ- Johns Hopkins Tech Ventures.

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Andrew Whittaker

Senior Director Clinical Science, Emerging Innovations Unit

UK trained consultant interventional cardiologist with a background in academic research (genomics, progenitor cells, atherosclerosis pathophysiology). Joined AZ 5 years ago and have been working on a broad range of projects spanning multiple therapeutic areas from rare/orphan disease to common complex conditions.

Expertise in translational / experimental medicine and early phase drug development (up to ph2b). Experience in academic-industry collaborations through the AZ Open Innovation program. I am also a member of the AZ cardiovascular safety knowledge group and an expert in residence for a Cambridge-based venture firm.

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