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Genomics: Encoding the Future! Venture Creation Weekend, Nov 2018

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Genomics - encoding the future venture creation weekend

Are you interested in getting involved in entrepreneurship? Do you have a novel idea or application in genomics that would transform the lives of many people?

Kickstart your entrepreneurial career and start developing your venture at the next Venture Creation Weekend on 16-18 November 2018 at Cambridge Judge Business School. It’s a chance to test your business idea ideas relevant to genomics, build a team and pitch to investors in 50 hours!

The Entrepreneurship Centre in partnership with Illumina are offering aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators the chance to explore opportunities, ideas and technologies in the fields ranging from cancer research to agriculture with the focus on:

  • genomics-driven advanced therapies, oncology, immuno-oncology
  • genomics-driven diagnostics
  • synthetic biology application
  • agrigenomics application (i.e. food safety and conservation)
  • microbiome application
  • genomic-driven drug discovery and application.

Who can participate in Genomics VCW?

  • Researchers, postdocs, PhD students, entrepreneurs and students who work on ideas related to genomics, in particular the fields mentioned above.
  • Everyone else who may not have a genomics-related venture idea but can contribute to business development, market research or in any other way and work as a part of the team.
  • Those who want to get inspired and learn how to start their venture.

Why attend the Genomics VCW?

It’s a chance to create, test and validate your genomics venture idea or application with industry experts. You can get inspiration from your peers and mentors, learn the basics of building a business and how to collaborate with others in a team environment. Some of you can go ‘founder-dating’, i.e. use the weekend to match up with one or more co-founders for your business. All participants will work together in teams on customer development, business models, pitching practice and building product prototypes (where appropriate). The most popular ideas are pitched to a panel of judges formed of industry leaders and investors who can provide expert feedback and analysis.

At the end of the VCW, you will have developed your entrepreneurial skills, kick-started your venture, enjoyed the buzz of exploring and creating ideas; and potentially be ready to launch your business together with a talented team.

In addition, one or more of the participating teams will be invited for an interview to join our Accelerate Cambridge incubator programme delivered by the CJBS Entrepreneurship Centre. Please note that successful application is dependent on whether the team meets the selection criteria.

Find out more about the content and format of the CJBS Venture Creation Weekends

When is it?

The Genomics VCW starts promptly at 17:00 on Friday 16 November (registrations from 16:30) and ends at 19:00 on Sunday 18 November.

The exact dates and times are: 

  • Fri 16 November 2018, 17:00-18:00 – Keynote speaker (open to everyone)
  • Fri 16 November 2018, 18:00-23:00
  • Sat 17 November 2018, 08:30-23:00
  • Sun 18 November 2018, 08:30-19:00 (followed by a dinner* from 19:00 to close)

* Please note there is a special closing dinner following the final pitches to celebrate the achievements of the weekend.

The venue is Cambridge Judge Business School, Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1AG. 

View our location and directions

The event will kick-start with a keynote talk on ‘The Power of the Genome: How Technology Born in Cambridge Is Changing the World’, delivered by Dr Vincent Smith, Vice President Core Consumable Development at Illumina. The event is free to attend and open to all. Please note that participation in the Venture Creation weekend requires pre-registration and payment.

Register for the free keynote talk

What is the VCW like?

Testimonials from attendees at previous Venture Creation Weekends

The experience was inspiring and provided an insight to an industry I had no knowledge of before. It helped me grow in confidence and create relationships.
Warren Bath, Student at Brunel University, Food Security VCW, Mar 2018
The power of our team enabled our idea to grow.
Alexandre Bidaut, Entrepreneur, Biotech and Healthcare VCW, June 2018
I came here with absolutely no idea, but I landed up pitching and forming a team. I made communication with absolute strangers. Amazing experience and opportunity!
Pranet Patra, MBA Alliance Manchester Business School, Food Security VCW, Mar 2018

Friday 16 November 2018


Registration at Cambridge Judge Business School

Foyer, CJBS


The Power of the Genome: How technology born in Cambridge is changing the world, Dr Vincent Smith, VP Core Consumable Development, Illumina



Buffet Dinner & Networking

Foyer, CJBS


Welcome & introduction, Hanadi Jabado, EC



Welcome from Partners, TBC



Half-Baked session



Pitch your idea



Vote for your favourite ideas



Team building



Teams work on their ideas

Break out rooms

Saturday 17 November 2018


Arrival and refreshments; Sign up for mentoring sessions

Common Room, CJBS


Business Model Canvas presentation, Hanadi Jabado



Teams work on their ideas

Break out spaces


Tea / Coffee break and Sign up for mentoring sessions

Foyer, CJBS


Teams work on their ideas

Break out spaces


Sandwich Lunch

Foyer, CJBS



4th/6th floor pods


Tea / Coffee break

Foyer, CJBS



4th/6th floor pods


Beer and Pizza

Common Room, CJBS


Teams check-in, report progress and call for help

Common Room, CJBS


Teams work on their ideas

Break out spaces

Sunday 18 November 2018


Arrival and breakfast refreshments

Foyer, CJBS


How to pitch your idea, Hanadi Jabado



Teams work on their ideas / prepare for mentoring

Break out spaces



4th/6th floor pods


Tea / Coffee available

Foyer, CJBS



4th/6th floor pods


Sandwich Lunch

Common Room, CJBS


Teams finalise presentations

Break out spaces


Tea / Coffee available

Common room, CJBS


All presentations should be submitted and uploaded on PC



Final Presentations



Break and Judging



Winners announced and Awards presented






Closing Dinner

Royal Cambridge Hotel

Dr Vince Smith (Keynote speaker)

Vice President Core Consumable Development


Dr Vince Smith is Vice President Core Consumable Development at Illumina. Based at Chesterford Research Park near Cambridge, he leads the Global team that develops and commercialises the chemistries and consumables that power Illumina’s market-leading portfolio of Next Generation Sequencing Platforms.

Dr Smith joined Solexa in 2004 and was a key member of the team that reduced Solexa’s powerful Sequencing-by-Synthesis (SBS) technology to practice and commercialised the technology on the Genome Analyzer platform. Since joining Illumina via their acquisition of Solexa in 2007 he has focused on making dramatic improvements in the accuracy, throughput, cost and ease-of-use of Illumina Sequencing. In recent years Vince and his team have made substantial contributions to the development of the HiSeqX, NextSeq, MiniSeq, NovaSeq and iSeq systems, enabling the sub-$1000 human genome and catalysing a huge variety of new clinical applications of genomics in the process. 

He holds an MA from Oxford University and a PhD from Imperial College London, both in biochemistry.

Dr Crystal Ruff

Lead, Strategic Initiatives & Innovation EMEA


Dr Crystal Ruff is a biotechnology expert with focus in the intersection of stem cell & regenerative neuroscience, genomics and artificial intelligence. Currently Lead of Commercial Strategic Initiatives and Innovation in Europe, Middle East & Africa for the leading global genomics company ($50 billion market cap), she has over 15 years’ experience in international clinical, pre-clinical and commercial biotech and healthcare management.

Her work in knowledge translation of regenerative medicine involves several internationally-distributed documents, national news coverage, as well as an engagement with the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy working group. She is a regular speaker, having created a TEDx Talk with nearly 100,000 views, and several keynotes on areas such as advanced therapies, perinatal neuroscience, genomics, artificial intelligence and leadership/motivation.

Dr Adrian Ibrahim

Head of Technology Transfer and Business Development

Wellcome Genome Campus

Adrian joined the Sanger Institute in 2011 to establish the Translation Office. With a background spanning academic research, structured finance and technology protection, development and commercialisation, Adrian was recruited to optimise the ability of Sanger Institute science to provide healthcare benefit.

Adrian’s tenure at Sanger has driven significant expansion and maturation of the Institute’s spin-out portfolio – including companies working in the cancer genomics, rare disease analytics and microbiome therapeutics fields; establishment of the 50 FTE Open Targets programme; execution of licensing deals with major strategic benefits for the exploitation of key Institute assets; and successful establishment of the BioData Innovation Centre to increase Campus engagement with innovative genome and bio-data companies.

Dr Michael Anstey

Investment Director

Cambridge innovation Capital

Dr Michael Anstey is an Investment Director specialising in healthcare investments. Before joining CIC he was a Principal in the Healthcare Practice Area at The Boston Consulting Group’s (BCG) Toronto office. Michael has experience in advising multinational healthcare businesses across North America, Europe, India, and Japan on a broad range of topics, including corporate strategy, sales and marketing, market access, R&D strategy, and M&A. 

Michael was also co-founder and COO of an early stage biotechnology company focused on developing small molecule drugs that target protein-protein interactions implicated in disease.

Prior to BCG, Michael worked in venture capital, where he focused on investing in early stage healthcare and life science businesses.

Michael earned his DPhil in Zoology in the field of neurobiology, jointly supervised by professors at the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford.

Michael sits on the board of Bicycle Therapeutics, Congenica and Storm Therapeutics.

Dr Simon Baker

Director, Product Development


Dr Baker is currently Director of Product Development for Illumina with groups based in Chesterford and San Diego. He has been with Illumina for about 18 months, but before he was director of research for a medium-sized molecular biology tools company.

His career has included academic positions in Groningen, Oxford and London, consultancies with large and small biotech companies and a stint as an expert witness in a pharmaceutical intellectual property (IP) case in the US Supreme Court and the UK High Court.

Dr Louise Fraser

Senior Staff Scientist (Research and Technology Development)


Louise has worked at Illumina since July 2006. Louise is a biochemist with expertise in next-generation sequencing, having worked in R&D at Illumina for over 12 years. Currently Louise leads a team of scientists working on novel and innovative sample preparation methods for a variety of different sequencing applications.

Louise graduated from the University of Warwick in 2000 with a BSc in biochemistry and from Imperial College London in 2005 with a PhD in molecular biology.

Dr Kevin Hall

Senior Director, Core Product Development


Kevin joined Solexa/Illumina in 2004 and is as a Systems Integration core team member for a number of key Illumina sequencing instruments, more recently have acted as an executive sponsor for a number of projects such as Illumina MiniSeq and NextSeq550 sequencers. 

Nature of his work has involved external collaborations with some key customers, more recently collaboration with Stephen Kingsmore at Rady’s Children’s Hospital (San Diego, USA)  led to the demonstration of rapid sequencing in a neonatal intensive care unit environment which was recognised as a Guinness World record but more importantly has shown a way forward for Illumina’s technology to impact the way medicine is practised. 

Recent responsibility has been to start a new function supporting key customers with advanced workflow support and innovation.

Kevin has a DPhil in chemistry from Oxford University and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry

Nate Mayfield

Director of Commercial Operations, Strategy, and Inside Sales


Nate Mayfield is the Director of Commercial Operations, Strategy, and Inside Sales for Illumina business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Nate has been with Illumina for two years where he has helped the EMEA region to develop and deliver upon a multi-year sales growth strategy.

Prior to illumina, Nate spent ten years in the tech industry at Cisco Systems, and had served for five years in the US Military. He has a BS in economics from the United States Military Academy, and an MBA from Columbia University and London Business School.

Dr Oliver Miller

Senior Staff Scientist, Research and Technology Development


Oliver is a Senior Staff Scientist who joined Illumina four years ago. He works in early R&D running projects that examine the technical feasibility of new technologies and builds business cases to transfer them into future products. His team has worked on innovations in both Illumina’s core sequencing technology and upfront library prep. One example is the concept and feasibility work that became the NovaSeq Xp Workflow: an important product for many NovaSeq customers.

Before Illumina, Oliver spent six years as a postdoc and two years at Oxford Gene Technology working at the interface of microfluidics and biochemistry. He has a PhD in biochemical engineering from University College London.

Dr Joanna Mills

Entrepreneurship and Innovation Centre Manager

Wellcome Genome Campus

Dr Joanna Mills joined the Wellcome Genome Campus as Entrepreneurship and Innovation Centre Manager in November 2016 as part of their vision to establish the Genome Campus as a world-leading innovation ecosystem for benomes and bio-data. Jo’s role combines managing the BioData Innovation Centre as a vibrant community and environment for companies innovating in this field with stimulating an entrepreneurial culture on the Campus.

Prior to this Jo spent over 15 years at Cambridge Judge Business School developing entrepreneurship education. She was the founding Programme Director of the Postgraduate Diploma in Entrepreneurship where she worked with almost 200 aspiring entrepreneurs from across the globe.

Jo has a PhD in Biochemical Engineering from University College London (UCL) in collaboration with Unilever Research. Subsequently at UCL, she was also part of the founding team and Business Manager for their MBI Training Programme, a masters-level programme for the bioprocess industry.

Dr Abel Ureta-Vidal

Chief Product Officer & Founder

Eagle Genomics

Abel has over 16 years bioinformatics experience and a scientific background in molecular biology and immunovirology (PhD from the Pasteur Institute, France).

After completing his PhD, Abel joined the effort at Genoscope (Evry, France) in ramping up the human genome project, putting in place the automatic gene annotation system for human chromosome 14. In 2001, Abel moved to the European Bioinformatics Institute (Cambridge, UK) where he led the Ensembl comparative genomics team until 2007.

Shortly before graduating with an MBA at Cambridge Judge Business School in 2008 Abel founded Eagle Genomics. For the last nine years Abel was a driving force within the executive team at Eagle, supporting the strategy and partnership activities as well as setting up a world-class company operation able to adapt to market demand. This has enabled the company to sustain its growth and extend its activities horizontally from the traditional pharma/biotech sector into sectors as diverse as plant breeding, animal health, consumer goods and food safety.

Startup mentors

Dr Gustavo Cerda-Moya

CTO and Founder

Swift Molecular Diagnostics

Gustavo completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge in the field of molecular biology. He then went on to do a successful postdoc also at the University of Cambridge. Using his knowledge of molecular biology, he invented a revolutionary method of detecting DNA. He now works full-time for Swift Molecular Diagnostics.

Swift Molecular Diagnostics have created a novel technology that allows the development of self-contained diagnostic devices for the fast, accurate and low-cost genetic detection that do not require laboratory facilities or trained personnel.

Charlotte Guzzo



After a business degree and a few years in investment banking, Charlotte became fascinated with the field of neuroscience. At the University of Cambridge, she specialised in the genetics of neurodevelopment.

She further pursued a PhD at the Sanger Institute where she researched the embryonic origins of childhood cancer using single-cell technologies. During her PhD, she co-founded Heterogeneous, a data-sharing platform that connects individuals to research institutions. She now works full-time at Heterogeneous as the COO, where she focuses on strategy and business development.

Hanadi Jabado (Facilitator)

Executive Director

The Entrepreneurship Centre, Cambridge Judge Business School

Hanadi is passionate about entrepreneurship and innovation. A serial entrepreneur herself, she has a strong understanding of the needs of early stage ventures and entrepreneurs. Since 2010 she has been an advisor to startups all over the globe in every conceivable sector. 

Hanadi sits on the advisory board of several startups at various stages of development and growth and is a director of [email protected] CIC. Recently, Hanadi’s work to support entrepreneurs earned her recognition as one of the Maserati100 and as an unsung hero in the Smith & Williamson Power 100.

Stephen Parkes (Facilitator)

Business Development

The Entrepreneurship Centre, Cambridge Judge Business School

Stephen works at the Entrepreneurship Centre to develop partnerships and programmes which bring value to the Cambridge and wider start-up ecosystem. He has been involved with the Venture Creation Weekend’s for four years. 

Stephen founded Go Enrol, a company which aims to widen access to education across the world. Since its launch Go Enrol has helped people in 188 countries discover, apply to and enrol on courses. Stephen’s experience spans over a decade working in education and private equity with time spent in the UK, China and other emerging economies in Asia.

Anar Kubekpayeva

Senior Manager, Capital Markets


Anar has been working at PricewaterhouseCoopers London for more than nine years in the Capital Markets and Audit teams. She has recently completed her MBA at Cambridge Judge Business School with concentration in strategy.

Her primary responsibilities include leading financial due diligence on IPO and M&A transactions and advising companies on the preparation for and execution of the UK equity listing transactions.

Anar is an FCCA and has substantial experience in accounting and finance. She has expertise in areas, such as corporate governance, financial reporting and forecasting, internal controls and others.

Sayara Thompson (Organiser)

Programme Manager

The Entrepreneurship Centre, Cambridge Judge Business School

Sayara manages a number of programmes at the Entrepreneurship Centre, such as the Venture Creation Weekend, Ignite and the SME Growth Challenge Programme. She previously worked in Alumni Relations and for the MFin programme at Cambridge Judge Business School. 

With a background in IT and research, she has experience in working for international organisations and in the private sector. She is a great networker and is always keen to help people to connect.