A year on from the governments of the world restricting our movements and we reflect on the way we have adapted and achieved new goals through the eyes of those in the company.
Dr Sam Whitehouse
Last year was challenging. There is no denying that. Growing a business is never easy, but doing this whilst investors cannot meet you, customers cannot feel your products, and partnerships are forged through screen time has proven to be a challenge. One in which LightOx has proven to be successful at. Our team have provided some insight into how we have adapted, changed our working practices, and become more virtual, but keep a togetherness that has allowed us to grow through these challenging times.
This has proven to be a wonderful year for LightOx, we have grown our staff numbers with Eva Dias and Cole Sim coming on-board and seen some splendid work by our team catapult us towards clinic and beyond. I will take a few lines to highlight some of these achievements.
LightOx has managed to secure further investment, both from existing investors here in the UK and in the Netherlands and some fresh faces have joined over the course of the last year. 2021 will see the addition of further investors we have lined up to come on board with our Series A round that will help us push our lead candidate LXD191 into the clinic.
We have been working very closely with our clinical team in Liverpool, UK, to design our trial and help complete our pre-clinical work. This input has been invaluable in understanding how our Oral Cancer drug will be used in the real world and how to initiate our clinical trial programme in a timely manner.
LightOx has also successfully worked remotely with our international partners and have manufactured some of our research products through partners in Singapore and started selling these through our distribution partner Millipore Sigma in the USA.
We have done some great research with our partners too, kicking off new PhDs in the North East, sending compounds to partners companies around the world and launching project Apollo with the Radbound team.
Overall it’s been a successful year since our Prime Minister told us all to stay at home, but LightOx has been thriving in these challenging times. Below are some of the team’s thoughts of how they have had to adapt over the past year.
Business Development Manager
I can’t believe it’s been 365 days since we went into lockdown. I specifically remember thinking that it would be a relatively short period of time and that 2 pairs of new PJ’s and a some nice chocolates from hotel chocolate might get me though… how wrong I was!
I have been so grateful to work for LightOx during this pandemic, being surrounded by an amazing management team who have reassured us throughout the pandemic in an honest and realistic way and the entire team who have been true friends throughout this, transferring positive energy to each other when needed and some days it really was! These situations really do bring out the best in people and I feel so lucky to have been so well supported by my colleagues throughout this time.
We are coming out the other side now! During the pandemic we have secured investment, started animal studies, wrote and won grants, walked MILES, drank multiple pints of tea (and beer!) spent more time with family than we thought possible, adapted to change and are pushing our way into the clinic.
We achieved so much during the last year without leaving the comfort of our homes, zoom calls have become the norm and who knew we would be “enjoying” virtual conferences and events! Our industry has adapted so well to these changes to ensure that the world hasn’t stopped turning, to ensure that scientific research can go on and new treatments can continue to be developed. It will be interesting to see which aspects of this adaptation will remain in place.
The next few years will continue to bring challenges as repercussions from the pandemic, not to mention the number of cancer cases that will have already gone undiagnosed during this time, but we will be here, continuing to work towards a treatment for early-stage oral cancers, and beyond that into various other Squamous Cell Carcinomas, as let’s face it we are going to need these treatments now more than ever!
Lockdown has presented many challenges to lab-based research. Initially, a change of approach was required, with experimental research shifting to theoretical, with the use of modelling in computing language whilst safe lab protocols were drawn up. One of my projects is a collaboration with the Proteus Project, based at the university of Edinburgh, to use their novel imaging system for PDT research and to develop a potential diagnostic and therapeutic treatment for head and neck cancer.
With restrictions on travel, in-person research has not been possible, and therefore samples have had to be shipped North for imaging, with data sent back down for analysis. While it has slowed progress, I’m very grateful that my collaborators have sort solutions to the problems imposed by lockdown to allow my project to progress.
Research Chemist (who joined LightOx this time last year!)
Starting my new job at LightOx has been wonderful, I am pleased to work alongside some amazing people that keep me motivated throughout difficult times.
It’s been a learning experience adjusting to life in a pandemic, but every problem has a solution, and we just need to look for it
In the last year, lockdown meant that I couldn’t be in the lab in the normal way so instead I was able to learn more about our quality and health and safety procedures and to work with others in the team to put new systems in place which work in line with our QMS.
Since returning to the lab, it’s been rewarding to merge research with the things I’ve learned over lockdown. We’re like a hardworking, well-oiled machine.