Meet the Team – Dr Sam Whitehouse

“I would like to think that if our drug becomes the norm, then we will have saved thousands of lives and made the quality of life for oral cancer patients so much better.”

What’s your name and job title?

Dr Sam Whitehouse, CEO


How long have you been at LightOx?

Pretty much since we got going! The company was registered in 2016, and as a spin out from Durham Uni, it wasn’t until we secured investment in 2017 that we were really able to get moving. It’s been a steady journey since then, and much of the team have been with us all the way. It’s great to be able to say we will take our drug from concept to clinic with the same fantastic people alongside us.


Can you share a bit about your previous experience in the health and life sciences industry?

Wow what can I say? Other than I have been doing this now for a good while! I studied Chemistry at degree and PhD level as well as molecular biology – essentially making small molecules and proteins and seeing how they interact. Then followed a stint in pharmaceutical development for a multinational, a role at a small company making medical devices incorporating some business development and tech transfer, then into diagnostics for another small company that grew very well.

This then led me to the start of the LightOx journey which brings me back to drug development, and also High Force Research which is a drug and chemical manufacturing business.

Essentially, my career has involved a lot of science and business mixed together. Including working with a couple of hundred employees over the years, and a lot of money-making new products and drugs etc for the benefit of patients with many differing conditions. It’s a market that never really shrinks, but it’s also incredibly rewarding and good fun.


What are your particular areas of interest and expertise?

In essence, I like people. I like building teams, growing ideas, and making new things that will have a positive impact on people’s lives.

In order to do that I’ve had to understand a number of key areas including how to raise money and make money. I’ve also had to understand regulatory procedures around how to get new medical products, devices and drugs approved around the world. Throw into that some idea of legal and IP considerations, and I have a fairly good understanding of lots of things, but when details and precision are needed you also have to know when to bring in the right experts too!


What role do you play in the development of LightOx’s new therapies for oral cancer and wound care or in supporting the LightOx business?

I like to think that I can still get involved in the science a little, although I imagine the others in the team would prefer it if I just stayed out of that bit. I enjoy the development, both in the chemistry and biological aspects, and bringing in a clinical view early has always been very important to deliver a product people actually want. Ultimately, my role is to make sure everyone is delivering, and they have the money to do so.


What do you like the most, or find the most interesting about your role?

I would like to see the company develop and achieve its potential. It’s very easy to keep ploughing ahead to the next challenge, but it helps sometimes to take stock and learn from what we have done to date.

The most interesting part of anything I do is watching the team grow, learn and develop new skills, as they are the ones who are ultimately in charge of getting the drug into patients. After that, I like to be able to decide where we go next, where else the drug might be useful, or what other technologies we can develop around the platform. There are always a thousand more ideas than we would be able to investigate, as we don’t have a bottomless money pit, but when I find that, I have lots  of ideas of where I would use it!


What does a typical working day at LightOx look like for you?

Nothing is typical and it’s certainly more of a moving target! I could be in Newcastle, Durham, London, Amsterdam, Singapore or beyond. I like the days when I get to sit at my desk and work, but they are much rarer these days. Everyone needs something from you at different times and finding a balance is never easy, but you must make time for others and yourself as well. I know most days start and finish with walking the dog on the beach, but in between is anyone’s guess. It’s certainly exciting and keeps you on your toes! Or is that paws?

What are your hopes or ambitions for the projects you’re working on? 

This is pretty much always the same wherever I have worked.

I want to see the specific drug or product used on a patient, whether that was a new stent going into a heart, or a diagnostic telling someone what disease they have, or an oral cancer patient using our drug rather than having part of their tongue removed.

Ultimately, I want to see people benefit from our hard work and to change their lives. I would like to think that if our drugs become the norm, then we will have saved thousands of lives and made the quality of life for oral cancer patients so much better. It’s sometimes hard to get up in front of an audience of cancer survivors and tell them what you are developing, as often it is too late for them. But actually, I think it is that room of people who are the most supportive because they want to see treatments that will stop others from suffering.


When you are not at work how do you like to unwind?

Harry the dog would tell you that the walk on the beach and a pint in the local is a great way to unwind. Holidays with the family, DIY at home, or fixing something that doesn’t work are always typically on the list.

But given the opportunity, I like to take the motorbikes somewhere too (minus the dog this time). East Germany, Ireland, Oxford – any excuse really. It’s good to turn up to a conference on a bike too. Not only is it quicker but it makes it feel less of a work trip!


Who are the 4 guests dead or alive you would invite to your dinner party?

This answer could change on a daily basis. My grandad maybe, as he died before I knew him, and I am named after him. Then after that you can just give me friends and family and I’d be more than happy.


Finally, in another life what would have been your dream job?

You know believe it or not, I always wanted to be fireman growing up! Perhaps Fireman Sam really did have a subconscious effect on me!!

Dr Sam Whitehouse  I   CEO

Find out more

LightOx is keen to collaborate with companies and research groups alike in a number of areas and so if you have any enquiries or ideas of how you might use the technology or if you wish to know more  please contact us on our contact page here.

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