Dr. Satu Vainikka is the CEO and one of the founders of ValiRx Plc, which was listed on AIM in 2006. She is a PhD molecular biologist with an MBA and extensive first-hand experience of developing and advancing life science technologies towards their respective markets. She also has considerable experience of equity financing and business management.
ValiRx is a biotechnology oncology therapeutics-focused company, which is in clinical trials with three classes of anti-cancer drugs in development. These are peptides, gene silencing molecules and small chemical entities, which all have the potential for meeting challenges hitherto unmet existing drugs. The ValiRx approach is to harness precision medicine so as to deliver for patients more effective and well tolerated drugs. The Company’s drugs have worldwide patent grants and filings with commercial rights and they originate or derive from world-class institutions, such as Cancer Research UK and Imperial College.
Dr. Vainikka spoke with us at CEO Today about how her past experiences shaped her knowledge and career into what it is today, as well as an in-depth look into how technology aids in the fight against cancer and her hopes for the future.
What is a typical day of work for you?
There is no such thing as a typical day. I am very fortunate that my work is extremely variable and of course rewarding. Work may often encompass scientific meetings, investor updates and speaking with the press, all within the same day.
How has your past career aided you in your current role?
As a PhD scientist and gaining both a post-doctoral fellowship and an MBA, I believe I am well-qualified for my current role. My past career therefore offers me an in-depth understanding of science, an ability to structure and strategise on projects, alongside a good understanding of the financial marketplace.
What are the main challenges you face when developing life science technology into commercial enterprises?
The main challenges concern finance, the securing of IP and the changing face of the pharmaceutical industry.
How have recent technological advancements helped ValiRx in its work and in the treatment of cancer?
Worldwide, cancer is the second leading cause of death after heart disease. New technologies and tools have revolutionised our understanding of cancer and have allowed companies, such as ValiRx to develop increasingly more specific and targeted approaches to the disease. From a technical point of view, it is reasonable to expect science to be able to one day turn most cancers into either curable or manageable diseases. Recent developments, exemplified by the Human Genome database, have hugely accelerated the development of novel, effective and more precise treatments.
Indeed, whilst established cancer treatments such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are still improving, the great excitement in the cancer arena today and for the future lies in the development of novel and targeted therapies, otherwise known as “Precision Medicine”. This targeted, personalised medicine includes early stage diagnosis of every specific cancer, tailor-made therapeutic intervention and the careful monitoring of progress. With the development of target-based agents primed to attack only identified cancer cells, higher response rates for treatments, as well as less toxic and more effective outcomes, are now and will increasingly become possible. New drugs in this group—such as those in ValiRx’s pipeline—promise to greatly improve outcomes for cancer patients.
Caught early and with the right therapeutic and technological approaches, several cancers will become highly treatable.
Are there any other factors you hope will advance in the biotechnology sector in the future?
I look forward to further technological advances that, together with biotechnological sector innovation, will conquer a number of diseases. I would also be delighted to see increased dialogue between industry and government/NHS in the delivery of effective precision treatments to the marketplace.