Spotlight on Emma Sceats,
First of all, Emma, what drove you to join Abcam?
I believe we have passed the stage where antibodies and proteins are only used as APIs and innovation in the field is accelerating at an incredible pace. We are just beginning to realize the potential of next-generation therapies including, antibody-drug conjugates, bispecific antibodies, RNA vaccines, combinations of modalities, and even new routes of administration are shaking up current paradigms as they progress into the clinic.
Realizing the potential of all this exciting innovation is not easy and the demand for reagents and tools that can help unlock our understanding of specific aspects of a disease, or assess the impact on a complex pathway, has never been greater. The ability to rapidly serve the ever-increasing demand for biologic reagents that meet stringent specificity and target the widest range of disease areas is vital. I think this is where Abcam’s biggest strength is, its track record of delivering quality reagents and tools, at scale and pace, to its customers and partners.
The pandemic has impacted us all, what new challenges have you seen the life sciences sector now facing?
The pandemic has impacted the whole industry in more ways than we can possibly cover here, but I hope that overall, the balance will turn out to be positive. Historically, the sector has received mixed sentiments from the public, but in the past 18 months, there has been a noticeable increase in positive perception, specifically driven by coverage of rapid successful vaccine development, anti-viral research, as well as antibodies both as potential therapies and enabling diagnostics.
With visibility of vaccines and antibody-based therapies developed, manufactured and rolled out in less than a year, there are public expectations of faster paced access to innovative therapies. This is pushing all stakeholders to (re)consider how they can deliver faster, while meeting the highest levels of compliance and quality.
That’s precisely where the biggest challenge lies, as moving at speed in any area of research can’t be at the expense of scientific robustness. The need to ensure data integrity and experimental reproducibility is a key principle underpinning any scientific advance. On that front, Abcam has been proactive, investing time, resource and expertise in numerous initiatives such as the routine use of knockout validation, developing recombinant antibodies, and sector-wide collaborations – all with a single goal to improve experimental productivity and data reproducibility across the life sciences sector.
How do you think Abcam can better support the sector?
Beyond the ability to get great reagents addressing the hottest targets rapidly into end-users’ hands, from my perspective, what makes Abcam different is its ability to build transformational partnerships.
A prime example is our collaboration with Epic Sciences who developed a novel liquid biopsy profiling technology for prostate cancer. Pulling from a catalog of over 8,000 cancer-focused reagents, we were able to work together and identify highly specific, recombinant antibodies to help accelerate the development of their test.
In our approach to partnering, what really makes a meaningful difference is the broad advisory nature that underpins our relationships. It is our aim to enable access to the right expertise at the right time in the development process that will accelerate the progress of projects/programs through critical milestones to hit value inflection points. Whether it’s enabling biomarker identification, supporting diagnostic development through to commercialization, we facilitate access to an expert ecosystem to support throughout, enabling collaborators to anticipate late-stage requirements and de-risk the progression of their assets.
Learn more about Epic’s approach and impact
After a week in your new role, what has surprised you the most?
My first week was rich in positive experiences, and what surprised me the most was how Abcam has strengthened its resilience in the past two years.
Despite the COVID tsunami that turned the whole industry upside down, in less than two years, Abcam has strengthened its talent pool almost doubling its headcount to just over 1,600 across four continents. During last year, Abcam has actively expanded into new adjacencies, acquiring four companies, and launching hundreds of new products, including over 6000 recombinant antibody products, new premium-grade bioactive proteins, off-the-shelf CRISPR-edited cell lines, inked over 100 deals with >800 clones commercialized by partners. The company has also made important investments to upgrade or supplement digital, manufacturing, research and development capabilities and capacity, setting Abcam up well to deliver near-term and longer-term growth. All of this, in addition to successfully completing a secondary listing on the NASDAQ market!
Also, I have to mention the incredible new colleagues that I am meeting every day. I feel very fortunate to be part of such a brilliant team including scientists, digital specialists, industry experts, business professionals, and many others that I am looking forward to meeting and working with.
What are you most looking forward to achieving in the next 12 months?
I’m excited by the prospects ahead of me, and there is a lot to achieve. Ensuring Abcam is more widely known across the life science sector will be a key focus. With so many products and capabilities recently added to our portfolio, building awareness of all of the new ways in which Abcam can support and accelerate scientific, diagnostic and clinical breakthroughs is really important to me and my team.