Investor Q&A: Barny Cox

UCLTF Investment manager, Barny Cox tells us what led him to his current role at UCLTF, on secondment from UCL Business.

What inspired you to enter the tech transfer field as opposed to other traditional science routes?

My interest in tech transfer stems from my love of life science, developed through undergraduate, postgraduate and postdoctoral studies in the sector; a curiosity for intellectual property law, first introduced to me through positions at two internationally acclaimed patent firms; as well as a drive to harness innovative scientific discoveries for the benefit of patients and society alike.

What inspired your secondment at UCLTF?

I was inspired to take on the secondment role with UCLTF to build on insights into life science technology development investment. Established in 2016 under the management of AlbionVC (the technology investment arm of Albion Capital) in collaboration with UCL Business, the commercialisation company of UCL, to invest in the commercial realisation of world-class life and physical science technologies created by UCL researchers, UCLTF has a strong partnership with UCLB with over 60 investments into cutting-edge research projects committed to date. Whilst in post at UCLB, I have been fortunate to work in close collaboration with UCLTF investment managers and directors, building cases to support the acquisition of funding from the three tiers of investment offered to support the commercialisation journey from idea to impact.

In your opinion what makes the special partnership between UCLB and UCLTF work?

AlbionVC offers long-term capital and scale-up expertise as an early-stage VC investor, perfectly complementing the extensive expertise provided by UCLB in the exploitation of university-developed IP assets from innovation to impact as the commercialisation company of UCL. The partnership between UCLB and UCLTF is further strengthened by a common vision to maximise health and societal impact from cutting-edge research. This encourages a shared willingness to engage in proven best practice, showing flexibility where necessary in achieving this joint mission.

What do you hope to achieve at UCLTF? Can you reveal anything you’re working on?

The UCLTF/UCLB secondment programme exists primarily to provide mutual insight into AlbionVC/UCLTF – UCLB processes and operations, to enable enhanced understanding with a view to further enrich the partnership between UCLB and AlbionVC. I was fortunate to have been offered the role of secondee, which on a more personal level, provides excellent career development benefits.

During my time with AlbionVC, I hope to gain a comprehensive insight into the full investment arc, constituting a rigorous process which takes into account both the quality of the technology and its commercial potential. This will be achieved by working on a mixture of new UCLTF investments, existing UCLTF portfolio investments, as well as gaining exposure to the wider AlbionVC VCT investment process and sectors.

Despite my time with UCLTF starting only relatively recently, I have already benefitted from exposure to a number of exciting innovative investment prospects, as well as exposure to established UCL spinout Echopoint Medical Ltd, developing optical sensing technology to address unmet medical need in coronary heart disease diagnosis and therapy, which is currently fundraising with a first-in-human clinical study of its proprietary medical technology currently underway.

Are there any areas or sectors that you are really excited by at the moment?

It’s hard to ignore the significant interest currently in the potential of AI and the role that this will play in our future lives. I was fortunate to attend a UCL hosted event recently, where the ethics of AI were explored with Open AI founder Sam Altman – developer of ChatGPT, arguably one of the most advanced AI systems currently in operation. In the life science sector, Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products continue their upward trending trajectory, with the invention of next generation gene and cell therapies. Precision medicine, machine learning enabled drug discovery, as well as new methods of drug delivery are also all trending well when it comes to life science technology investment. 

What’s the best part of working at the intersection of technology transfer and investment?

Working at the intersection between technology transfer and VC investment provides a unique perspective on the key drivers and energy behind life science technology financing. This suitably complements my existing experience in life science IPR prosecution and commercialisation.

And the worst?

Equally, working at this intersection further highlights the importance of fully capturing and capitalising on the fantastic wealth of impactful translatable innovations UCL has to offer.

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