Meeting the team: Chris Wilson

The unique drive and energy to working in the US

You learn the best from people with extensive experience in what you want to achieve. So Chris Wilson is the one to learn from if you want to enter the US. We are happy to have him on the HUB team and asked some questions about his view on the healthcare market and the possibilities for Dutch life science companies.

Who are you and what excites you most about working in the healthcare industry?

Chris: “I like to describe myself as a scientist who can read a P&L.  My unique selling point I guess you could say is that I have had a successful scientific career so I can talk credibly to technical driven founders and scientists delving into the content when needed and translate that to financial stakeholders. I have always been driven towards healthcare applications. My first degree is in Medicinal Chemistry; however, I quickly realised that I was more drawn towards the materials and later medical devices side of healthcare. I have been lucky enough to work on a range of projects and products such as artificial cells, regenerative medicine and wound therapy and more recently, medical sensors and wearable health. I work in healthcare primarily because I want to use innovative products and materials to push the focus of diseases from the forefront of peoples lives and allow them to regain the focus on living their lives the way they want to.”

Why did you become a mentor for the HUB, and what do you like most about it?

“The great thing about the healthcare industry and more specifically, the medical device industry is that generally, everyone wants to work together, especially with the view to combine expertise and develop new and innovative products. I think this is something that I have naturally grown up around in my professional career.  I have had many great mentors myself from other entrepreneurs through to CEOs of multibillion-dollar companies, and so apart from being natural, it is something that I love doing. I get my energy from working with driven founders and investors.  I love helping entrepreneurs to translate their value propositions to the next level or to enter new markets. HUB is an organisation which fits with my drive to bring companies together with markets and partners to work together to generate higher value than the sum of the parts.”

“HUB is an organisation which fits with my drive to bring companies together with markets and partners to work together to generate higher value than the sum of the parts.”

What opportunities do you see in the market that currently still lack strong technology and/or a good business case?

“There are just too many to mention to do this justice, but I will give it a go.  The combination of software and hardware in more mainstream digital health and wellness is still in its infancy, and there is a lack of proper business models around medical software is a critical gap in the market. Consumers are used to using free apps, and many in Europe are not in the mindset of paying extra for healthcare. We, as an industry, need to develop innovative business models that can offer services with measurable and quantifiable improvements in peoples quality of life. We need to focus on clinical outcomes in digital health while maintaining the high-quality design language that is present in consumer-focused apps.

In contrast, I believe that the next significant steps in health care will come from the integration of sensors into the body. We need new ways to monitor and make real-time changes to our lifestyle choices that promote healthier living. The ability to offer incentives for making positive changes no matter how iterative would allow us together as a society to reduce the burden on our already overstretched health care systems.”

What can the Dutch life science market learn from the US market? And vice versa?

“We are no longer living and working in a local economy. So it is tough to make a distinction along geographic boundaries companies need to be agile enough to work in different territories simultaneously, and that means being able to adapt to different cultures and ways of working.

The US life science market is vast in comparison to the Dutch market where not only are the potential upsides higher, but the competition can be fierce in different segments.  The reimbursement landscapes differ substantially between the Dutch and US markets and so a thorough understanding of both is essential.

In Europe, we tend to be more modest in presenting our abilities but also in our valuation of ourselves. In contrast, in the US, it is essential to demonstrate why we are the best and to make sure that there is a realistic valuation of our business proposition.”

“in the US, it is essential to demonstrate why we are the best and to make sure that there is a realistic valuation of our business proposition.”

You are coordinating the series of masterclasses for the HUB promising life science companies. Can you tell us a bit more about the aim of the masterclasses?

“The masterclasses are designed not just to give the company the background to move to the US but to allow companies to challenge and refine their value proposition together with a group of experts. There is something in the masterclasses for everyone we assembled an excellent group of mentors and some big companies as well to bring a stellar package that will touch on all parts of the business from the technical and clinical through to the IP and corporate finance.

The masterclasses will take place over a period of six months. We will start with helping the companies define their question why do you want to move to the US (or any other territory) and what do you want to get out of it. We continue to outline what does it mean to do business in the US the assumptions and reality.  We hope that at this stage, the companies that we are mentoring will be able to reflect on the question of why they want to move to the US and start to build their strategy. From there, we will drill down into clinical approach, financing, and partnering to help the participants create a turn-key solution including plan, strategy and pitch for market entry in the US.”

Based on your own experience in the US, what advice do you want to give to Dutch start-ups and emerging companies that want to become successful in the US?

“There is a unique drive and energy to working in the US and its something completely different from Europe.  The ability to move seamlessly between these two different ways of working is critical. I would advise the Dutch start-ups to plan well to go there with energy and hope and to embrace what they find. It is tough to compete in the USA and especially so as a start-up, it requires dedication and sacrifice, but the potential upsides are transformative for a small company.  I would also advise them to go there and be critical look for the people who can help you build a network and immerse yourself in the start-up environment.”

Thank you for your inspiring words Chris! We are exited to host the series of masterclasses to groom promising life science companies to be the next Dutch global success.

Chris Wilson

Career

I started my professional life in the USA as a research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, where I got an appreciation for the does it attitude of working in an Ivy League institution. After several years in the USA, I moved back to the UK into Smith and Nephew global operations. At Smith and Nephew, I got to be involved in a vast range of business-critical projects. I worked as part of the project team on the revolutionary Pico Negative Pressure Wound Therapy Product. 

My wife moved to the Netherlands to take up an academic position at Radboud University in Nijmegen and later as Professor of Systems Chemistry I followed and decided to try my hand the world of start-ups.  I have been lucky to be involved with a range of different start-ups mostly as a director or in a consulting role from bulk materials for surgical medicine, through to specialist wound therapy products, cell growth materials. 

More recently been active at the interface between electronics and materials. As Founder of NovioSense BV, I developed a revolutionary spring shaped device powered only by radiofrequency, i.e. no battery, that fits in the lower eyelid and sends glucose readings through to any NFC enabled smartphone.  NovioSense was my first company as CEO. I took it from its founding with nothing more than a drawing on a piece of paper through three successful clinical trials in competition with Google’s Verily who were in parallel, developing their contact lens-based sensor.  We successfully demonstrated the clinical efficacy of our device in 2018 ahead of Google, and in the same year, they announced that the project was staled. It was at NovioSense that I met Jasper and Cees and where my long relationship with Whale Bay began.