Executive Management

Dr Arron Tolley

Chief Executive Officer

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Arron holds a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Biophysics from the University of Leeds and has a B.Sc. in Molecular Medicine. Arron has several years’ experience raising aptamers against complex cellular targets and model disease systems. He has developed several aptamer panels against model cell lines associated with oesophageal adenocarcinoma. These have shown promise for use as cell imaging reagents, biomarker discovery tools and as novel therapeutics. Arron still plays an active role in the R&D side of the group and is credited with the invention and development of a new aptamer based biomarker discovery platform (Aptasort) to be offered to the life sciences industry through the aptamer group.

Dr David Bunka

Chief Technical Officer

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David holds a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and has spent nearly 20 years developing nucleic acid aptamers against a wide variety of targets including: small molecules (antibiotics, food contaminants, chemotherapeutics), disease associated proteins, several cancer associated cell-lines, viruses and tissue biopsies. This has been facilitated through the use of high throughput automated aptamer selection methods.

David has built up a solid international reputation in the field and has authored several peer reviewed research articles, invited review articles and a book chapter on aptamer based therapeutics. He has also given many guest seminars covering aptamer-based applications, at top universities and international conferences.

Derek Smith

Director of Global Sales

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Derek joins us with 20 years Sales, Marketing & Management experience in the diagnostic and medical devices sector, working collaboratively with the NHS. With a degree in Medical Laboratory Sciences gained at the University of Leeds, Derek brings the necessary experience to take the sales function forward.
“I’m delighted to be joining Aptamer Group at this exciting time and look forward to seeing it grow in to the company I know it can be.”

Lisa Thurston

US Business Development and Marketing Director

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Lisa has Masters degrees in both Biology and Business Administration to best support evolving biotechnology research and business needs.  Most recently Lisa has supported new emerging product and services companies in a variety of operational areas including outsource management, histology services, antibody reagents and biosensor instrumentation.  Prior to that she was responsible for global strategic and business development and services offerings initiatives for a USA based services company. She brings extensive experience in account management, business collaborations and successfully nurturing embryonic businesses from early stage inception. She successfully focused on market development, strategic planning and operations to facilitate substantial growth of the business.

Peter Cousins

Technical Director of ADL

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Peter’s role is to grow the Aptamer Diagnostics business – by identifying new market opportunities for aptamer-based diagnostic products across the clinical, veterinary and agri-food sectors, and once identified, look to develop new products to exploit these opportunities,  either  ourselves  here in York or working with collaborators and channel partners already active in these markets worldwide.

Peter has a strong background technical and commercial background, with over 25 years in the life science laboratory industry, including senior positions with diagnostics start-ups, based in York.

“I am very excited to be joining the company at this point in its history. Everything is in place for rapid growth, and I’m looking forward to using my insight in this sector to identify opportunities where aptamer-based products can solve customer problems better than existing solutions”.

Peter has a BSc in Applied Biology from Cardiff University in 1987 and an MSc in Biotechnology from Teesside University in 1993, and an MBA from Bradford University in 2008.

Non-Executive Management

Professor Paul Townsend

Non-Executive Director

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Paul is a HEFCE funded group leader and Full Professor in Institute of Cancer Sciences at the University of Manchester. He is also Associate Dean of Business Engagement in the Faculty of Medical & Human Sciences. Previously Paul held the position of Chair of Molecular Cell Biology at the University of Southampton, where he was also Associate Director of Enterprise & Innovation for the Faculty of Medicine and Deputy Director of Cancer Sciences within the Cancer Research UK Clinical Centre and Lymphoma and Leukaemia Research Centre of Excellence. Paul has spent time on the board of several start-up companies and held a position of Business Fellow with the London Technology Network. Paul co-founded Karus Therapeutics in July 2005, a biotechnology spinout company. Karus recently relocated to Milton Science Park, Oxford following significant Series B fund raising. Paul relocated to Manchester 2013 and is highly active in research, generating >£3.5million in research income and maintaining a strong track record of recent publications. The reputation of Paul’s research is reflected in continued invitations to present in the UK and international conferences. Paul helps coordinate and chair the “apoptosis” session at the American Heart Association annual conference.

Steve Hull

Non-Executive Director

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Steve is a highly experienced Investor and Non-Exec Director and has enjoyed great prior success in the Information Technology sector. From humble beginnings, having started up Online Computer Services in 1981 writing software in his back bedroom, Steve built up the business to become a major business solutions provider to the Drinks and Logistics sector employing over 120 people. Online was acquired by Alphameric Plc in 2000 where Steve sat on the Operational board until 2003.Steve subsequently bought Sawfish Software Ltd from Receivership. He brought focus to the business and provided expert software for the Debt industry early 2004. The business was successfully grown to a point where it was acquired by TDX Group in October 2011. Steve brings a wealth of business and commercial experience.

Andrew Skinn

Non-Executive Director

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Andrew has 30 years of experience in the medical device industry during which time he has set up joint manufacturing ventures in India and is currently engaged in setting up a manufacturing venture in China. He has also set up distribution to ‘globalise’ his innovations in 36 countries and has particularly strong knowledge of the Asian markets. Andrew has exited from 3 businesses he set up and also worked for 5 years with Biotrace PLC as Business development advisor to the CEO during which time the share price rose from 26p (2001) to 130p on exit to 3M 5 years later. Andrew still consults for the US business (Baker Inc) who acquired his cell biology business and currently has a diverse range of interests. Andrew is an experienced Entrepreneur with a track record of pioneering innovations which include the innovation of the world’s first instant hygiene test now used extensively in food safety applications around the world – technology now in the hands of 3M following a series of acquisitions, innovation of precision low oxygen tissue culture systems for cell biology and regenerative medicine, innovation of an integrated ‘Womb’ environment used in IVF to improve clinical pregnancy rate, the development of a range of jewellery that features integrated technology and the set up an operation of Yorkshire most awarded ‘Boutique holiday resort’ (Faweather Grange).

Paul Armstrong

Non-Executive Director

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Paul is a dynamic and creative General Manager with over 30 years’ international & senior level commercial experience within the Global Life Science Sector. His career has given him experience in undertaking both strategic and more hands-on operational roles across both service and product-based companies.

In his most recent role Paul led the European Commercial team for Abcam plc in Cambridge, working in both the Academic & Pharma/Biotech sectors.

A successful strategist, negotiator and mentor, whose flexible and imaginative approach to people, problems and situations, and whose firm commitment to understanding and anticipating customer needs, has culminated in an impressive track record of developing key stakeholder relationships and delivering sales growth across a variety of companies.

Paul’s career has included significant periods at a variety of familiar organisations in the global life science business; Life Technologies, Serologicals, Millipore, BioReliance and Sigma Aldrich, and gained significant expertise in change management as those companies transitioned through a variety of acquisitions and mergers.

Paul currently runs a local business Home Instead Senior Care, in Renfrewshire, Scotland.

Frans van Dalen

Non-Executive Director

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Frans’ experience spans 30 years in the (bio)pharmaceutical field. Held staff / management positions in Strategic Program Development, QA / QP, Project Management, R & D and RA. Was since 1992, for more than 25 years one of the partners that build the Synthon Holding; a group of companies (1,500 FTEs) involved in the R & D, Regulatory Affairs, manufacturing and commercialization of generic medicines, biosimilars and New Biological Entities (NBEs).

Paul Lelieveld

Non-Executive Director

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Paul’s experience spans more than 25 years in BD, strategy development, management of technology and investments companies; Paul has successfully led investment rounds in several companies, and invested a.o. for Wageningen Business Generator and the Family investment office Multifund.

Business and Operations

Eleanor Courtman-Stock

Financial Controller

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Eleanor qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 2001 after graduating in Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. After working as an Audit Manager in Deloitte, Eleanor took a career break to raise her family before becoming Financial Controller for an executive search and selection company. She joined Aptamer Group in April 2018 and is responsible for the day to day financial management of the Group including reporting to the Board on matters of financial performance and control.

Katie Lockwood

Katie Lockwood

Operations Manager

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Katie has a B.A. (Hons) in Business Management from Leeds Metropolitan University. Since completing her degree Katie has gained experience in various Operations, Sales and Marketing roles. Katie joined Aptamer Group in 2014 as Business Administrator and is now running the operations department as Operations Manager.  A key project Katie has worked on is helping secure Aptamer Groups series A funding round alongside Dr Arron Tolley (CEO). Katie has a wealth of experience in company administration and is focused on the smooth running of the companies.

Sales and Marketing Executive

Joel Sutcliffe

Business Development Executive

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Joel holds a B.Sc. (Hons) in Biochemistry from Sheffield Hallam University during which he did a one year work placement at a top medical diagnostics company in Germany. Whilst on placement he worked to develop a microarray test kit for STIs.

Since finishing his degree Joel has worked in a number of roles to develop his communication and customer engagement skills. At Aptamer Group he is responsible for ensuring that customer communications are relevant and timely, particularly responses to new project enquiries.

Chris Taylor

Business Development Executive

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Chris graduated from the University of York with a degree in Biology. Since finishing university, Chris has gained experienced as a sales professional across a variety of industries. Chris is also a lover of basketball and the gym.

Recently Chris has been working for a recruitment company with a focus in the life science sector where he built a good understanding of companies and their needs. At Aptamer Group he is responsible for working with customers and developing new business.

Scientific Team

Senior Research Scientist, Small Molecule Specialist

Dr Christine Reinemann

Head of Research and Development

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Christine holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Leipzig, Germany and is a trained Biotechnology Engineer with an additional degree in Environmental Sciences. Before she joined Aptamer Group in 2016 she was working at several universities and research centres in Germany. Christine offers more than 16 years’ experience in aptamer research with focus on selection, characterisation and application of aptamers. Her special areas of expertise are different SELEX methods including selection strategies for small molecules, proteins, and whole cell targets. She was involved in the development of several patented aptamers and aptamer selection methods. Christine has also substantial knowledge in designing and performing experiments for effective aptamer characterisation and in application-oriented development of aptamer-based sensors and assays. She is author of a number of aptamer papers in peer reviewed journals, as well of two book chapters.  During her professional career, Christine was frequently lecturing, supervising, training and mentoring BSc, MSc and PhD students, technical and research staff.

Stefan Sipika

Laboratory Production Manager

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Stefan holds a B.Sc. (Hons) in Biology from the University of York. Prior to joining Aptamer group, he worked for a leading multinational CRO, specialising in GMP Protein Chemistry with a focus on ELISA and SPR validation and metrology.  He has worked on a variety of products, covering pre-clinical to market release testing for multiple high profile clients around the world.

Stefan has previously been automating our laboratory processes. He will be driving and improving our production capabilities, ensuring that results are delivered on time and to a high quality. Stefan will also be developing, implementing and managing our processes and systems, with a view of continuing our development as a key player in worldwide aptamer production.

Edward Barnes

Cell Scientist

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Edward has a B.Sc. (Hons) in Biochemistry from the University of Leeds; in his final year Edward undertook an aptamer based project under the guidance of Dr David Bunka allowing him to refine his essential selection skills. To further his studies he completed a M.Sc. in Bioscience Technology (with Merit) at the University of York. After finishing his masters in 2013, Edward joined the Aptamer Group as a research scientist developing techniques within the company, as well as working on several collaborations with various companies. Edward has recently completed his experimental work on his PhD, with a view to submitting early 2018.

With the completion the practical work from his PhD, Edward has been promoted to Laboratory Manager. In this new role he will be responsible for the supply and maintenance of laboratory stocks and equipment, managing the lab team and working with the team to ensure that the day to day work progresses smoothly through the lab.

Dr Shradda Joshi

Senior Research and Development Scientist

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Shraddha is a highly experienced scientist with a Ph.D. and B.Sc. (Hons) in Biomedical Sciences with extensive experience in cancer biology. Shraddha’s post-doctoral work involved the use of aptamers in fluorescent reporter assays for neurological cancer cell line screening including flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry (FFPE).

Kasia Bialas

Selection Scientist

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Kasia holds an M.Sc. in Biotechnology with plant speciality from the Poznan University of Life Sciences. Her master’s thesis involved plant genetic engineering to boost their potential in production of second-generation biofuels. After finishing her masters in 2016, Kasia completed an internship at the Institute of Genetic Medicine, Newcastle upon Tyne. Her project involved aiming to achieve a better understanding of the genetic background of the most common cause of blindness – Retinitis pigmentosa. Kasia has developed various skills throughout her career, with her main expertise in Molecular Biology.

Since joining Aptamer Group, Kasia has gained much experience developing aptamers to small molecule targets. She is now working with our team to select aptamers against small molecule targets.

Dr Mateja Vidic

Selection Scientist

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Mateja holds a B.Sc. in Biology and M.Sc. in Molecular Biology. She recently completed her Ph.D. in cancer biology with a focus on the development of aptamers specific for lung cancer cells. Throughout her scientific career she has developed many skills, but amongst all of them she is mostly interested in bioinformatics.

Mateja joined Aptamer Group in August 2017 as an aptamer Selection Scientist. She is working with our team to assist with aptamer selection against small molecule targets.

Kenny Ogunyinka

Selection Technician

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Kenny holds a BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry from Nottingham Trent University. She went on to complete her MSc in Molecular Genetics and Diagnosis at the University of Nottingham. Kenny’s master’s thesis involved developing an NGS screening panel for Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia to expand the genetic testing of Nottingham University Hospital.

After university Kenny worked with the Imaging (R&D) team at Abcam as a Lab Technician. Her focus was validating antibodies through Immunohistochemistry, Immunofluorescence, and Flow Cytometry.

Kenny has joined Aptamer Group as a Selection Technician with a focus on aptamer selection against proteins and other targets.

Harriet Flynn

Selection Technician

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Harriet holds a BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Sciences from Durham University. During her studies she focused on microbiology – specifically in relation to disease. After completing her degree, Harriet continued her studies at Maastricht University, the Netherlands, studying for her Masters in Epidemiology. Harriet is completing her thesis whilst working at Aptamer Group.

Harriet joined Aptamer Group in November 2017 as Laboratory Technician. She has recently been promoted to Selection Technician to help support the management team. Her main role is to ensure that the lab is prepared for each day and support with selections when needed.

Bethany Young

Laboratory Technician

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Bethany holds a BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Science from the University of Chester. Throughout her studies, Bethany enjoyed the practical aspects of molecular biology and clinical immunology, and completed a systematic review on cholesterol metabolism for her dissertation.

Bethany joined Aptamer Group in July 2018 as Laboratory Technician. Her main role is to ensure that the lab is prepared for each day and support with selections when needed.

Advisory Board

Andrea Cropley

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Andrea has over 20 years’ corporate and commercial experience; most of which was gained in major City law firms in London. In recent years she has worked in both the Sheffield City Region and London. Andrea has extensive experience of Merger & Acquisitions; venture capital and private equity transactions; complex restructurings and capital reorganisations, joint ventures and strategic alliances for both public and private UK and international companies. She also has experience of commercial contracts including cross border supply chain arrangements, collaboration contracts, procurement, distribution, agency and licensing arrangements. Clients range from banks, large international corporate organisations to private companies and entrepreneurs.

Charlotte Watkins

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Charlotte has practiced in the field of Intellectual Property since 2001 working primarily in the Life Sciences sector. She has extensive professional experience in a variety of technical areas including the fields of bio-therapeutics, in vitro diagnostic products, gene sequencing, medical devices and wound therapy products. Charlotte has previously worked for clients including universities, both in the UK and US, spin-out companies, SMEs, direct US biotechnology companies, blue-chip pharmaceutical companies and global leaders in the medical devices field. Prior to starting her career as a patent attorney, Charlotte studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge University, specialising in Pathology (Immunology and Microbial and Parasitic Diseases). Other subjects she studied during her time at Cambridge include virology, neuroscience, animal physiology and cell biology. Charlotte was a partner in a large firm of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys in the UK before establishing Secerna LLP in May 2011.