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 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.”

Peter Cousins

Technical Director of Diagnostic Applications

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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.

Eleanor Courtman-Stock

Chief Finance Officer

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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

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.

Non-Executive Management

Professor Paul Townsend

Non-Executive Director

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Paul is a HEFCE funded group leader and Full Professor in Division of Cancer Sciences at the University of Manchester. He is also Associate Dean of Business Engagement and Innovation in the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health. He also leads Industry and Innovation for the Manchester BRC and is Industry lead for the Manchester Academic Health Sciences Centre. 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 Harwell 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.

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).

Josefin-Beate Holz

Non-Executive Director

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Josi received her training in medical oncology from the University of Marburg (Germany) and has over 20 years’ experience in pharmaceutical drug development in Europe and in North America. Josi held executive managerial positions in international Biotech companies (Ablynx NV, GPC-Biotech, U3 Pharma) and Pharma organisations (Gilead Sciences, Bristol-Myers Squibb, OSI Pharmaceuticals, LEO Pharma). Josi’s portfolio experience covers more than 50 disease targets in oncology, immunology, inflammation, infectious diseases, haematology, bone disorders and dermatology in various stages of clinical validation. Management of cross-company collaborative ventures, including partnerships with major Pharma enterprises in Europe and North America and direct involvement in corporate financing initiative were part of her executive management functions.

Since 2015 Josi is an independent clinical advisor and member of leading international regulatory and drug development networks. Her strategic focus is the clinically-driven stage-gate planning for biopharmaceutical companies, resulting in the successful transition of lead candidates into clinical development and product registration.

Josi serves as medical advisor for the European Commission and is member of various medical associations such as ASCO, ESMO and SITC. She has published various articles, patents, gives invited talks and conference presentations on aspects of integrated drug development and translational research of biological medicinal products.


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.