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Many congratulations to Dr Mira Kassouf, a researcher in the Higgs group, recognised for her efforts to break silos in life sciences with entrepreneurship.

NoneReleased today by BioBeat, the sixth annual 50 Movers and Shakers in BioBusiness report highlights the trailblazers and trendsetters shaping the future of the UK life sciences sector.

Dr Mira Kassouf is a researcher at the MRC Molecular Haematology Unit. Her research interests lie in gene regulation and her current work unravels how some non-coding sequences of DNA act as “on/off switches” for genes in different biological contexts. Mira also has a keen interest in the interface between academia and industry. “In our academic community, we don’t lack creativity, ability, or character to innovate and be entrepreneurial.” said Mira “We only need a nudge in the right direction; a starter business toolkit and integration within a nurturing entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Mira co-founded Innovation Forum Oxford (IFO) in 2016, acting on her belief in the research scientists’ untapped potential as innovative entrepreneurs. Acknowledging the shared skills and mindsets between researchers and entrepreneurs, she focused on her peers, early career health and life sciences researchers to help them engage with the entrepreneurship scene. With IFO, she created knowledge exchange platforms that not only inspired and educated but also connected entrepreneurially-inclined researchers with like-minded peers and enablers. Under her leadership, the IMAGINE IF! Oxford, the IFO pre-accelerator, has mentored more than 24 start-ups, propelling their venture to the next level. IFO continues to bring to the Oxford innovation ecosystem experiential workshops (A.C.E Saturdays 2018, 2019) where academic and clinical researchers interact with industry specialists, healthcare providers, business experts, investors and innovation educators and influencers to acquire entrepreneurial skills whilst developing communication, relationship-building, and negotiation skills. Mira was keen to point out that the award highlighted the contribution of all of those that make IFO possible “I consider this recognition a testament to my team’s collective dedication to our mission and a nod to the entire supportive Oxford ecosystem”. This is apparent through multiple awards and collaborations Mira secured with the University of Oxford, The Medical Sciences Division, the MRC Proximity to Discocery and Industry Engagement Fund. The Oxford Careers Service and the BioEscalator partnered with IFO on multiple projects, and there is also a continued collaboration with the Entrepreneurship Centre at the Saïd Business School.

Mira’s contribution to the innovation ecosystem has recently expanded beyond Oxford, as she supported the launch of Innovation Forum Euskadi. In the MENA region, Mira was invited to the 7th Arab Innovation Network Annual Conference (AINAC, Morocco 2018) and to the Gulf region (Riyadh, March 2019) to share her experiences on the interface of life sciences and innovation.

BioBeat founder Miranda Weston-Smith said, “It’s a privilege to connect with these incredible leaders, discovering their work and hearing their thoughts on the direction of the industry. Their insights guide our thinking on the opportunities and challenges facing the UK life sciences sector, revealing how to harness the brightest and best ideas to make a difference for patients. These women are the ones to watch!”