Mina Bekheet - Cofounder of Oxford Biotech

Mina is a 2nd year DPhil (PhD) candidate in the Department of Oncology and co-founder and President of Oxford Biotech (OB), an entrepreneur-led biotech communication and transfer accelerator run by University of Oxford Doctoral Candidates and Postdocs with the aim of “Translating Innovative Ideas into Disruptive Business”.

Q: What is your background?  Why are you doing this?
A: I am a DPhil student at the university of Oxford, got an MSc in Drug Discovery from UCL and an MPharm with a “sizzle” of big pharma industrial experience. We realised that the world’s brightest minds produce world-class research, yet it just collects dust in unread academic journals, and on the other hand, we have an ecosystem and industrial pipelines starving for novel high-impact ideas.  The current methodology is simply expired. OB’s innovation funnel was established to become the solution. Where the upper wide part of the funnel, the so called “OB’s fishing net”, engages scientists and industrial professionals into a set of activities at the interface of business and science, such as networking, education, editorial and consulting. The middle part of the funnel, which is utilising that international pool of ideas and industrial partnerships, is the business plan competitions and intakes, OB BioStars, where lemons are filtered early and gold is fished.

Yet we have realized that this is not enough, we need to provide the entrepreneurs with everything they need to translate their ideas from conception until completion.

And that is giving rise to the narrow, down the stream, bottom part of the funnel, OB’s Innovation Centres and seed funds, where entrepreneurs are provided with the lab and office space they need, together with the seed funding they need to run their first killer experiments, the complete tool kit, while the industry and investors get access to a pre-qualified curated deal flow!

Q: What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
A: For me, entrepreneurship is Darwinian Innovation accompanied by Resilient Execution. Entrepreneurs tend to change the way we conceive our environments, having a sense of direction of how our lives can be improved, even when the wave is high. This, in my opinion, is even more influential upon our lives from the biotech and life science perspective.

Q: What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
A:  I have not decided to become an entrepreneur, it is something that I always wanted and I just found myself becoming one! I love science, but I simply prefer taking it out to the real world.

I then realized that this is the way to potentially achieve our dreams, starting by investigating disciplines through which pioneering new companies can provide extraordinary returns, new technologies that can solve universal problems and renovating global markets in health and life sciences. Sets of opportunities that are intact are created thereafter. We then work together to pinpoint breakthrough technologies in these intersections. The result is high-impact start-ups that are of unprecedented quality.

Q: So what would you say are the top skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
A: Price of success is hard work, dedication to the job, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand. I’m convinced that what really makes successful entrepreneurs is pure persistence and hunger for success

Q: What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
A:  Stories. Watching innovation stories all the way from conception until completion, and the process through which the human individuals develop their thoughts, understanding and expertise.

Q: What individual, company or organization inspires you most?
A: Not anyone in particular, quite a few actually.

Q: If you could have 5 minutes with the above indiv/company/org, what would you want to ask or discuss?
A: Probably something personal, I do not believe that there is a particular formula for success that I can simply ask for, and most role models will probably have all the business-related strategies published already somewhere. So I would rather get to know them personally.

Q: What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
A: This has not arrived yet

However, a great achievement was putting OB’s current central team together. Our real strength lies in our team, proud entrepreneurs ourselves, with real hands-on-experience and multi-disciplinary exposure. We are currently running a central team of 16 PhD students and young postdocs, overseeing the projects run by smaller divisional teams all around the UK, and later on this year in different parts around the globe. Putting the team together has been challenging, as our research places significant demands on our time, which has necessitated a very professional approach to the work from all of us.

Q: What would you say have been some of your mistakes as an entrepreneur?
A:   My biggest mistake is that I didn’t start OB earlier.

So I advise, try or you’ll regret it. Start as soon as you have an idea, and even if it doesn’t work out, you will have learnt something. The critical element is standing up and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow, not today, but now. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.  In real life, no one has a hassle-free path to success. Failure is part of that path. And those who fail the most seem to experience the most simply because they attempted the most. If we are not failing, we are not trying.

Q: What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire?  Bad?
A:  Working with some of the best “aspiring dreamers” as well as the University of Oxford top research brand. Terrible traffic driving several mega investments away, lack of co-ordination between different parties, it simply takes us forever sometimes to figure out whom is responsible for what. Also the lack of funding and the lack of communication between funders and entrepreneurs.

Q: If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for information or resources in Oxfordshire, where would you send them?
A:  Since part of what we are doing is promoting communication ourselves and providing variable resources, I will encourage people to come and talk to us if they are into biotech/pharma field. That is of course in addition to the great other resources, Oxford Entrepreneurs, Venturefest, OBN and many more.

Q: Any last words of advice?
A: The real challenge remains; what opportunities will we go after, how and why? We know ourselves; we know that the risk is not the actual reward. The rewards are changing people’s lives, creating jobs, driving innovations, and making a better world. Our generation is the technology generation; we are here to do this.


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