The Disruptors: Leaf Expression Systems uses plants to speed up drug discovery

Using a new technology to add gene sequences to leaf proteins, Leaf Expressions is speeding up the manufacture of therapeutic drugs. For the latest installment in The Disruptors video series, chief executive Simon Saxby explains how the Norwich start-up is changing practice.

How did you use the invention and innovation to disrupt the market?

Conventional methods for producing biologic drugs and vaccines rely use large scale bioreactors, requiring expensive infrastructure and reagents. The process can take many months to establish, so that the cells are stable and consistent.

What has been the moment you are most proud of so far in your business’s development?

We have only been commercialising the technology through contract services for just over a year, so we were very pleased and proud when we met our first year’s contract services revenue target and signed our first contract with a global company working in the healthcare industry. We were also proud to be a runner up in the South Norfolk Business Awards in the ‘Excellence in Life Sciences’ category earlier this year.

If you were starting from the beginning again, what would you do differently?

I would have started the business development activities much earlier than we did by recruiting an experienced business development professional, and invested in the sales and marketing activities earlier in preparation for the launch of the business and the facility.

What’s your advice to someone launching a disruptive start-up?

Make sure you know the market – and your competitors well, and be able to succinctly capture what the USPs of your business.

What are your future plans?

To grow the business through investing in larger scale and regulatory compliant facilities so that we can produce both clinical and commercial scale quantities for our customers. In the longer term we may produce our own therapeutic and diagnostic products that will yield long term revenues for the business.