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2023 Hearing Therapeutics Summit

Fireside chat – Dr Simon Chandler and Prof Marcelo Rivolta in conversation with Dr Barbara Domayne-Heyman

Fireside chat – Bridging the gap between academia and industry

Dr Simon Chandler and Prof Marcelo Rivolta (Rinri Therapeutics)
in conversation with Dr Barbara Domayne-Heyman (Autifony/Francis Crick Institute)

What does the journey from lab discovery to biotech start-up look like in the hearing therapeutics space? Rinri Therapeutics’ Founder and Chief Scientific Officer Marcelo Rivolta and Chief Executive Officer Simon Chandler reflect on the entrepreneurial experience and share some thoughts and learnings from their respective scientific and professional journeys.

About Dr Simon Chandler

Chief Executive Officer, Rinri Therapeutics, UK

Simon has been involved with Rinri since its inception, working closely with Rinri’s Founder and responsible for the strategic direction and operation of the company.

Having spent most of his career within blue-chip biotechnology and pharmaceutic companies, Simon has developed deep sector knowledge and experience in the biotech sector. He joined Rinri from IP Group, a specialist deep-tech venture capital fund, where he worked in early-stage investment and venture building, creating companies from world-class science. This exposed him to the life science market across medical diagnostics, devices, synthetic biology, artificial intelligence, novel antimicrobials, and the advanced therapeutics landscape.
Simon believes that through its strong preclinical data, Rinri’s technology is at the forefront of hearing loss therapeutic development with enormous potential to make a real-world impact on patients and healthcare systems. He holds a 1st class BSc (Hons.) in Biology from the University of Leeds and a PhD. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from the University of York.

About Prof Marcelo Rivolta

Professor of Sensory Stem Cell Biology, Sheffield University and Chief Scientific Officer, Rinri Therapeutics, UK

Marcelo Rivolta qualified in Medicine and Surgery at the National University of Cordoba, Argentina and did his fellowship and doctoral work at the NIDCD, NIH in the US. He held postdoctoral positions in the US and UK, and is now Professor of Sensory Stem Cell Biology at the University of Sheffield. There, he leads a research team dedicated to study stem cells and regenerative strategies for the inner ear.

In the late nineties did pioneering work isolating auditory progenitor cells from the mouse cochlea. Later, his lab identified and isolated a population of stem cells from the human foetal cochlea. He also generated one of the first developmentally informed protocols to direct human pluripotent stem cells into auditory cell types. He established the proof of concept that stem cells can be used to functionally repair the damaged cochlea.

To advance the clinical application of this work, in 2018 he founded Rinri Therapeutics. Rinri Therapeutics is a biotech company aiming to develop first-in-class regenerative cell therapies for individuals living with hearing loss. He is currently Rinri’s Chief Scientific Officer.

About Dr Barbara Domayne-Heyman

Chief Business Officer, Autifony Therapeutics Ltd and Entrepreneur-in-residence, Francis Crick Institute, UK

Barbara has worked on the commercial side of life sciences for thirty years, first in a large organisation (ICI/Zeneca/AstraZeneca), before transitioning to the entrepreneurial world of biotech. Barbara is Chief Business Officer of Autifony, where she is responsible for strategic partnering, fundraising and commercial aspects of drug development for CNS disorders – which has included a focus on hearing disorders. 

Barbara also joined the Francis Crick Institute in January 2018 as Entrepreneur-in-residence, where amongst other things, she co-founded, led and now is Chair of the KQ Labs accelerator, which is focused on start-ups from all over the UK who are making use of data/AI applied to health. Barbara was also Chair of Puridify, a UCL spin-out with a breakthrough biotherapeutics purification technology, which was acquired by GE (now Cytiva) in November 2017.

She is a member of the investment committees of the LifeArc Ventures Fund, and the Cambridge Enterprise Seed Fund. Previously, Barbara was CEO of Stabilitech, and she was Commercial Director at Arrow Therapeutics until the company was acquired by AstraZeneca. Barbara was also Senior Business Development Manager at Celltech. Barbara has a BA and D Phil in Chemistry from the University of Oxford, and is a Sloan Fellow from London Business School.

Satellite event of the 58th Inner Ear Biology Meeting