Young Innovators Success Stories: Cian Duggan, Resurrect Bio Ltd, London
How a plant scientist is tackling global food insecurity
Plant scientist Dr Cian Duggan co-founded biotech company Resurrect Bio to address the growing global issue of food insecurity.
The company aims to engineer crops to emulate their wild counterparts in defending themselves from disease. This should reduce yield losses and the need for chemical pesticides.
Before winning the Young Innovators Award, Resurrect Bio was still in the idea stage. A year on, Cian is working on the business full time and is on the cusp of closing his first major investment round of more than £1.5 million.
“Winning the Young Innovators Award really catalysed the creation of our business. As soon as I heard I won, I switched to part time in my job and was able to leverage the Award success to secure pre-seed funding from three angels,” he says.
“Without the support from Innovate UK’s Young Innovators programme, things would have been far too sluggish and there’s a real risk our company wouldn’t have gotten off the ground.”
Growing the team
Following the rapid progress of the past year, Resurrect Bio’s momentum shows no sign of slowing. The company recently won a major accelerator programme called SHAKE Climate Change, which has helped to demonstrate its positive impact on climate change mitigation.
Cian aims to make breakthroughs in their research and development (R&D) pipeline and start negotiations for their first licensing deal with customers – many of whom are billion-dollar agritech companies. His immediate focus, however, is on growing the team.
“Our first full-time scientist, other than myself, started in October. Our R&D team is set to grow to five early next year as well. Growing the team will enable us to work on a broader scope of things and never turn down or delay good opportunities,” he explains.
From scientist to founder
Cian describes the transition from scientist to founder as his biggest area of personal growth during the programme.
“It’s been extremely challenging learning to speak commercially instead of like a scientist, which is quite conservatively. It was also daunting at times to step into areas that were completely new to me, so I’m proud that I not only managed to keep it together but perform better than expected,” Cian says.
“I haven’t left behind my old title – I’d describe myself as a scientist-founder. I feel like from now on, whatever happens in my life, my experience as a scientist-founder will influence my opinions and decisions. It’s a very rare and unique position to be in.”
Mentoring was priceless
For future Award winners, Cian’s advice is to make the most of the meetings with your innovation champion. He describes his Innovation Champion from Innovate UK EDGE as a “superstar”.
“My innovation champion, John McNamara, was priceless. John is like a fixer: when anything is wrong, he immediately figures out how to solve it, either himself or via his extensive network. He was great at seeking assistance from colleagues, like Dr Frank Herkströter, whenever he felt they could add something to my mentoring. He was really generous with his time, despite being a busy guy,” Cian says.
“John is one of the few people who remembers that the founder life is a lonely path with very little positive feedback along the way. He would always work on building my confidence in myself and my business.”
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The Young Innovators Awards are an annual competition from Innovate UK that finds, supports and celebrates young people with great business ideas.