A day in the life of a Biotech start-up founder

As part of a new series, we’ll interviewing different people in the biopharmaceutical R&D space – including scientists, founders and noteworthy leaders – to show what day-to-day life looks like for them.

To kick this off, we recently interviewed Dr.Alvaro Goyanes (pictured), Co-founder and Development Director of London-based FabRx Ltd., a specialist biotech company at the forefront of 3D printing technologies and personalised medicines.

Please tell our readers about yourself

I am Dr Alvaro Goyanes and my current role at FabRx is Development Director and Lead Project Researcher. I am a pharmacist by training, I hold a PhD in pharmaceutical technology from University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain) and I have been at University College London (UCL) – School of Pharmacy as a researcher and as a honorary lecturer for more than 8 years. I have over 10 years’ industry experience in research and academia.

How did the idea for FabRx come about?

I can’t say there was a specific light bulb moment. During my post-doctoral studies here at UCL School of Pharmacy, I was involved in the investigating the potential use of 3D printing to make medicines. It was then that we zeroed on using Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) that we saw a potential business opportunity, and the idea grew from there.

Having set up FabRx Ltd, what does a typical day look like for you?

Firstly, there is no such thing as a typical day. However, there are things that I do most days. Typically, I start once I am done with my morning routine (exercise, shower, coffee and time to read newspapers), I head off into my home office to get a head start on my emails before any other work starts. Typically, I may have 180 – 200 emails.

I may have business calls with the leadership team or investors, which I attend to first thing. Otherwise, my most important task is providing customer support for FabRx’s M3DIMAKER™ and the necessary communications side of things. Being responsible for development, I will be working to understand how they use our products and obtaining their suggestions as to how to improve. I may also pop into the laboratory to investigate something in relation to the development programme but this is dependent on other things going on.

Obviously, being a start-up company, a good part of my work is supporting the rest of the team with respect to the company’s long-term goals. A large part of this will be meeting all sorts of stakeholders, potential investors, customers, to build relationships and communicate our mission and what we are seeking to achieve.

And finally, I have internal meetings to support our team members in their roles and to feedback on proposed improvements to our products and research programmes, which is very critical to a start-up company such as ours.

Can you tell us more about M3DIMAKER™?

M3DIMAKER is the world’s first pharmaceutical printer in the market that we developed at FabRx. It is designed to prepare personalised medicines close to the patients, and it is mainly oriented to be placed in pharmacies and hospital, to prepare the medicines under GMP conditions. Since it was designed by us, it is specially adapted to print medicines safe and easy.


What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

As you well know, for any initiative to succeed, company leaders must have a set of clear priorities to make it happen. I think the most challenging thing for me is prioritising every day and getting all issues aligned to the startup’s long-term mission. I find that there are always a million things I could be working on, be it R&D, communications, selling, motivating the research team, setting strategy, the press…. So figuring out what is worth my time and taking that decision not knowing the end outcome is not easy. As a start-up in a niche space, we do not have a playbook, which is great but also leads to a lot of decision fatigue in this respect.

And what about the most rewarding?

Without a doubt, the most rewarding part of the role is seeing the company grow and create an impact in patient’s lives. We really believe in personalised medicine and think that 3D printing is the best technology to reach it. But make no mistake, founding something is hard work, and there are some dark moments, but what lifts my spirit is when we get feedback from the doctors and users. This is worth all the hard work.

Were you always cut out to be an entrepreneur?

I do not pay attention to labels, such as entrepreneur this or that. What has always motivated me is to make a positive impact to my community and those I interact with daily.

What advice would you have for future and current founders?

Be prepared to wear a lot of different hats and face challenges.

You can find out more about FabRx and its products from www.FabRx.co.uk