• News

    News

Mark Grafton’s interest in chemistry was ignited at an early age when he was at school, leading him to follow a path in chemistry: from studying in Scotland to working in England, before returning back to Scotland where he now works in the chemistry team at BioAscent, this blog tells Mark’s career journey to date, and shares his views on living and working in Scotland.

Mark’s undergraduate degree at the University of Strathclyde included a placement year in industry, which he carried out at Pfizer in Sandwich. It was during his placement, that he realised that after his studies, he wanted to take the route into industry rather than academia.

Mark completed his final year in 2010, and then decided to move to the University of Glasgow to complete his PhD within Andrew Sutherland’s group. His PhD on New One-Pot Multi-Reaction Processes for the Synthesis of Highly Functionalised Carbocycles and Heterocycles was completed at the end of 2014, after which he spent a bit of time looking for the right job in industry.

He secured a position at Peakdale Molecular (which became Concept Life Sciences and then Malvern Panalytical) where he worked for five and a half years as a Chemist and Senior Chemist. Whilst there, Mark worked on a wide range of projects from small scale to large scale chemistry, mostly looking at small molecules for pharma companies. 

“I really enjoyed working on the small-scale chemistry, making small molecules – this was an area I found very interesting.” Mark reflects. “I gained a lot of experience at Peakdale. However, my plan was always to come back to Scotland, and the onset of the pandemic accelerated my decision to move back.”

Mark spotted an advert for chemists at BioAscent, and was interested in working for a growing, integrated drug discovery CRO.

“Going through the recruitment process in the middle of a pandemic was strange as all interviews were carried out completely via Zoom calls, and I hadn’t had the chance to visit the site. But Angus, Phil and the team sparked the excitement for me, and I was attracted to the opportunity to work for a CRO that is really going somewhere – I wanted to be part of that.” Mark recalls. 

Mark moved back to Scotland in November 2020 and joined BioAscent as Senior Scientist.

Originally from Scotland, Mark was happy to be back near family and friends. “Scotland has so much to offer. I am a keen golfer and get to play some of the world’s best courses. I also enjoy football and there are some fantastic teams to support in Scotland, with plenty of healthy rivalry of course! Living and working in Scotland offers the best of both worlds. I have huge opportunities and very rewarding work at BioAscent, and then at the weekends can enjoy the beautiful countryside – Loch Lomond, the coastline or the Highlands - all essentially on my doorstep.” 

At BioAscent, Mark’s role gives him access to a variety of different projects where he is involved in carrying out the chemistry. With some projects at BioAscent, there is a lot of interaction with compound management who take the compounds from the chemists, plate them and pass them on to biology for screening. “It is great to have the opportunity to see the results coming back and to be able to input into the drug design of the potential candidate. This was something that really attracted me to the job as in previous roles, the compounds were sent out for testing, so I rarely saw the results.”

Mark takes advantage of the opportunities presented to him at BioAscent, from mentoring new starters, to benefitting from the increased training options available. BioAscent’s focus on personal objectives has allowed Mark to develop in certain areas of interest to him, including becoming a superuser of certain pieces of equipment in the labs.

“There are loads of opportunities at BioAscent, particularly as we grow as a company. I enjoy the chance to try out new technologies – photochemistry, flow chemistry, and electrochemistry. At BioAscent we have the autonomy to design and plan our own syntheses towards novel compounds for the customer. We also get the opportunity to interact with the customer which I enjoy. It’s really satisfying to make a compound, see the screening data and know we are making a positive impact on a customer’s project.”

“I see BioAscent as a long-term career move for me. The company is growing, and I am involved in interesting projects, with a wide variety of chemistry, whilst working with a really friendly team of people in a great atmosphere,” concludes Mark.

To find out more about BioAscent as a place to develop your career, as well as details of our current vacancies, visit our careers page.

Get In Touch

Let's talk about how we can maximise your drug discovery success.

Contact

Associate Director, In Silico Discovery and Data Analysis

Dr Angelo Pugliese

Angelo is a highly experienced computational chemist, project leader and strategic contributor to discovery teams, and has over 15 years’ experience working across different organisations in US and UK. He has a PhD in computational chemistry from the University of Nottingham. Prior to joining BioAscent, Angelo led the computational chemistry and artificial intelligence team at the drug discovery unit at the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow. Angelo is an expert in in silico structure-based and fragments-based methodologies applied to drug design with a passion for machine learning. He is a co-author on more than 30 publications and patents including a book chapter on fragments library design. Angelo is also a reviewer for several highly regarded journals and fellowships, and serves as an advisory board member for several international conferences.

Director of Chemistry

Dr Angus Morrison

Angus has over 15 years’ experience as a practising medicinal chemist leading both project and medicinal chemistry delivery in multinational and multidisciplinary teams.  In his most recent role as Head of Chemistry at the European Screening Centre Newhouse he was Medicinal Chemistry lead of the European Lead Factory project responsible for over 30 hit to leads programmes.  Prior to this Angus has held leadership roles at Organon, Schering-Plough, MSD, Prosidion and Redx Oncology. During his time in pre-clinical drug discovery he has had broad exposure and experience of working across a diverse range of therapeutic areas and target classes from hit generation to candidate nomination.  Angus has a PhD in Organic Chemistry from Strathclyde University and carried out Postgraduate studies at Cambridge University. He is a co-author on over 30 papers and patents.

Director of Chemistry

Dr Angus Morrison

Angus has over 15 years’ experience as a practising medicinal chemist leading both project and medicinal chemistry delivery in multinational and multidisciplinary teams.  In his most recent role as Head of Chemistry at the European Screening Centre Newhouse he was Medicinal Chemistry lead of the European Lead Factory project responsible for over 30 hit to leads programmes.  Prior to this Angus has held leadership roles at Organon, Schering-Plough, MSD, Prosidion and Redx Oncology. During his time in pre-clinical drug discovery he has had broad exposure and experience of working across a diverse range of therapeutic areas and target classes from hit generation to candidate nomination.  Angus has a PhD in Organic Chemistry from Strathclyde University and carried out Postgraduate studies at Cambridge University. He is a co-author on over 30 papers and patents..

Dr David Milroy

David is a Partner at Maven Capital Partners where he is a member of Maven’s Investment Committee and is responsible for sourcing and executing private equity investments in Scotland as well as technology and life science investments across the UK. His current investments include Blacktrace Group, Curo Compensation, Optoscribe, QikServe, CB Technology and BioAscent. David started his career as a scientist with GlaxoSmithKline.

After completing his PhD, he moved to international consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie (and then parent Deutsche Bank) where he supported the healthcare banking team, advising clients on their corporate and licensing strategies; and performing due diligence projects on companies, products and technologies.

David joined Aberdeen Asset Management’s private equity division (spun-out to form Maven in 2009) in September 2007 as Fund Manager for an early-stage technology fund. David has a First Class Honours degree in Pharmacy, a PhD (Molecular Biology/Gene Delivery) from the University of Bath and a MBA from The University of Edinburgh.

Associate Director of Chemistry

Dr Duncan McArthur

Duncan is an experienced medicinal chemist having worked in the pharmaceutical and not-for-profit sectors for over 18 years. He has broad scientific expertise in several therapeutic areas, working in both lead finding and lead optimisation project teams. Duncan is expert in fragment-based hit finding strategies and developing HTS campaigns. In his previous roles at MSD and more latterly, the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research (BICR), Duncan led multiple internal and cross-site collaborative project teams and managed outsourced chemistry efforts across different companies. Duncan spent over 10 years at the BICR working in the area of fragment-based drug discovery, prioritising and developing mM affinity fragment hits to high affinity lead series. Duncan is a co-author on 20 papers and patents.

CEO BioCity

Dr Glenn Crocker MBE DPhil

Glenn Crocker is an experienced CEO, company founder, non-executive director and investor in the life sciences sector. He has been CEO of BioCity Group since mid-2003, shortly after it was founded. He has a DPhil in Immunology from Oxford University and qualified as a chartered accountant with EY, focussing on working with biotech companies in Palo Alto, California and Cambridge, UK, where he headed up the UK Biotech practice for EY.

BioCity builds, funds and grows life science companies at its four incubator sites in the UK.

Glenn is a non-executive director of a number of companies and consults on business incubation, start-up creation and cluster growth. He has been directly involved in investing in life science companies through BioCity’s own or managed funds since 2006.

In 2014 Glenn received an MBE for services to the biotechnology industry.

Dr Louis J. Nisbet D.Sc. - Vivanova Ltd

Dr Louis Nisbet

Louis began his career in pharmaceuticals R&D with Roche, Glaxo and SmithKline during which period he achieved international recognition in the discovery of NCEs in infectious diseases. He was one of the UK’s first biotechnology entrepreneurs establishing Xenova and Brax both of which achieved successful exits via IPO and trade sale respectively.

He was the first recipient of the Ernst & Young Biotechnology Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Since 2000 he has been active in investing and building businesses in the private and public equity markets across the health sector. Venture capital investments have been with Kurma Partners, Sitka Partners, Noble Group and Alderley Park Ventures.

He has considerable executive and non-executive Board experience with over 20 quoted and private companies. He has a Ph.D. from Imperial College, London and D.Sc. from the U of Strathclyde.

Chief Commercial Officer

Dr Mike Piper

Mike is an experienced life sciences professional with a track record in sales and marketing strategy, general management, licensing and contract negotiation.  Mike was formerly Head of Sales and Marketing at CXR Biosciences, an investigative toxicology CRO. Following CXR’s acquisition by Concept Life Sciences in 2015 he became Vice President Business Development Safety & Toxicology.  Prior to his time at CXR, Mike worked in business development and licensing at the specialty pharmaceutical company Ardana plc, and held various pharmaceutical industry management consultancy roles at ZS Associates, Deloitte and Arthur Andersen Business Consulting.  Mike has a PhD in genomics from the University of Cambridge, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.

Chief Scientific Advisor

Dr Phil Jones

Phil has over 30 years medicinal chemistry and drug discovery experience from Roche, Organon, Schering-Plough, Merck and the University of Dundee including senior roles as Executive Director and Acting Site Head. He was a member of the Research Leadership Council at Schering-Plough. Numerous clinical candidates resulted from groups for which he was responsible. These span a broad range of target families and therapeutic areas. He has led the European Screening Centre team at Biocity Scotland, Newhouse for the past 5 years and this group plays a key role in delivering validated hit series for SMEs and academics through the IMI funded European Lead Factory. Phil’s postgraduate studies were carried out at the University of Manchester and Imperial College. Phil was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2005, he chaired the Medicinal Chemistry interest group of the Royal Society of Chemistry for 8 years, chaired the organising committee of the European Federation of Medicinal Chemistry – International Symposium on Medicinal Chemistry (EFMC-ISMC) in 2016 and sat on the Executive Committee of the EFMC for four years. He is a co-author on over 70 scientific papers and patents.

Chief Scientific Advisor

Dr Phil Jones

Phil has over 30 years medicinal chemistry and drug discovery experience from Roche, Organon, Schering-Plough, Merck and the University of Dundee including senior roles as Executive Director and Acting Site Head. He was a member of the Research Leadership Council at Schering-Plough. Numerous clinical candidates resulted from groups for which he was responsible. These span a broad range of target families and therapeutic areas. He has led the European Screening Centre team at Biocity Scotland, Newhouse for the past 5 years and this group plays a key role in delivering validated hit series for SMEs and academics through the IMI funded European Lead Factory. Phil’s postgraduate studies were carried out at the University of Manchester and Imperial College. Phil was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2005, he chaired the Medicinal Chemistry interest group of the Royal Society of Chemistry for 8 years, chaired the organising committee of the European Federation of Medicinal Chemistry – International Symposium on Medicinal Chemistry (EFMC-ISMC) in 2016 and sat on the Executive Committee of the EFMC for four years. He is a co-author on over 70 scientific papers and patents.

Director of Biosciences

Dr Stuart McElroy

With over 15 years working in drug discovery Stuart has extensive experience of developing and trouble-shooting novel screening assays, designing screening cascades, compound screening, hit validation and supporting hit to lead and lead optimisation programs. Throughout the 5 years of the European Lead Factory project he held the position of Head of Biology at the European Screening Centre (ESC), leading a team of bioscientists in prosecuting and triaging the output of over 90 high throughput screens across all major target classes and disease indications. Prior to this Stuart helped establish the Dundee Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) where he spent 7 years as a project and then team leader working across a wide array of novel drug targets and assays. He also had a leading operational role in DDU-Industry partnerships with both large pharma and SMEs.

Director of Biosciences

Dr Stuart McElroy

With over 15 years working in drug discovery Stuart has extensive experience of developing and trouble-shooting novel screening assays, designing screening cascades, compound screening, hit validation and supporting hit to lead and lead optimisation programs. Throughout the 5 years of the European Lead Factory project he held the position of Head of Biology at the European Screening Centre (ESC), leading a team of bioscientists in prosecuting and triaging the output of over 90 high throughput screens across all major target classes and disease indications. Prior to this Stuart helped establish the Dundee Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) where he spent 7 years as a project and then team leader working across a wide array of novel drug targets and assays. He also had a leading operational role in DDU-Industry partnerships with both large pharma and SMEs.

Chief Operating Officer and Co-founder

Dr Sylviane Boucharens

Sylviane has more than 20 years’ experience in scientific research and drug discovery environment. Sylviane has a track record in building and leading outstanding and productive teams into seamless successful enterprises in start-up and medium and large pharma environment. Prior to BioAscent Sylviane was Head of Global Compound repository and in-vitro Screening (Merck Sharp & Dohme, Newhouse Scotland). She was also responsible for managing a portfolio of early Drug Discovery projects in Cardiovascular from Target Identification and validation to Lead Optimisation. Sylviane attained her PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University Joseph Fourier, Grenoble, France, followed by post-doctoral positions at the INSERM U366 Laboratory, France and University of Manchester, UK under the Wellcome Trust International Fellowship.

Chief Operating Officer and Co-founder

Dr Sylviane Boucharens

Sylviane has more than 20 years’ experience in scientific research and drug discovery environment. Sylviane has a track record in building and leading outstanding and productive teams into seamless successful enterprises in start-up and medium and large pharma environment. Prior to BioAscent Sylviane was Head of Global Compound repository and in-vitro Screening (Merck Sharp & Dohme, Newhouse Scotland). She was also responsible for managing a portfolio of early Drug Discovery projects in Cardiovascular from Target Identification and validation to Lead Optimisation. Sylviane attained her PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University Joseph Fourier, Grenoble, France, followed by post-doctoral positions at the INSERM U366 Laboratory, France and University of Manchester, UK under the Wellcome Trust International Fellowship.

Chief Operating Officer and Co-founder

Dr Sylviane Boucharens

Sylviane has more than 20 years’ experience in scientific research and drug discovery environment. Sylviane has a track record in building and leading outstanding and productive teams into seamless successful enterprises in start-up and medium and large pharma environment. Prior to BioAscent Sylviane was Head of Global Compound repository and in-vitro Screening (Merck Sharp & Dohme, Newhouse Scotland). She was also responsible for managing a portfolio of early Drug Discovery projects in Cardiovascular from Target Identification and validation to Lead Optimisation. Sylviane attained her PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University Joseph Fourier, Grenoble, France, followed by post-doctoral positions at the INSERM U366 Laboratory, France and University of Manchester, UK under the Wellcome Trust International Fellowship.

Ian McDonald

Ian is a Chartered Accountant and an experienced Finance Director/Chief Financial Officer with a successful track record gained in SMEs and PLCs in the manufacturing and customer service industries - particularly within life sciences, pharmaceuticals and FMCG.  

Ian has successful record of achievement as a CFO within Private Equity backed businesses with credibility gained from developing positive and effective relationships with stakeholders, and successful participation in exits with a proven track record in securing funding for growth from both public sector finance providers as well as institutional finance providers. 

Ian’s career is varied having worked primarily in the UK but with extensive overseas travel. As well as heading up a number of large finance teams Ian’s experience extends to successfully evaluating  and commercially shaping high value projects including worldwide ERP system implementations as well as mergers and acquisition experience.

Chief Executive Officer

Paul Smith

An experienced Senior Executive with both General Management and Business Development experience in the pharmaceutical/CRO arena. Paul has an understanding of the drug development process from discovery to clinical research gained through more than 29 years in the CRO/pharmaceutical sector. A strategic thinker and management professional with experience gained in both small and large companies and with recent start-up experience including leading  funding discussions with VCs and other corporate finance groups. Paul recently turned around and sold CXR Biosciences to Concept Lifesciences in late 2015. Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, 2013.

Chief Executive Officer

Paul Smith

An experienced Senior Executive with both General Management and Business Development experience in the pharmaceutical/CRO arena. Paul has an understanding of the drug development process from discovery to clinical research gained through more than 29 years in the CRO/pharmaceutical sector. A strategic thinker and management professional with experience gained in both small and large companies and with recent start-up experience including leading  funding discussions with VCs and other corporate finance groups. Paul recently turned around and sold CXR Biosciences to Concept Lifesciences in late 2015. Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, 2013.