Ben Cons is a passionate entrepreneur and risk taker who has enjoyed commercial success in the strategic growth and sale of innovations in the pharmaceutical sector. He has managed well over a billion dollars of deals across two decades’ experience in drug development and commercialisation for pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline and Quintiles Transnational. An expert in DNA with a PhD in Molecular Pharmacology from the University of Southampton, he has made his life’s work developing his “entrepreneurial gene” and challenges innovators to embrace risks during their business journeys.
Ben was raised on the Isles of Scilly and was fascinated by advances in science during his school years. He pursued his academic interest in biology through an undergraduate degree at the University of Portsmouth in the 1980s and studied alongside Animal clothing co-founder Ian Elliot in his early stage startup Suck Shirtz. The pair, who had developed a friendship over a common love of windsurfing, remained colleagues as Ian developed a Velcro watch strap for water sports that sparked an lifelong excitement for entrepreneurship.
Pursuing a career in the healthcare sector, Ben next moved to the University of Southampton and applied himself to a PhD on cancer research. Three rewarding years with the institution included a placement in Copenhagen, Denmark, as he investigated DNA interactions. “It was a fantastic experience that gave me freedom of thought to explore myself and the possibilities within the lab,” he reflects. “I built a knowledge base to drive into areas of speciality that I’ve used since in my business career.”
Ben gained his first insight into the pharmaceutical industry as a Clinical Research Associate for Schering AG, before joining GlaxoSmithKline as a Senior Clinical Research Scientist in 1992. The journey harnessed new skills as he managed drugs – such as Flixotide – through late stage development and onto the market. Ben later broadened his understanding further as a Business Development Director and prepared to step into a more entrepreneurial environment as he sought a new challenge in a young company in the sector.
He chose to step into a new startup called Innovex and soon found himself at a crossroads in his career when the business was bought by American multinational company Quintiles. “I decided to stay and go through that journey and it was the best decision of my life,” he says. Operating from a new senior leadership position, the company gathered momentum as Ben sealed a number of lucrative industrial deals.
“I was trying to grow us exponentially and that gave me experience across the continuum of every type of deal structure which was quite unique,” he explains. “My boss was an investment banker and understood how to look at risk mathematically, while I was a scientist and understood the scientific arguments that sat behind the risks. We pulled together a very small team that looked to leverage that. Everyone was prepared to share their experiences, very much like a startup, and we went from nothing to managing a billion dollars over 10 years. Entrepreneurship is all about leveraging assets and skillsets within your control environment to produce a differentiated offering or solution to the market.”
Ben is currently a Special Partner at Vitruvian LLP having recently retired as Senior Vice President for Corporate Development at Quintiles. Ben is creating his own corporate development agenda in advisory and partnering roles at private equity and venture capital firms. He is also looking to sponsor innovation within the UK, particularly among life sciences projects, and works closely with a science and technology accelerator serving the Salisbury area. In his spare time he indulges his passions for sailing and the sea, and enjoys coaching a local school rugby team.
Ben is inviting Future Worlds’ entrepreneurs to tap into his skillset as they mature their business ideas. “I’ve had a great experience in advising companies, ranging from the boards of small spinouts in Oxford right through to billion dollar revenue companies,” he says. “I want to add value in the context of four pillars as I help advise, design, build and operate new ventures.” You can get in touch with Ben using the contact form on this page.
“What I like most about entrepreneurship is that it is innovation in its purest form,” he adds. “The rulebook is probably not written around what you’re trying to do. Therefore, although you may be influenced by certain contexts, you’re getting to leverage your idea and do something completely unique with it. So long as you can communicate that you will be very successful.”