Sandrine Willaime-Morawek is promoting interactions between clinical neuroscience research and industry as an Enterprise Champion for the University of Southampton’s Faculty of Medicine. An expert in stem cells and brain repair, she divides her time between research, teaching and enterprise in a fulfilling role building on close to 20 years of experience in her field.
She was raised near Strasbourg in France and developed an interest in biology from an early age which prompted her to study the subject at the Université Claude Bernard in Lyon. She built on this knowledge with a PhD in Neurosciences at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, examining intracellular signalling pathways during neuronal apoptosis.
Sandrine next secured a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto, Canada, and worked on neural stem cells in the development of the brain, in the adult brain and in different pathological conditions across five years at the institution.
In 2008, she was appointed the Roberts Lecturer within the University of Southampton’s Faculty of Medicine and became Fellow in the Higher Education Academy in 2011.
“I really enjoy being at the University because I’m working on a variety of different tasks,” she says. “My motivation is to advance healthcare and I do this by supporting academics and companies to find each other and to work together.”
Sandrine leads a research group that investigates the role of the microenvironment on the activity of stem cells in the developing, adult or pathological brain. This research is based within the Faculty of Medicine campus and is part of the Centre for Human Development, Stem Cells and Regeneration and the Institute for Life Sciences.
Medical research has the potential to be ripe for impact within industry and Sandrine has benefited from engaging in this process during her career. “It really was by chance that I first came in contact with a company that was looking for expertise in the cell culture of neurones and that’s exactly what I was doing in the lab for my research,” she explains. “They wanted to profit from my experience in this technique and I came on board for a project to design a new cell based assay for a product they were testing routinely in the labs.”
Sandrine became an Enterprise Champion for the University’s Clinical Neuroscience Group in 2012 and is signposting academic research to the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors as she instigates new collaborations and points researchers to the right funding schemes.
“It’s often quite difficult for academics to find companies that are interested in their research and for companies to find the right academic to work with,” she says. “Come and talk to me and I will match these partners together.” You can get in touch with Sandrine using the contact form on this page.
Sandrine is excited to be supporting the Medical Research Council funded Future Worlds Medicine initiative and is pointing colleagues to its wide-ranging events and opportunities. “Future Worlds is a great platform to advertise different projects at the University, making them known to the public and different companies,” she adds. “It is helping make the right matches between academics and industry.”
Part of Future Worlds’ unique offering is its network of dedicated mentors covering the varied aspects of startup and spinout expertise. “It’s really important to find mentors for the different areas of your work,” Sandrine advises. “It may all be new to you but they can share valuable experience and contacts from what they’ve done in the past.”