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Christopher: “I want my clients to feel listened to and understood, but to also be challenged”

May 25 2020

At ttopstart we work in an international team of creative innovators. In our series 'Meet the ttopstart team' we introduce you to our colleagues; from consultants to programme leaders, business developers and directors. A few months ago Christopher Haggarty-Weir started working as a consultant at ttopstart and he has participated in some great projects already. In his first weeks he even co-developed a comprehensive IMI proposal in a mere 10-days! We interviewed Christopher about his passion, his values and his love for his job. 

Hi Christopher, can you please describe yourself briefly?

"Due to my academic background I have a broad range of interests spanning the sciences, business, and philosophy. But I am also very much a social creature and love interacting with people who share one or several of the aforementioned interests. Aside from that I enjoy spending time with my wife Stephanie, who is an author, and our two cats Winston and Curie."

What is something biomedical innovators have to deal with that you want to fix?

"If you’re a startup founder, you likely have many problems your innovative technology could be applied to in order to create a solution. But this has probably, and ironically, caused you to then be confronted with a problem in and of itself; what is the ideal problem to actually focus on solving now. That is, what should your beachhead market be? This is where the science intersects with business, market, and financial rationality, and it something I love deriving solutions to, especially as I can fully empathize with fellow innovators since I previously co-founded a biotech company facing this exact challenge."

Your favourite quote

"A paraphrasing of General George S Patton:

“Any man can be great with enough hard work and determination”

What are your credentials/past experience, for working in your position?

"I have quite a mixed bag of past experience. I did my undergrad at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia, where I got my B.Sc(Biomed). I then went to the University of Queensland where I earned my Master in Molecular Biology, with research under Prof. Glenn King at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience for my research into GMO solutions to disease vectors. This time was also interspersed with research assistant work in immunology and biochemistry, bioinformatic project design and publications, and working with the Australian Army in biotech research.

At the University of Queensland

I was then fortunate enough to be admitted into a prestigious Universitas 21 joint Ph.D program where I got to do doctoral research in two fields (molecular parasitology and biophysical chemistry) at two universities simultaneously; the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Medicine (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute) and the Joseph Black School of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh. My focus was on malaria vaccine and drug development under Prof. Alan Cowman, and I helped bring a vaccine component into preclinical development.

Christopher and Alan
Christopher and Prof. Alan Cowman

During this time I also completed a mini-MBA program in biopharma research commercialization in Melbourne, a minor in philosophy, summer school at MIT in the Sloan School of Management, a business and enterprise skills training program in Scotland, and various certifications in IP law and patent management. This allowed me to garner experience in tech transfer and IP management for medical innovations with Edinburgh Innovations, and then working for a year in biopharma venture capital. At this time I had started my MBA in management and finance due to my budding interest in the financial side of bioscience (which I completed earlier this year where my final project was on the asset swap M&A deal between Boehringer Ingelheim and Sanofi) and was working as an industrial vaccinology liaison officer for the International Veterinary Vaccinology Network, based at the Roslin Institute. This gave me a lot of experience working with pharma and investment executives, and their liaison with academic and SME researchers. It was then in 2018 I founded my own consulting firm (Haggarty-Weir Consulting), which I grew to a team of 6 to focus on life science and tech startup business development, and technical consulting for venture capitalists. Concurrent with this, I had also co-founded a stem cell biotech startup that spun into the University of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering. It was during this time that I became an elected Member of the Royal Society of Biology and the Royal Society of Chemistry, and in 2020 become a professional advisor for MIT’s Martin Trust Centre for Entrepreneurship."

Christopher is a member of the Royal Society of Biology

What is your role at ttopstart?

"I joined ttopstart in 2020 as a consultant focused on life science, biotechnology, and healthcare. As such and taking into account my background, I like to interact with clients who have core commercialization issues (i.e. is a product pivot required, what market to initially enter, etc.), financial impacts, and strategic partnerships. I also aim to help ramp up ttopstart’s corporate finance services and M&A consulting, especially given the financial and cultural integration issues that life science companies can face as they grow. When a client works with me, I want them to feel listened to and understood, but to also be challenged. I believe that when one goes through a professional 'challenge journey', they come out stronger and better positioned competitively (very much an application of Nietzschien philosophy)."

Having diner with some ttopstart colleagues

What do you like most about working at ttopstart?

"I’d break it down into three things: feeling like that for the first-time, all of my skills and experience are being actively used and developed which also allows me to continually grow professionally, exposure to a broad array of very interesting and cool bioscience, and working in the best cultural environment I have ever found myself in. Thanks to all of my colleagues, not just one or a couple, but all of them."

What’s your background?

"I was born in Queensland, Australia, to Scottish-Australian parents (hence why I identify as Scottish-Australian) in a very working class and lower socioeconomic neighborhood. I was very fortunate to have a mother who nurtured the paradigm of using education as an escape out of poverty, without forcing any particular career area on me. So I always wanted to give her a good ‘return on her investment’ in me, and to always remain curious about the world and to focus on solutions to problems rather than just on the problems themselves. I had gone through several career aspiration changes over the years, from wanting a clinical career initially to being more interested in actually developing new drugs and vaccines (to then help more people). This was based on the effective altruism philosophy of using your existing skills and knowledge, plus future potential and happiness, to be able to have the greatest social impact possible. However, during my Ph.D I realized I didn’t have the ‘greenest fingers’ and wasn’t the best placed to develop new therapeutics, but I recognized that I did seem to have a unique blend of scientific and business skills that other’s began seeking out. Given that I love solving problems in this space, this was the catalyst for me to move entirely into consulting, where I feel I have add maximum value and optimal impact."

What are the values that drive you?

"I am a massive capitalist, but I believe in ethical capitalism. It is important for both innovators AND society to be rewarded, and for net benefits to be conferred to all stakeholders. This is why I love the type of clients we work with since they aim to bring important medical advances forth. My other driving values are very much the same as my personal business hero, Ray Dalio, those of radical transparency and an ideas meritocracy. These allow for the best ideas to win out and for maximum clarity, which is imperative in life science consulting."

What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?

"I enjoy travelling and experiencing new restaurants with my wife Stephanie, reading (science fiction, philosophy, and history mostly), music, movies, reviews of bad movies, and casual play of Magic the Gathering. I also just love socializing with friends at good pubs over good beer."

Christopher and his wife Stephanie

Do you want to become a ttopstarter as well? 

Are you interested in joining our team? Check out our career page! We are always looking for talented and motivated people.

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