PULSE candidate|David Higgins

By David Higgins



I left academia after 7 years of country-switching, hopping from one top-flight academic institution to the next, always working on some form of mathematical biology. My final stop was Berlin, I was sick of moving and I was exceedingly tired of working on other people’s projects. I knew at that point that my general scientific abilities and instincts were good. I also knew that I was more interested in making projects work rather than publishing papers. Also, I wanted to choose my own projects again, rather than focusing on what might be the next big thing and would secure me tenure. Rather than applying for a relatively high-paying job in the pharma sector, I took the completely illogical step of setting up my own company.

Three months following my decision, the inaugural PULSE workshop was held at the Crick Institute in London. Through friends I heard about the workshop and since I was highly motivated to rebuild my network, and potentially move to London, I applied and was accepted.

Frankly, apart from the actual experience of founding my first company, the workshop was the best thing that I have done since leaving academia. In just three days we were exposed to an incredible network of supporters and successful founders from the UK biotech scene. The specific learnings were good, but the depth of support which was on display was worth far more in long-term value.

In my case, I bonded pretty well with Anthony Finbow - then chairman and now CEO of Eagle Genomics. He has been a fantastic mentor in the years since that first course. I also maintain contact with some of the ‘students’ who were in my cohort - such as Noor Shaker, founder and CEO of GTN. This is a community of peers whom I deeply value both for their insights and for their support.

I officially registered my first company just a couple of months following the workshop. We obtained VC investment, but unfortunately the team didn’t survive together much longer than that moment. Since then I have brought in considerable amounts of non-dilutive funding (a concept I learned at PULSE) for a second company, and I am an advisor to many other spin-outs; paying it forward, as it were.

The entrepreneurial path is far from smooth. The greater the support on which you can rely the better your chances for success. The PULSE workshop, in my book, is one of the best preparations that a budding life sciences entrepreneur can get.



PULSE is a three-day leadership and entrepreneurship training programme developed by the BIA and the Francis Crick Institute. The programme is for aspiring entrepreneurs and new CEOs looking for advanced practical advice, support and feedback from leading entrepreneurs, renowned professionals and CEOs.

The programme comprises a mix of sessions, talks, interactive exercises, interspersed with networking opportunities to equip you with necessary information and inspiration to become leading CEOs and entrepreneurs. It will give you a chance to practise relevant skills and share ideas in a safe space, with expert feedback and advice. It will also give you the invaluable opportunity to build links and networks across the sector, from industry experts to your CEO peers, and form an ongoing relationship with the Crick and BIA.