GBR spotlight – Sam
In this month’s edition of the GBR Spotlight, we feature the team member that might be geographically the furthest away from the rest of us: Sam! Here he tells us why he has sparkly hair and a passion for Entrepreneurship Innovation.
Hi Sam! Thank you very much for agreeing to this interview! Let’s start by talking a bit about you. Can you describe yourself and your background to us?
I am a fun, bubbly, ball of energy with a slightly twangy accent and a little too much hair and based at the bottom of the world in Wellington, New Zealand – just next to The Shire and a 3-hour drive from Mt Doom. After finishing school, I studied my undergrad in Biochemistry at University of Otago. I then went on to do a Master of Bioscience Enterprise and the University of Auckland
Why did you choose this particular subject?
When I first started studying at university, biochemistry and genetics really captivated me. Learning about what makes our body tick at a molecular level, the genetic code that is ubiquitous across life, and how this can be harnessed to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.
While I enjoyed the pure academic and learning side of biochemistry, something that I could see would become frustrating for me was brilliant research and ideation not making it out of the lab. I decided I wanted to learn how to translate science, taking it from the bench and out to people in the world who can use it. My masters gave me a good foundation for this, teaching me about the intersection between business and science.
Within GBR you are one of the Entrepreneurship Innovation Directors. Why did you get involved with GBR in general and why Entrepreneurship in particular?
I am very passionate about developing young leaders, especially in the life science sector. The life sciences can solve some of the biggest challenges faced by our world, from health to climate change. The mahi (work) that GBR does to bring together young leaders from across the world is admirable, and it was a no brainer that I wanted to be a part of this revolution.
The translation of research for real world impact is absolutely critical. In my mind, the entrepreneurial journey is the best way to do this. Entrepreneurship can be scary and hard when you are first jumping into it, so I wanted to help create pathways for young people to do this.
Within the entrepreneurship team, do you currently have some exciting plans in the works, that you can give us a sneak-peak of?
One project I have ongoing is to increase GBRs role in building a biotech entrepreneurial community in NZ and broader in APAC (the Asia-Pacific region). Geographical separation is a challenge here, but I’m looking forward to connecting with the broader GBR community to support this along with other organisations that believe in our ethos and mission.
What do you like most about working for GBR and where do you see the benefit of GBR?
What I like most about working for GBR are the people. Hands down the people. My favourite whakataukī (or Māori proverb, the indigenous peoples of New Zealand) is:
“He aha te mea nui o te ao? Māku e kī atu, he tangata, he tangata, he tangata.”
What is the most important thing in this world? It is people, it is people, it is people.
I truly think the greatest benefit of GBR is in the inspiration and connection it provides young people around the world. The chance to connect with like-minded individuals and rub-shoulders with giants of the life science world is second to none.
You mentioned that you are from New Zealand, which most people probably associate mostly with prime holiday destinations and hobbits. Can you tell us something about the Biotech sector in your home country?
New Zealand has a growing biotech sector, with increasing interest from government and private sector. NZ has traditionally been a country that exports meat, dairy and logs, but with increasing pressures from climate change and the evolution of research and innovation, we are needing to wake up to the reality that reliance these exports will not be sustainable in the long term. Biotech is seen as one solution to this, with the community growing around the country. Auckland is seen as the main hotspot for biotech in the country while my city, Wellington, is starting to push itself into this space too. We have pockets of high-quality research going on around the country and are still learning how we leverage these on the world’s stage. Investment in NZ has traditionally been quite conservative in the biotech space, largely because investors here are risk averse. Because of this, the biotech companies that we grow are generally of high quality. I want to see more of these companies emerging and support our young people to be the ones leading this growth.
Do you have a favourite NZ start-up company, whose work you admire?
LanzaTech is the company that inspired me to work in commercialization. It is one of NZ’s best biotech success stories – using innovative life science technology to tackle one of the largest challenges to humanity: climate change.
That certainly is an important cause! Now let’s move on to a few more personal questions: What are your hobbies outside of work and GBR?
I love all things outdoors – tramping, mountain biking, skiing, cycling, running. I also enjoy the odd gig and music festival…I’m still picking glitter out of my hair from the last one I went to.
Tell me a fun fact about you.
I have VERY mobile joints…both a blessing and a curse. I ALWAYS injure myself!
What is the last book you read, and would you recommend it?
The Food Explorer by Daniel Evan Stone – absolutely would recommend for anyone! It’s the story of David Fairchild, a late-nineteenth-century botanist who travelled the globe and introduced diverse crops like avocados, mangoes, seedless grapes to the US consumer.
One last question: Who is your favourite person in GBR to work with?
I have to say our fearless leader Ioannis don’t I?
Well, he will certainly like to read it! 😉 Thank you very much Sam for participating in this interview!