Interview: medical mastermind Gregory Stoloff
It is never too late to follow your dreams, as former investment banker turned inventor Gregory Stoloff proved when, in 2003, he stepped away from a long and successful career in accountancy and finance to set up UK-based drug discovery group SEEK. He had originally intended to become a neurosurgeon, but family issues and financial considerations led him down a different path for many years until he finally took the opportunity to follow his passion for science and medicine. Here he speaks to pharmaphorum about what makes him tick.
What’s exciting about your field at the moment?
I am excited by the understanding that we are all integrally connected with our environment and with the micro-biomes both around and within us. I am fascinated by the impact of these connections on our health, how we can employ this insight in our approach to medicine and, ultimately, how we can improve our wellbeing. This approach has led us to explore the potential for repurposing some existing, generic medications in our ‘METRICS’ oncology study.
It says ‘chief executive officer’ on your business cards, but what is your job really about?
The really great part of my role is the attempt to unravel diseases, to understand the functioning of human organs and to appreciate the ingenuity of Mother Nature. SEEK is constantly on the lookout for innovations or revolutionary scientific possibilities. Identifying these opportunities and making them a reality is the main focus of my role.
What is healthcare going to be like in 2034?
As a result of our developing understanding of disease biomarkers, the potential impact that our internal and external environments can have on our health, along with diagnostic tests and devices, I believe we will have a far greater ability to determine which diseases each of us is susceptible to.
In the future, being better informed means we will be more able to manage and minimise our risk of developing these diseases, in addition to having wider access to ‘self-treat’ medication.
What or who provides you with inspiration?
Albert Einstein; as I believe that theoretical, big picture thinking around issues such as how and why cells or microbes have certain functions is more important than looking at the end result of a disease and trying to reverse engineer what has changed compared with the non-disease state.
Conversely, what person, thing, or problem would you like to wish away?
Narrow-mindedness and entrenched views.
How do you switch off from work?
I am incredibly lucky that my job is also my hobby, so I am always thinking about it and don’t want time off. However, I do quite a bit of exercise which is helpful in relieving the stress that accumulates in any work environment.
What book would you recommend everyone should read?
I tend not to read too much fiction as there is so little time and so much that I want to know. I would not presume that anything I am interested in would be interesting to others. I would, however, say that if a topic is interesting to you, never believe that you would be unable to understand the topic and be put off from reading about it. Once the novel language used in each industry is mastered, then every topic can be understood and enjoyed.
About the interviewee:
Gregory A Stoloff is CEO of SEEK. He founded the company – formerly known as PepTcell – in 2004 after a distinguished career in investment banking spanning 20 years, working in a broad range of institutions including Deutsche Bank and UBS. He initially concentrated on corporate finance and was involved in numerous mergers and acquisitions and structured finance with an emphasis on the healthcare industry, including mergers by GlaxoSmithKline, Aventis and Pfizer. Gregory then moved on to concentrate on project finance and was involved in financing for pharmaceutical companies such as Roche, Merck and Novartis and companies in various other sectors. Gregory also has a wealth of experience in advising and working with medical research companies.
He is a qualified chartered accountant and has spent many years researching scientific medical issues, specifically related to the immune system. He has also been involved in several publications, recounting research in the peptide space and is listed as an inventor in numerous patents for cancer, HIV, mosquito-borne diseases and influenza.
Gregory has been instrumental in the development of the concepts pursued by SEEK and has been the driving force behind the Group’s continued growth and diversification.