Many congratulations are offered to Dr Duncan Casson, a Faculty of Life Sciences alumnus who was this week presented with an Outstanding Alumnus Award. These awards are presented only to alumni who have achieved distinction in their profession, provided exemplary service to the university or wider community, or demonstrated outstanding service of a personal or humanitarian nature.

Duncan graduated from the University of Manchester in 1980 with BSc in Biochemistry. In 1988 he joined Genzyme as a Seniorduncancasson Project Manager. Here, he managed a team developing novel biological molecules for a hyaluronic acid-based range of products as well as cartilage replacement therapies, both of which continue, nearly 20 years later, to play a significant role in patient treatments.

In 1997, he moved to Cambridge Antibody Technology (CAT) as VP Manufacturing and Programme Management. He was responsible for the strategic and operational management of all CAT’s programme management and manufacturing. CAT, having grown to be one of the leading UK biotechnology companies through the development of fully human therapeutic monoclonal antibodies based on the phage display technology of Prof Greg Winter of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, was acquired in 2006 by AstraZeneca (AZ) for £702 million.

In 2005, Duncan joined newly established PanGenetics as Chief Operating Officer. The firm has been highly successful in the crucial transition of antibody drugs from scientific concept to adoption by the pharmaceutical industry. Duncan has played a significant role in the interface between scientific and business enterprise, translating new bioscience into successful treatments. He has been of pivotal importance in the establishment of a new business model known as the “virtual” biotechnology company, where many of the activities are outsourced to specialist vendors. He represents the sort of drive, enthusiasm and willingness to innovate that we wish to foster in our current generation of students.

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