Developed Synpromics' technology and responsible for all Research at Synpromics
Michael L Roberts

Where did you work before you founded Synpromics?

I started my career by studying Biochemistry at the University of Glasgow and was fortunate enough to gain a first class honours degree, which allowed me to move straight into a PhD at the University of Cambridge. Since my undergraduate days I had a very strong interest in understanding how genes are controlled and so my thesis was focussed on examining how expression of pro-survival genes help shape neuronal plasticity in the peripheral nervous system.

After completing my PhD, I decided to take on a Post-Doc position at Royal Holloway, University of London, where I worked on developing novel gene therapies for neuromuscular disorders and it was there that I first read about synthetic promoters. I decided to take on a Marie Curie fellowship so that I could travel to Greece and learn about utilising functional genomics in the study of cancer and it was the switch from gene therapy to genomics that seeded the idea of the technology underpinning Synpromics.

Why did you decide to found Synpromics?

In the latter part of my career I spent five years running Gene Therapy R&D activities for a small US Biotech firm operating out of Greece called Regulon, where I picked up a strong interest in the commercial side of science. I had thought for a long time that promoters the industry used in gene therapy products would never fully allow those products to be widely adopted. So I left Regulon to pursue research in developing a systematic way to create synthetic promoters that could be designed to express therapeutic genes and optimised for any given cell type. By that stage I had already decided to start a company to commercialise those ideas and I approached Scottish Enterprise to help me to do so.

What is your role & what do you enjoy most about it?

I am currently the Chief Scientific Officer of the company, which is a role I enjoy greatly. It allows me to focus on the science behind our technology, whilst still being in a position to communicate with partners, investors and other stakeholders, and to take an active role in shaping the business. Synpromics is still of a size that allows me to directly interact with the team running the various projects and to contribute to the day-to-day science of the company. I enjoy the flexibility of working in a small organisation and adapting my experience to address challenges that arise in both the scientific and commercial sides of the business.