Dr Monika Tomecka obtained her BSc in Genetics and Biochemistry from Abertystwyth University in 2012, followed by PhD studies in Biomedical Sciences, throughout which she worked at The University of Sheffield, University of Zurich and A*STAR Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Singapore. After finishing research, Monika moved to London and participated in a startup accelerator called Deep Science Ventures where she met her current co-founder Dr Brian Miller. In April 2017 they founded biotech company called uFraction8 which operates from Falkirk, Scotland until now.
What is the idea behind your project / product and how did you come up with it?
uFraction8 technology is based on ability to pararelise microfluidic devices. We are working with microfluidics at industrial scale. We’ve created novel type of filter which by far outcompetes current solutions such as conventional filters and centrifuges. Our tech is cheaper to install (>60%) and to run (>75%) than an average centrifuge what makes it a very attractive proposition for our customers. uFraction8 is the only company in this space using the power of microfluidics to harvest industrial volumes of cell cultures and to offer disruptive performance potential.
uFraction8 technology was invented through my co-founder’s - Brian Miller – PhD, for drinking water monitoring purpose. It’s only after combining Brian’s technical knowledge and my understanding of bio-manufacturing market, we’ve set direction of uFraction8. We have founded biotech company with a clear vision of enabling bio-economy revolution by improving techno-economics of bio-based production revolutionizing cell harvesting.
When did all start and do you have other members in your team?
After finishing my PhD I have moved to London with the intention of starting my own startup in the field of biomechanics, which was closely related to my PhD studies and which could help elderly people who often fall and break their bones. I went to startup accelerator called Deep Science Ventures and that’s how I met my current co-founder Brian. He is an engineer, I’m a biologist, engineering biotech company somehow just created in April 2017 and now, 2.5years later we still run our successful company called uFraction8 based in Falkirk, Scotland.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
Company is 2.5 years old but tech development goes a few years before that, into my co-founders PhD.
What was the biggest obstacle?
Cash is the king. Funding biotech hardware startup is not easy. It’s a capital intensive, risky investment model. Bringing cash to the early stage biotech company is difficult. That creates obstacles and slows down development, limiting the amount of tech iterations you might have and amount of tests you can perform. Speed of development is an obstacle. Partnering might be a solution. We’re currently looking for investment as well as companies who wish to partner with uFraction8 to demo our tech.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
Having and running uFraction8 is my biggest achievement to date. All successes we’re getting along with it are just part of that. Every day brings us new achievements and new challenges. Thanks to my co-founder, I always have somebody to celebrate with and deal with everything day by day. Team is the most important part of my company and my great achievement is to choose the right people to take this journey with.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
I believe that now it’s the best time ever to be a female entrepreneur – especially in a STEM topics (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). In the past in was super hard, in the future it’ll be totally normal. Now is the time to ride the wave. Many women are broadly recognized for their achievements and loudly spoken about. There is a lot of support being offered and there are several communities being created to enable peer support too. I strongly encourage any women who thinks of choosing STEM or entrepreneurship as their career choice to do it right away. Do it NOW, don’t miss the wave!
What are your projects you are currently working on?
uFraction8 is the project which absorbs all my time for the last 2.5 years.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
We need to make the noise now to set the norm for the future.
Huge thanks to #WomenInTech movement and other similar initiatives for changing the reality and allowing future generations to have, what we need to ask for today.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Just go for it! No excuses.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in health tech?
Icons such as Marie Skłodowska Curie were always inspirational to me but to be honest I had very strong examples in my surroundings too and I believe that’s where my motivation and power came from. My mum is a super strong woman who always comes up with entrepreneurial ideas and she executes them extremely well. She has shown me that you not only can reach for your dreams but you can definitely make them true. She also taught me that if you want something, it won’t happen by itself. You have to be ready to fight for it and spend extra hours executing your ideas. I’m not sure if that fits into that question but something which I have realized by watching her succeeding was the unconditional support which my dad was always giving her. That made me believe that support of people surrounding you can be as important as your actions themselves. Huge thanks to both of my parents for showing my how to build strength based on great foundation.
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This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic.