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Breaking Boundaries: The Inspiring Journey of a Biotech Innovator

Dive into the remarkable world of Dr. Marianna Prokopi-Demetriades, a pioneering force in biotech innovation and oncology research. With a relentless dedication to enhancing the lives of cancer patients, Marianna’s groundbreaking work has earned her accolades such as the Forbes 20WomenInTech Award and the Madame Figaro Woman of the Year in Innovation Award. As the co-founder of three esteemed biotech firms, Marianna’s ventures span from dermaceuticals alleviating cancer patients’ skin side-effects to precision cancer therapies rooted in nanotechnology. Educated at prestigious institutions and committed to mentorship, Marianna’s impact extends far beyond the laboratory, shaping the future of biotech and inspiring generations to come.

What are the key areas of focus in your research in oncology?

Our oncological research at Theramir Ltd is deeply embedded in the groundbreaking field of extracellular vesicles and stem cell technology. We harness these biological carriers to deliver therapeutic agents, such as microRNAs, directly into cancer cells, thereby potentially revolutionizing patient treatment and significantly impacting the international biotech market. This focus not only propels us to the forefront of cancer research but also offers hope for improved patient outcomes through less invasive and more targeted therapies. The application of extracellular vesicles signifies a leap towards precision medicine, where the one-size-fits-all approach is replaced by treatments tailored to the individual’s unique cellular environment.

Could you describe the three biotech firms you co-founded and their respective areas of specialization?

Theramir Ltd specializes in precision cancer therapies, using a proprietary technology EVmiR® that delivers therapeutic microRNAs directly to tumors.

• RSL Revolutionary Labs Ltd develops dermatological products εὖSKINÒ for oncology patients, addressing skin side effects of cancer treatments.

• Promed Bioscience Ltd is at the cutting edge of bioprinting artificial organs with its high-purity collagen, CollX3Ò, providing essential materials for regenerative medicine.

What notable awards and recognitions have you received for your contributions to the field of biotechnology and entrepreneurship?

I have been humbled by the recognition I have received for my contributions to biotechnology and entrepreneurship, which include the Forbes 20WomenInTech Award Cyprus 2023, the TechIsland Award Rising Star 2023, the Young Researcher Award in Life Sciences 2021 from the Republic of Cyprus, and the Madame Figaro Woman of the Year in Innovation Award 2020. Additionally, my alma mater, King’s College London, honored me with a prestigious award recognizing my significant contributions to STEM in 2022. These accolades not only affirm our scientific advancements and innovative business approaches but also underscore the global impact of our work from a clinical and commercial perspective.

How have you been involved in mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs, and through which platforms?

Mentoring the next generation of entrepreneurs, particularly in the STEM fields, is a responsibility I take to heart. My role extends to advising startups and guiding young scientists through programs such as King’s Leadership and Junior Achievement Cyprus. Empowering aspiring entrepreneurs with the knowledge and confidence to navigate the biotech landscape is vital for fostering innovation. I believe in the importance of imparting my experience and insights to enable others to overcome barriers, achieve their goals, and contribute positively to society. I actively participate in mentoring programs that support women in their early career steps via the Falling Walls Foundation Female Science Talents, the AIPFE, the Global Woman Network, and the ICC Network.

What was the significance of securing 3M in corporate VC funds for your team in 2022?

The injection of corporate funds was a milestone that catalyzed significant expansion for our team in multiple facets. It has allowed us to amplify our market reach, enhance production capacity, expand our talented team, and operate under stringent ISO and GMP standards. This financial boost has propelled our growth trajectory and bolstered our commitment to delivering high-quality, innovative oncological solutions.

How does the establishment of a biotech hub in Limassol’s ASBIS Hi-tech Cluster contribute to your vision and goals?

The establishment of a biotech hub within Limassol’s ASBIS Hi-tech Cluster is a cornerstone of our mission to enhance the biotech ecosystem in Cyprus and advance the biotech sector by providing cutting-edge solutions for patient care. This strategic move aims also to curtail the brain drain by providing opportunities and a conducive environment for local talent to thrive. By fostering a community that encourages innovation, we contribute to propelling Cyprus as a key player in the regional biotech arena, while retaining and attracting skilled professionals within the country.

Can you elaborate on the innovative solutions your team aims to develop to reshape the biotech landscape?

Our pursuit of biotech innovation centers on forging personalized medical solutions to enhance patient care in oncology. We’re focused on developing targeted therapies for aggressive cancers like triple-negative breast cancer, bladder cancer, and pancreatic cancer. In tandem, we’re advancing companion diagnostics through liquid biopsies to accompany these treatments, ensuring a tailored approach. The ambit of our innovation extends to biomaterials such as our atelocollagen bioink and CollX3Ò designed for organ replacement and tissue regeneration, addressing critical needs in regenerative medicine. Alongside, our dermaceutical line εὖSKINÒ offers relief from the harsh side effects of existing cancer treatments (skin toxicities such as radiation dermatitis, erythema, stomatitis, blisters, and nail loss), bringing comfort and support to patients during their most challenging times. Each project in our pipeline shares a common thread—commitment to improving outcomes and quality of life for patients, utilizing cutting-edge science delivered with compassionate care.

What role does nanotechnology play in the precision cancer therapies innovated by your firm, Theramir Ltd?

Theramir Ltd is at the forefront of precision oncology, utilizing our patented EVmiR® technology within our innovative stem cell nanotherapeutic platforms. This allows for the targeted delivery of microRNAs directly into cancer cells, ensuring accuracy and minimizing adverse effects on healthy cells. The result is a treatment that offers heightened drug efficacy precisely where needed, leading to reduced side effects and significantly improved patient outcomes. Additionally, our diagnostic advancements, especially in liquid biopsies, pave the way for earlier detection and offer potential for more effective and less invasive diagnostic and treatment methods. Expanding the application of our EVmiR® nanodelivery platform, we are exploring new frontiers in paliative care for example in wound management of oncology and diabetic patients, underlining our commitment to elevating patient care through innovative nanotechnology solutions.

How do you contribute to non-profit organizations like the ENAVSMA Foundation and the ICC Women Network Cyprus?

My engagement with non-profit organizations like the ENAVSMA Foundation and the ICC Women Network Cyprus stems from a commitment to fostering both education and gender diversity in the professional sphere. With ENAVSMA, we actively support the provision of postgraduate scholarships to students across Cyprus, tailored each cycle to meet specific criteria and needs. This initiative ensures that students of merit, particularly those hindered by financial challenges, can pursue higher education and contribute meaningfully to our society. The ICC Women Network Cyprus, in affiliation with the International Chamber of Commerce, is dedicated to strengthening the presence and impact of female professionals and entrepreneurs. Our role involves amplifying their voices and increasing their visibility, with a particular emphasis on improving gender diversity within the workforce. We advocate for and support the ascent of women into managerial and decision-making positions. My contribution to these efforts is multifaceted—aiding in strategic planning, resource mobilization, and fostering collaborative links that drive our mission forward. Through these channels, we aim to create a robust support network that not only champions women’s progress in business but also provides the next generation with the tools and opportunities they need to excel and innovate.

How has your educational background and experience at institutions like King’s College London shaped your career trajectory and entrepreneurial endeavors?

My formative years at King’s College London were instrumental, providing high-quality studies that laid the foundation for a career in research and biotechnology. The institution’s commitment to empowering women through its vibrant alumni community played a significant role in shaping my approach to leadership and entrepreneurship. Being part of such an inspiring network has reinforced my conviction in the value of mentorship and support for emerging women leaders in science and business.

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