PHYTOME LIFE SCIENCES – BY SEBASTIAN VAUGHAN

Almost a year ago to the day, Christmas eve to be exact, the UK government approved Phytome Life Sciences’ vision to develop an epicentre for plant medicine at the Trelonk campus. In that moment, the ideas of our founders, Mark Parnall and David Richards CBE, condensed out of the ether into a real droplet of potential.  Although yet to navigate the remaining challenge to design, build and finance a facility and team, we had a vision to build something of unique and lasting value in the heart of rural Cornwall and set about our goal to spearhead the evolution of plant medicine.

Looking back, as we all celebrated in our early Christmas gift, none of us were minded to remember that iconic scene in the very first Jurassic Park movie where, Dr Ian Malcolm, played by Jeff Goldblum, explained chaos theory with a drop of water charting different courses down the back of his hand, while an inbound Tyrannosaurus rex made ripples in the cup of water.

COVID has been that catastrophic event for many, but not for Phytome. It has slowed us down and asked for diligence and resilient belief from our founders but as the Navy Seals say: “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast”. There are no shortcuts to building something of global relevance, no more so than in the scientific arena. The number of iterations to make things work rarely change, yet how much clock time they chew up is often out of our control. In these times, belief and passion are the fuel that get us through. At Phytome our small and dedicated team has made the most of what has been thrown at us this year. Sure, our research facility build schedule has been delayed but we sit here today enjoying the fruits of those labours borne out in our ability to engage world class, industry partners, academic minds, investors and financial institutions.

At Phytome the future looks extremely bright, but we are certain it is a road with further twists and turns along the way. Our most important act of resilience is to listen to our customers, partners, and investors and to evolve as they do to the selective pressures we are yet to see. These times remind me that the human mind is the world’s most sophisticated prediction engine; Personally, and professionally, we feel at our most safe when we think we have a straight road ahead of us. The world of building start-ups, where we turn ground-breaking ideas into action and then value, just does not work that way. At great speed, it is both humbling and chaotic and therefore capable of greater resilience in times of rapid change.

At the edge of chaos, the complex systems we call life emerge. I hope we can all take lessons in life and business from this beautiful fundamental truth of nature, to build back better, cleaner, and smarter. COVID has accelerated our opportunity. Let us take up the challenge better for the journey we continue to take.

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