Vetsina: Who we are
Developing new animal health diagnostic testing technologies
Vetsina is a new company formed by DESTINA Genomics and Roslin Technologies to develop innovative diagnostics for animal health and veterinary use.
The new tests will be based on DESTINA Genomics’ patented, chemical-based molecular diagnostic system that can directly detect tissue- and disease-specific RNA and microRNA biomarkers in biological fluids. Vetsina will also have access under its exclusive licence to DESTINA’s proprietary stabilisation buffer system, Stabiltech™. This transformative technology blocks degradation of target miRNAs in plasma and serum, which means that enabling samples can be prepared, shipped, and stored and then analysed without requiring refrigeration.
Together, Vetsina will develop these new technologies to form the basis of a new animal health diagnostic testing portfolio. The first assays will be launched for reference laboratory use, but the company ambition is to also develop cost effective point of care systems where indicated.
Roslin Technologies is a technology commercialisation company based at Easter Bush Campus in the University of Edinburgh. It was created to develop the commercial opportunities presented by the research and intellectual property of the Roslin Institute and the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. Vetsina will use this significant expertise in RNA and microRNA research and animal diagnostics to deliver veterinary solutions that will positively impact animal health and welfare.
Board of Directors
Dr. Wells has extensive experience in the animal health pharmaceutical industry having held senior positions in major global companies for almost 30 years. Mainly involved in directing the research and development of vaccines and medicines for disease control and therapy, he emphasised the importance of linking these activities closely to the needs of the market. He was the former Global Head of Research and Development with Novartis Animal Health.
During his career he has overseen the commercialisation of nearly 50 products for the food producing species of cattle, sheep, pigs, fish and poultry, as well as for companion animals.
Since retiring from his role at Novartis, Dr. Wells has held several non-executive board positions. These include being Chairman of Moredun Scientific Ltd, a contract research organisation specialising in animal health and biosafety testing of biopharmaceuticals, and Chairman of GALVmed, a global alliance offering affordable animal health solutions to resource-poor smallholder farmers in Africa and South Asia.
After initially graduating as a veterinarian from the University of Edinburgh, Dr. Wells studied further at Ontario Veterinary College and was awarded a PhD in pharmacology and immunology.
Chief Executive Officer
Dr. Wheeler is a veterinarian and strategic leader with over 20 years’ experience of the global animal health industry. He has previously held strategic, technical, marketing and innovation roles in various companies, including Pharmacia and Novartis.
He also reached senior positions in clinical veterinary academia in the UK and US, lecturing at international meetings and conducting research, as well as publishing three books and over 125 articles and chapters, and mentoring trainees. He has received a number of awards for teaching and contributions to veterinary surgery.
Recently, Dr. Wheeler has held several consultancies, including Chief Operating Officer of Roslin Technologies, an Edinburgh-based biotech start up, and he was commercial consultant to Advanced Anaesthesia Specialists. He has supported various biotech companies as well as holding several board positions.
A qualified veterinarian, Jacqui has worked in animal health for over 30 years. Until 2019, she was based in academia, where she led research programmes supported by >£13 million competitive funding. These projects had wide industry impact relating to livestock infectious disease and generated >140 associated peer-reviewed publications and many lay articles. During this period, she developed, from first principles, a diagnostic test for small redworm in horses, which was commercialised in 2019.
In 2017, she was awarded Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Fellowship and Elsevier’s International Journal for Parasitology Award. Jacqui is a RCVS Recognised Specialist (Parasitology) and Honorary Professor at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and currently has a ministerial appointment on the UK Veterinary Products Committee and sits on two UKRI BBSRC Committees.
In 2019, she moved to Roslin Technologies, where she leads on Strategic Partnerships and manages the R&D programme, bringing scientific innovations to the agri and animal health sectors. She has a strong commercial awareness, combined with a long track record in translational science, project development, Board & Committee engagement, and public speaking.
David Whitcombe has more than 10 years of academic research and 15 years in industrial R&D. David has produced a number of publications and patents including the Scorpions technology that formed the basis of his start-up business DxS Ltd in 2000. He was Head of Technology Development at AstraZeneca Diagnostics for four years leading a team focused on developing new genomic technologies. David successfully developed DxS over 8 years before securing an exit in September 2009 for a total enterprise value in excess of £100M.
Dr. Baltasar Lucendo Villarin
Head of Laboratory Science
Dr Baltasar Lucendo Villarin has over 10 years of experience in stem cell biology. His PhD studies at the University of Edinburgh focused on stabilising the epithelial phenotype of hepatocytes derived from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) employing synthetic materials. He pursued his career in the liver stem cell biology field by studying the effect of maternal smoking in foetal liver development using a semi-automatic platform of hPSCs derived hepatocytes. During his latest project he reported an automated platform to produce self-assembled liver organoids derived from pluripotent stem cells to study human biology in the dish and with biomedical and industrial applications.
Dr. Jason Ioannidis
Head of Research
Dr. Jason Ioannidis, has more than 10 years in molecular biology and genetics. During his career, he produced a thesis on the development on microRNA-based diagnostics for cattle pregnancy and oestrus, as well as research investigating associations between plasma microRNAs and industry-relevant functional traits in dairy cattle. At the Roslin Institute he completed a three-year project in the functional genetics of avian sex determination, which included the utilisation of CRISPR-Cas9 technology to produce gene-edited chickens. He also completed a short project in the subject of avian optic fissure closure, during which he continued to apply gene-editing techniques.
Brandon Shek graduated with an Honours degree in Biotechnology at the University of Edinburgh, with a research project focused on characterizing the effects of Tenascin C in Inflammatory Bowel Disease using a mouse model.
Aiming to build on a foundation of knowledge from Biotechnology and expand his technical expertise, he undertook a year-long Master’s research project in Clinical Veterinary Sciences at the Roslin Institute as part of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Sciences, investigating genetic influences on the development of feline tooth resorption.