Introducing our new Director of EDoN
By Joyce Yu | Tuesday 02 November 2021
Mike Oldham has joined Alzheimer’s Research UK as our new Director of EDoN.
We caught up with Mike to find out more about his background and the work he will be doing at Alzheimer’s Research UK.
What has been your career path to date?
I’m an aeronautical engineer by training, spending the first part of my career with engineering consultancies Atkins and Arup, initially structural dynamics & seismic design of bridges and power stations, etc. then moving into programme management.
I moved into research & innovation almost by mistake when I accepted the offer of a short secondment to Innovate UK. It was a fascinating space and so I stayed. I set-up and ran the Catapult network of technology and innovation centres for six years.
Since then, I’ve really enjoyed helping get technology centres up and running: I spent a couple of years at NPL (National Physical Lab) in Teddington where I established their new Data Science Department.
In November 2019, I joined a new organisation the Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC) at Harwell. Crickey, what a time to start learning about vaccines! There were only 14 of us when we sat down with the Oxford University team in February 2020 and started working through how to rapidly scale-up development and manufacturing of their new Covid-19 vaccine. We also had to work out how to knock a year or more off the manufacturing timeline for the new VMIC facility at Harwell.
Were you always interested in science and technology?
Absolutely, yes. Aeroplanes, cars, bikes, buildings, bridges have fascinated me from an early age – still do. I’m a bit of geek really. I really enjoyed the early stages of the Catapult programme – looking at where we should focus the investment meant I had to look across loads of technologies and industries that were completely new to me – satellites, automotive manufacturing, cell therapies, etc. – all brand new and fascinating to delve into.
How have you worked with EDoN in the past?
It was my second week at NPL when I met Carol Routledge from ARUK and subsequently a number of us started exploring all the aspects of data science we could bring to bear on the challenge of early diagnosis of diseases that cause dementia. Writing the expression of interest for the Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund helped to shape the thinking on the programme and then I sat on the steering group while I was at NPL. When I joined VMIC, life got a little busy (to say the least!) and I had to pull back, so it was great to have the opportunity this summer to re-engage with EDoN.
What are your responsibilities as the Director of EDoN?
First and foremost, to ensure that the EDoN project delivers on its full potential. I will be working with the team to ensure we have a clear scientific strategy in place and a roadmap all the way through to a suite of tools can be rolled out as part of health checks in the future.
Secondly, to put in place a robust operating model and a delivery structure that gets the best out of the talented teams we have and ensures transparent use of ARUK’s investment.
Thirdly, to start to look at how we roll out and commercialise the EDoN toolkit we will develop. This in itself is a huge topic: we need to deploy the tools to further the charity’s goals but there is a whole spectrum of ways that we could do that.
What attracted you to the role at EDoN?
I think two things: the passion of the talented people across the initiative and the intellectual challenge of how we mobilise cutting edge analysis and technology to improve lives. Alzheimer’s, dementia, and neurological diseases will impact every one of us and our families in the years to come – we’ve already felt the impact in our family. If we can focus the outstanding talent that we have to create a toolkit to accelerate diagnosis, that will open-up a whole new raft of opportunities for treatment and management.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Getting outside. I love getting up into the hills and mountains, cycling and hiking. It’s been a precious luxury during the pandemic, but it has been great this summer, as things have opened-up, I’ve been able to spend time cycling up hills in the Lakes and Yorkshire.
What is the one thing you can’t live without?
My family. Although, I’m sure if you asked them, they would say it’s my bikes!