As medical technology advances, the pharmaceutical sector is key to providing high-quality, well-paid jobs in Wales – retaining the nation's brightest and best and attracting talent from elsewhere in the UK and worldwide.

One business at the vanguard of Wales' developing pharmaceuticals sector is CatSci, based in Cardiff, and a spin-out from a firm that has become synonymous with modern medicine, particularly the fight against Covid-19 - AstraZeneca.

CatSci has been supported through Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme (AGP). The AGP provides targeted support for ambitious growing firms. The programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.


Here, Dr Mark Waring, CatSci's Director of UK Operations and Cardiff Site, shares the company's story and provides guidance for other businesses looking to grow and prosper.


Tell us about CatSci
Our business history goes back to 2010, so we've been around for over a decade, enjoying a great deal of success. In that time, we've grown significantly and have ambitions to continue expanding further.

One person who has been at the centre of the development and expansion of CatSci is Dr Ross Burn, our CEO. Ross is the driving force behind our success, and he's moulded the company's ethos while spearheading our growth.


After completing his PhD in 2007, Ross joined AstraZeneca as a Senior Analytical Chemist in Process R&D. His analytical expertise, and entrepreneurial mindset were integral to the establishment of CatSci in 2010. Ross became CEO in 2015 and has since led the company's pivot from a catalyst screening company to the award-winning innovation partner for medicines development it is today.

Ross has made CatSci an employee-first and team-focused company that values its talented team. He's instilled a continuous improvement culture, striving for self and company development. He aims to grow CatSci to become the leading partner for developing and manufacturing new medicines. A testament to Ross' innovation and entrepreneurial spirit, he was included on The Medicine Maker's 2021 Power List of inspirational professionals in the pharmaceutical industry.


So, what do we do here at CatSci? We're dedicated to breaking down the silos in drug development to accelerate the delivery of life-changing medicines to patients in need.

We deliver excellent quality and perfect-for-purpose solutions that support drug developers across the pharmaceutical pipeline. We help our customers navigate complex scientific and manufacturing challenges, adding strategic value to their journey from molecule to medicine.


When CatSci began, we had five employees; now, we have over 100 and work with more than half of the top 10 pharma companies and four of the top five. We plan to continue to grow at our HQ in Cardiff, while we also have a second site in Dagenham, which we're growing as an analytical centre of excellence.

We have six operational laboratories fitted with the latest high-end equipment across our two UK sites. In addition, we recently received a significant investment from Keensight Capital, which means we can further expand our facilities, offerings, laboratories and workforce.


We are incredibly ambitious and have a long-term perspective on our growth. We aim to create or sustain 500 high-value jobs – consolidating the UK's position as the go-to location for best-in-class pharmaceutical development services.

Most technical, commercial and management teams have PhDs, and we focus on attracting the top talent and creating a culture where they can thrive. We are all driven by CatSci's purpose: to get new medicines into the hands of patients in need.



What are your proudest moments in business so far?
We are incredibly proud of many things in our CatSci journey so far. One of the most notable achievements to date is when we won the Queen's Award For Enterprise: International Trade 2022, highlighting the hard work, talent, and commitment of the whole CatSci team. Our continuous dedication to accelerating medicines development was recognised by winning the Queen's Award, and it solidifies our position as a world-class innovation partner for medicines development.

We've won many other awards, too. In the last year, we have won the Wales Business Awards' Workplace Wellbeing Award, Inspire Business Awards Business of the Year Award (25+ Employees), and the Bionow Export of the Year Award. We've also been shortlisted for two Lloyds Bank British Business Excellence Awards: International Trade Exporter of the Year Award and the Diversity Champion Award, and two Cardiff Business Awards: International Business of the Year and the Technology Business of the Year.


Aside from the awards, and as I've already mentioned, another proud achievement is our significant investment from Keensight Capital, a leading private equity firm. The investment will allow us to carry out our ambitious expansion plans and accelerate our growth so we can continue offering "more and better" to our customers to deliver best-in-class medicines for patients worldwide.



What challenges have you faced in business?
In 2016, we changed our business strategy and refocused our value proposition from solely a catalyst screening provider to offering comprehensive perfect-for-purpose drug development services. This presented a challenge, as we had to reposition the company while attracting new business.

When we decided to focus on the US, we had to establish trust and credibility in the demanding and crowded US market, despite being a completely unknown entity.


The Covid-19 pandemic was, of course, a significantly challenging time for many reasons. With international travel halted and amid widespread fear of the changing global economic outlook, we suffered the cancellation and delay of projects.

With a significant portion of our work coming from US clients, the pandemic meant no international trips or trade shows for client relationship building. In addition, we couldn't invite customers to our site as part of their decision-making process. However, we quickly implemented a Covid-secure laboratory and maintained an unwavering customer focus, which meant we could rebound with minimum disruption. I was incredibly pleased that we didn't have to furlough any staff. In addition, we developed and implemented digital tools to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, including a 360° site tour to enable virtual visits to our facilities.


As CatSci grows, we're constantly evolving our capabilities in line with our customers' needs and expectations. This meant we faced the challenge of scaling up our workforce, facilities and offerings whilst maintaining the excellent quality of service for which we are known.

Despite the challenges we faced and thanks to our agility, innovative internationalisation strategy, and passion for medicines development (and the outstanding team here delivering all that!), we are proud to do business in 13 countries. This year, we have expanded into Japan – the second largest pharmaceutical innovation market – and have just won our first project with a Japanese customer.


If you were starting again, what would you do differently?
We're proud of CatSci's journey and evolution, but a lesson we learned early on is to get on with acquiring customers immediately. No matter how great your products or services are, nobody will be ringing you up on day one. We would also have brought in a Chief Financial Officer earlier, as this role is integral in understanding the business' financial matters and executing our ambitious growth strategy.


How has support from Business Wales AGP helped your business?
We've received support from a range of consultants and advisors through the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme, which has been invaluable to us and our growth. They've advised us on numerous factors, including business development and marketing, team building and individual growth, lean working methods, and mentoring support for our financial team.

The Welsh Government has also supported us with trade missions and conferences. We are also committed to creating a diverse and inclusive workforce. We have refreshed our diversity, equality and inclusion strategy to be even more inclusive and accessible, introducing progressive new policies in line with Welsh Government guidance.


What advice and guidance would you give other businesses starting out?

  • Focus on what you do well and how you will bring that to the market. Don't try to be all things to everyone, especially at the beginning.
  • Always keep customers at the forefront of your mind; think about them at all stages, speak to them and listen to them to recognise how you can create the most value, both now and in the future.
  • Your team is your greatest asset. Bring them with you on the journey.
  • Have a clear vision for growth combined with a high level of ambition.
  • Look to take debt as far as you can before giving up equity – understand how much investment you need, when you need it and what you need it for.


To learn more about CatSci, visit here.

Further information on the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme


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The Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme is a pan-Wales programme part funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.

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