Project Management Team
Dr Sarah Higginbotham, Project Leader
Sarah’s background is as a microbiologist with broad experience in natural product drug discovery with particular experience working in cross-functional environments. As a Project Manager at Isomerase she both acts as a key contact for external partners and leads the in-house fermentation team. She is experienced in technology transfer of small scale fermentation processes to >30 KL scale, working closely with sub-contractors both remotely and on-site. Before joining Isomerase, Sarah was based at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama where she led the Terrestrial Microbiology lab of the International Cooperative Biodiversity Group. Her team worked with academic and industry collaborators to apply ecological insights to the search for novel bioactive compounds from endophytic fungi and Actinomycetes. After a one-year fellowship at Queen’s University, Belfast working on the treatment of biofilms of ‘ESKAPE’ pathogens, she joined Isomerase in early 2015. Sarah holds a B.Sc. and Ph.D. in Microbiology from University College Dublin, Ireland.
Dr Ursula Schell, Project Leader
Ursula Schell completed her PhD in Molecular Microbiology at the University of Stuttgart in 1998. She then focussed on engineering gene clusters for polyketide biosynthesis in streptomycetes which brought her to the UK in 2002, when she received a Marie-Curie fellowship with Biotica. Between 2004 and 2007 she worked as a postdoc on the EPSRC funded BICE programme at UCL in London, an interdisciplinary biocatalysis project targeting chiral aminodiol synthesis. She later led her team at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) developing microbial expression platforms and contributing to the process development of microbially derived drug candidates. In 2012, Ursula joined Johnson Matthey’s Catalysis team as their first biologist. She was significantly involved in establishing Biocatalysis at the Cambridge site and supervised both enzyme development and bioproduction projects.
Dr Lesley Sheehan, Project Leader
Lesley is an experienced molecular biologist and microbiologist with a focus on using synthetic biology tools to generate natural products with enhanced pharmaceutical properties. She specialises in project management and particularly enjoys interfacing between lab science and project management and delivery. Lesley was one of the first employees at Biotica. in 2000 and worked on discovery projects across multiple therapeutic areas with various collaborators. She is author on a number of publications and patents. Lesley holds a BA (Mod) in Natural Science and PhD in Microbiology awarded by Trinity College Dublin where she studied under Professor Charles Dorman.
Dr Anna Stanley-Smith, Project Leader
Anna joined the Isomerase team in 2013 and works as a Project Leader, managing external collaborations and internal research programmes. She is an experienced Chemical Biologist and has worked on a diverse set of projects, from therapeutic targets including immunosuppression, respiratory diseases, anti-infectives and anti-cancer agents, through to products for crop protection. Prior to Isomerase, Anna was Project Manager at Biotica where she was reposnsible for the company’s proprietary NovoPT natural compound collection; compiling, organising and supplying the company’s unique chemical compound screening library. Her complimentary mix of chemistry, biology and IT experience, teamed with her natural leadership skills, helped her head the 'hit-to-lead' pipeline efforts for the company. Anna has over 15 years’ experience working with actinomycetes after transitioning to study at the interface between chemistry and biology for her PhD in Chemistry at the University of Warwick. Here she learned molecular biology techniques in Streptomyces and analysed the resulting changes with chemical techniques learned during her MChem: Chemistry with Medicinal Chemistry (1st Class) at the same institution.