An Interview with Niall Hodgins - Co-Founder of SeraNovo

We caught up with Niall Hodgins, Co-Founder of SeraNovo. From Belfast, Northern Ireland originally, Niall went on to complete his Masters in Biochemistry & Science Based Business at Leiden University in the Netherlands, where he co-founded SeraNovo. SeraNovo is an exciting new pharmaceutical start-up with a simple goal; to increase absorption rates of drugs through their innovative serum creation. The name being derived from the phrase “new serum”.

Literally the goal is to increase the amount of a drug that gets absorbed. It sounds simple but is arguably one of the most consequential problems in the pharmaceutical industry and is a problem for c.70% of new drugs. If not enough of a drug is absorbed, it simply won’t have the desired effect.  

What’s been your biggest achievement to date?

There’s essentially three methods that have ever been developed to increase absorption rates of drugs. There’s huge amounts of money being poured into research in this area. It’s a huge problem. Our biggest achievement was coming up with the fourth.

Tell us about your biggest mistake?

How many do you want? Off the bat, the biggest mistake is one I’ve been guilty of a couple of times. It’s when you do some research, get one result and think ‘holy s… oh wow, that’s really good’ and you then go down this kind of rabbit hole in following the result. Even to the point where I’ve invested over a month of further research to really dig into it, to then eventually realise that it was just a complete waste of time. I’ve done this twice and I’m trying to avoid doing this a third time.

What has been your most surreal career moment?

I’ve given a bunch of lectures at some of the universities on entrepreneurship, how to go about things and how I went about things. The response there from the students is amazing; that pin-drop-like attention. They ask lots of questions and can’t wait to come up to speak to you at the end - it’s very surreal to get that level of their attention

Advice you wish you were given 10 years ago?

This one’s really easy. The advice would be to watch more YouTube videos but watch the right ones. One way to think about a company is simply to think of it as solving a long list of problems. The degree to which you are a talented problem solver increases the likely success of the company. On YouTube you’ve got an infinite amount of material from people like Elon Musk for example, with questions like: “How did you solve this problem? How do you think about this problem?” He can then just go through his thought process which is unbelievably valuable. YouTube is a research method. I keep on pushing schools to use it.

What’s your goal for the next 10 years?

That is a big question. My long-term goal is to start a solar and battery company in a less economically developed country. That’s going to be the next company. Of course, for that to happen SeraNovo needs to make a bunch of money.

Your biggest motivation is?

Always keeping the long-term vision in mind; having that as a constant driver. Coupled with the fact that although it’s hard, I genuinely enjoy the process and what I do.

What's the toughest decision you’ve had to make in a business environment?

I think this will be related back to the biggest mistake. The point at which you have to say, we’ve genuinely wasted the past six weeks and there’s genuinely no useful points to take away - drawing a line under it and moving on. It’s an emotional hit. Getting up the next day is definitely hard.

Where did you last go on holiday?

I went to Boston in the summer. I was partially networking there but I also used to work very close by in Connecticut.

Favourite item in your wardrobe?

Has to be a blue shirt. 

What would we typically find in your daily bag?

Day to day you'd find my laptop, notebook, gym gear and of course all of my stationary for work.

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