Ed Lee, Chief Operating Officer of Advanced Oncotherapy plc (AVO), talks about his background, what that experience brings to AVO and how that knowledge can translate into shareholder value.
Q: Ed, I understand you joined AVO earlier this year?
A: Yes, I joined AVO in February and have been busy getting to know the company, its culture, personnel, and, of course, the LIGHT system, while helping drive our production priorities forwards.
Q: Is that your background, in production?
A: Yes it is. I worked in senior management production roles with the likes of Meggitt and Northrup Grumman for over 10 years, before joining Optivus Proton Therapy in 2011, where I’ve been since. At Optivus I had dual responsibility for production and for client-facing tasks, such as installation and on-going system servicing.
Q: Can you tell us a little more about this experience and why it is relevant to AVO?
A: One of the key crossovers from my time at companies in the aerospace & defence industry is the critical nature of their systems. Quality has to be guaranteed, given the absolute requirement to avoid failures with potentially catastrophic consequences. The same is true of Optivus and all proton therapy businesses, albeit in a more directly relevant manner where patient care is absolutely paramount.
Q: For those who don’t know, can you explain what Optivus is and does?
A: Of course. Optivus was the pioneer of proton therapy in the 80’s, setting up the first hospital-based proton treatment and research centre at Loma Linda in California. Today, Optivus has two key products: their own proton therapy system, which is analogous to the hardware of LIGHT, although not a linear accelerator, and a treatment planning system i.e. the computer software and hardware that controls all patient treatment (analogous to LIGHT’s patient treatment systems).
That centre has now treated more than 20,000 cancer patients over 27 years, which is more than any other. That experience, through helping to run a 4 treatment room facility, can translate directly into AVO’s commercial operations.
LIGHT itself is a turn-key solution, in that it provides everything a hospital or clinic would require. My background with Optivus gives me insight into every step of the production process and LIGHT’s clinical application.
Q: Can you explain further how that experience can benefit AVO?
A: In driving improvements in manufacturing reliability, such as in on-time delivery, for example. On-time delivery relies on enhancing the strength of the production process to reduce occurrence of faulty goods and by executing project plans on time and on budget. This comes about from working closely alongside different departments, establishing the right work culture and employing great people.
All this should lead to an efficient and reliable production process and an ability to offer excellent customer service.
Q: And is your educational background in a discipline related to manufacturing?
A: It is, yes. I trained as a mechanical engineer.
Q: So your focus is on the design and implementation of new machines and systems?
A: It is to a great extent, but not completely so. For example, I have also worked on the financial analysis and cash flow modelling of new products.
Q: How is that relevant to what you are doing now?
A: It’s essential to maintain a financial perspective on the whole of the manufacturing and client servicing process. AVO’s shareholders are expecting a return on their investment and it is my responsibility to help ensure that that happens.
To put it another way, everything that’s done by our scientists and engineers will be financially sound.
But it’s important not to forget that we’re in the business of treating cancer. Like many others, my own family has had to cope with this disease and we have personally benefited from proton therapy.
Q: And what progress can you flag to AVO’s shareholders?
A: We’ve already hit a number of the key targets in our project timeline: the proton beam through the RFQ, delivery of CCL units, receipt of our unique ionisation chamber and, just recently, successful integration of and beam firing through the first Side Coupled Drift Tube Linac (“SCDTL”) module.
LIGHT has been designed to be the only proton therapy system on the market that can be mass produced, thereby maximising our commercial opportunities. To do that, we have to make sure there is robustness in our design and repeatability in our manufacturing process.
Q: Is that readily achievable?
A: No, it isn’t. But it comes from having an overview of the whole manufacturing and client-servicing process, which I have, and by working with all relevant stakeholders, such as our suppliers, manufacturing partners, customers and, of course, our R&D team.
Q: How much of a benefit is it to AVO to be able to draw on the knowledge of your scientists and engineers in Geneva?
A: It’s hugely beneficial to AVO. My challenge is helping to ensure the intellectual property within AVO gets converted into shareholder value. It’s one I am relishing and am confident we can achieve as a team.