Dr Nick Kerton sadly passed away on 12th August 2019 in Dorset at the age of 68 after a major battle against Cholangiocarcinoma which was diagnosed in June 2015. He officially retired in June 2019, as a Non Executive Director, from Cambridge Cognition. He will be remembered for his heroic fight against the disease and his positive perspective on all aspects of his life. His chairmen and many colleagues have said what a privilege it has been to both know and work with Nick, as he was such a source of inspiration.
As a Chief Executive Officer for several companies both in biotechnology and healthcare industries and also as a Non Executive Chairman, Nick was a team builder and a commercial specialist with a track record of achieving high shareholder return on investment.
Having gained his PhD in the organic synthesis of insecticides at Nottingham University, he began his career as a research chemist at the Wellcome Foundation in 1976. After three years, he realised his interest in the business world and joined Du Pont de Nemours in 1979 as a Market Development Manager for Biomedical Europe where he was instrumental in developing a strategic initiative in biotechnology and establishing two research projects in the UK which resulted in two new commercial product ranges.
From Du Pont, Nick joined Whatman Reeve Angel, in 1984, becoming Director of Sales and Marketing for Whatman BioSystems, trading worldwide in filtration products and bioprocessing equipment.
Subsequently, Nick joined Radiometer A/S Copenhagen in 1988 as Managing Director of the Malthus Instruments subsidiary, where he doubled the sales in four years and also created a new startup company, Q laboratories. This was a purpose-built private testing laboratory business, housing the R &D team, which achieved profitably in only two years.
In 1993, Nick, as Commercial Director and a Board Member, joined Professor Sir Chris Evans in building Celsis International PLC, which specialised in rapid microbiology testing. The company was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1996. At Celsis, he developed a research initiative sponsored by the Department for Trade and Industry, aimed at developing novel same day testing, recruiting over forty international companies such as Glaxo, Wellcome and Merck.
Between 1996 and 1999, Nick worked for Sigma Aldrich Inc, the leading supplier of research compounds to the world's scientific community. As business manager, Nick reversed the declining sales trend and introduced key account marketing, directed to the major companies, by establishing a new customer-facing sales team to complement catalogue sales.
In 1999, Nick became CEO of Maybridge, a fine chemicals and drug discovery company, based in Cornwall and trading worldwide. He established a new management team, provided a new strategic vision for the company and repositioned the chemistry strategies to meet three new market opportunities. Sales nearly doubled in three years and his former chairman is quoted as saying Nick was an inspirational character with a brilliant and positive perspective.
After selling Maybridge in 2003, Nick helped establish Lab 21 Ltd in Cambridge in UK where he began as CEO, later becoming Chairman. During his tenure the company acquired three companies to build the diagnostics service business, providing state-of-the-art testing services to private and NHS hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and environmental monitoring companies.
Nick became involved with Sirigen in 2004, as a board member, and then later as CEO. Sirigen was a startup company out of UCSB in California, with Nobel prize-winning science, harnessing the power of novel light-harvesting materials, to offer pre-eminent fluorescent labelling and amplification technology in the life science and clinical markets, paving the way for new rapid diagnostic tests. By initially establishing a more customer-focused operating plan and a new strategic direction, Nick was able to complete successfully the initial funding and, from 2008, he had secured enough funding to expand the company before it was sold to Becton Dickinson in August 2012.
His former chairman wrote "it was a privilege to be your chairman at Sirigen. You are a good man and none of us who worked with you will ever forget that."
His Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Brent Gaylord, wrote "Nick was a great man and will be missed. His legacy and teachings will live on through all those fortunate enough to have known him."
In 2013, Nick became Chief Executive of Cambridge Cognition, a company providing computerized cognitive assessments to measure and monitor brain health. Nick moved to a non executive director role in 2015. His relationship with the team at Cambridge Cognition and its investors was so strong that the company released a short announcement to acknowledge his significant contribution to its business during his tenure there. The current chairman, Dr Stephen Powell, wrote "Thank you for being a fine leader, a fantastic mentor and a true friend - you have inspired and lifted us and you have had the most impact on my career of anyone over the 32 years we have known each other."
Nick retired in June this year, weeks before he passed away.
In his typical understated way, Nick once said to a reporter, "I am not sure that I am an entrepreneur; I am a person who has enjoyed science from a commercial perspective for 35 years."
However, in Nick's opinion, his greatest and proudest achievement was his family: his wife Julie, a Physics graduate whom he met at Nottingham University, their sons James and Matthew, whose lives and impressive careers, in Law and Medicine, have developed under their guidance, and their six wonderful grandchildren Penelope, Lucy, Phoebe, Harry, Zachary and Benjie. At the heart of this family was the love and deeply special partnership he had with Julie - they have always been a brilliant team. In reflecting on life, Nick always emphasised the importance of team-work: as a husband and wife, as a family, as friends, and as professional colleagues. This underpinned all aspects of Nick's life, his values and his accomplishments.