For our latest Startup Spotlight Series interview, we spoke to Achala de Mel, the founder of NuTissu Ltd. She talks to Trendscout about his mission to provide personalised solutions to address diseased or damaged tissue and help improve efficient wound healing.


Achala de Mel is an innovator with a BSc in Biochemistry and Biological Chemistry, Masters in Vascular Disease and a PhD in Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine. Following her PhD, in the last 10+ years, she has successfully executed projects related to Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine. When she is not innovating, she can be jogging, gyming, creating noise/music on a keyboard, or painting.


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Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you better. So, can you tell us a bit of your “backstory” and how you got started?


I was obsessed with the human body as a child. For example, I was puzzled to the point of being disturbed by why a cut to the fingernail doesn’t hurt, but the skin on the finger next to it hurt. Growing up in a country during a civil war, I heard and saw a great deal about devastating war injuries.


Later during school, I became fascinated with organ transplantation after reading a book titled “Knife to the Heart”. This obsession then translated into my school art lessons, where my signature paintings were trees bearing organs – perhaps influenced by an article I read in a magazine about “growing organs” in a lab. With this fascination, I wanted to learn and do things to make new organs and make things okay for injured people.


Instead of attending Medical School, I trained in science, physiology, and biomaterials. As an application-based researcher, I became interested in working on new ideas to solve medical problems based on multidisciplinary science, particularly issues related to tissue or organ damage. This background led me to think innovative about the difficulties our startup is now focused on solving.


What was the most exciting story that happened to you since you launched your startup?


Every day is exciting and challenging, but setting up our lab in London and providing employment opportunities for new science graduates as our first cohort of laboratory assistants was a significant milestone- these were covid graduates who had completed their science-based degrees but, unfortunately, had minimal to no lab-based training.


So the company provided them with lab-based experience in 3D printing and biomaterials related to tissue engineering, which has helped to make significant progress with NuTissu’s biomaterials catalogue development within a relatively short period.


No startup founder is immune from making mistakes, and it’s part of the “growing pains” they go through. Can you share one mistake you’ve made with us and the valuable lesson it taught you?


Neglecting personal health and fitness was a significant mistake. It is easy to skip that 5-mile jog or the gym session or eat something you know is not healthy. The lesson is that the company must be in its best form. Your health will have a cumulative positive effect on your business.


There has been much talk about supporting diversity and inclusion among startup investors. This may be obvious to you, but can you share with our readers why it’s so crucial for investors to support startups with a diverse and inclusive executive team?


By definition, the groups we talk about “needing to include” show that they are overlooked or considered exceptions rather than the norm –from my experience, people in this category who genuinely aim to serve a purposeful life always bring extraordinary results.


On average, someone from a “diverse” background can be sure to be highly driven and strive to raise the bar that much higher, as they are inherently wired to do so.


In general, (including my personal experience), it’s generally a “swim against the tide” and most likely had to perform exceptionally to get the same opportunities as the “majority”/” non-diverse” in the current society.


Therefore if not for the intention of creating equal opportunities, investors can be assured to get exceptionally positive outcomes by supporting those with diverse backgrounds.


If you can inspire a movement that would bring a positive change within your community, what would that be and why?


I feel passionate about people taking over other people’s projects and shamelessly positioning Interlopers who have made a career out of being interlopers – taking over other people’s projects and being positively acknowledged for it.


This should be considered an offence to steal other people’s “babies” under any circumstances, particularly if the founder and CEO do not agree. Suppose someone can be original enough to start a new company and get things happening. In that case, they should not be dismissed at the first hurdle-this means it should be not considered okay for interlopers to lead other people’s companies.


There are far too many cases where people undermine a new CEO and try to “plug” an “experienced” CEO who has taken on the role because they had “CEO” ed other people’s companies –replacing founder CEOs against their wish should be a severe offence or allocating projects and research credits even in academia without significant contribution should be considered an offence. There should be a path to highlight such offensive actions.


If you had a chance to spend a day with someone and have the liberty to ask anything, who would that person be? What three questions would you ask?


Perhaps Elon Musk-he is a great achiever, and I admire him greatly.


What are humanity’s biggest challenges– the most significant opportunities for innovation? (in addition to what you are addressing)


What are your thoughts on the possible impact of coding the “electrome”, – i.e. detailed understanding of bioelectricity’s role in defining physiological and biochemical processes as an epigenetic phenomenon?


Can you share your favourite life quote with us and why this is so relevant to you?


I have many favourite quotes, but maybe I’ll say, “harder you work, luckier you get.” 


Work hard, persevere, and be very mindful to avoid naïvely associating with those who are selfish and fearless of committing wrong-doings, as they can drag you down and bring someone the most significant bad luck.


Great! Thanks for that. Now, let’s go to the main focus of this interview. Can you share with us the story behind that “A-ha Moment” you had that led to the idea of creating and launching your startup?


The end of my post as a university lecturer in 2017 led me to think about entrepreneurship seriously. I wanted to build a “plant” to produce and deliver synthetic organs and tissue. Then I enrolled on an entrepreneurship programme for life sciences in Nottingham, where I did a customer discovery exercise to validate this idea. Then during a series of interviews with patients, surgeons and procurements, I realised this significant unmet need to address chronic wounds more specifically.


What do you think makes your startup stand out? Can you share with us examples to show this?


Our startup uniquely leads on using bioelectricity to heal wounds in person-specific, user-friendly technologies, with IP belonging to us.


What are some “myths” or misconceptions people have when launching a startup that you’ve debunked throughout your journey?


I think there is a misconception that a startup needs co-founders. I’ve started as a solo founder but have advisors, management support and collaborators. I would want to hire suitable team members as project managers and others with complementary skill sets, but I don’t see the compulsory need for a co-founder for the sake of it.


I’m not sure if we have debunked this, but I launched our startup before raising all the required funding needed, and currently striving to reach milestones by being super resourceful, but at a slower rate than we would have had all the funding.


It worked out that we secured some grant funding to hire temporary staff (if I had waited, this opportunity to offer employment through a time-specific grant would have passed by, and we would not have made the progress we have made). However, now it needs the funds to make further progress, including the option to retain some of the superbly talented, well-trained temporary staff research.


If there’s one significant difference between launching a startup and launching a small business, what would that be and why?


There are several distinct differences between a startup and a small business. Still, one is that a small business must generate a profit immediately. Still, a startup can develop and test an idea to start with that can rapidly grow to capture a significant market and become a global leader to generate revenue that can turn into profit.


What are the top three traits that entrepreneurs must possess to launch a startup successfully? Can you expound on why you chose these three traits?

  • Perseverance
  • Resourcefulness
  • Humility with self-belief


Let’s flip things around: What do you believe are the three things that can cause a startup founder not to become successful, and why?


Listening to naysayers and negative cheers, giving up on the first obstacle. And also being not flexible in the approach to reach set targets can create difficulties.


As a parting gift to our readers. What are the top three pieces of advice you can give them about launching a startup, and why? Please share a story for each.


Be sure you are solving a significant problem and remember why you feel passionate about it. This will keep your motivation when things get tough. If your startup is in deep tech, explore collaborations. And also partnerships for your product development to achieve a degree of de-risking. Likewise, if you were to embark on development in isolation.


Thank you for these fantastic insights and for your time. We truly appreciate it and wish you all the best on your journey.


NuTissu Ltd is Raising!


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