Course studied: BSc Chemical Engineering, 1984
Position at time of writing: Executive Chair & CEO of Arranta Bio
Interesting fact: There are many engineers on both sides of Mark’s family going back 200 years.
Tell us about your background
I was born and brought up in Glasgow with my two older brothers and younger sister. I went to Shawlands primary and secondary schools.
My father spent his entire career working at the Bank of Scotland and predecessor banks and also taught others in the evening to pass their banking exams. My mum went to Glasgow University and after a brief career focused on bringing up the children and instilling a strong focus on academics.
After graduating, I joined an oil company as a trainee Petroleum Engineer. After an intensive three months of training, I spent the rest of the next two years working off-shore in the North and Irish Seas on production platforms and exploration rigs. After two years, the oil price crashed and I was made redundant. I then joined a brewing company based near London, working for their Scottish whisky division and running a biotech JV. From there, I moved to a US biotech company, based near London, and spent the next 22 years with them, moving to Boston, MA after 12 years with my wife and two young children.
I completed an MBA through the Henley Management Centre in 1994. In 2010, I set up a contract development and manufacturing company (CDMO) which grew for 4 years before it was acquired. In 2015 I set up a second CDMO which grew until acquired in 2019. I then set up a third CDMO. Each of these has been focused on a different technology platform to serve biotech clients.
I enjoyed physics, chemistry and mathematics at school and was intrigued when I learned about Chemical Engineering. There are many engineers on both sides of my family history going back 200 years. Strathclyde had a strong reputation for engineering and I was able to stay at home and travel into the city centre, as was typical in those days."
What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is finding great people and building a high-performance team that delivers products that make a difference in the lives of patients.
You recently donated to support our Scholarships Programme, can you share more about your motivation to support?
My wife Morag and I are motivated to help people with talent and ambition to overcome social, racial, and financial barriers to their success. We have been involved with the Saltire Scholarships (at Entrepreneurial Scotland) sponsoring students for over ten years and we want to support Strathclyde in widening access through its programmes.
What are your ambitions for the future?
My ambition for the future is to make a difference by helping others to gain access to opportunities and by mentoring business leaders to create great businesses that make an impact while leading my own business to be the best-in-class microbiome CDMO.
Any words of wisdom for students today – particularly those studying during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Students today face some unique challenges. During any time of change there are also opportunities as well as challenges. Students today are highly tech savvy and should consider how technology will impact their area of focus and what they can do to be ready and to help to drive the resultant changes.