Mike Moran is the Chief Executive Officer of Proton Partners International Ltd, and has over 30 years of experience in strategic leadership, planning and programme delivery in the defence and healthcare sector both in the UK and abroad. He has held various executive positions in defence and healthcare and is the Former Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce & Learning & Skills Council in Hereford and Worcestershire.
Proton Partners International is a company formed by UK-based and international cancer and healthcare specialists who are building five proton beam therapy cancer treatment centres across the UK.
The construction of the company’s first two centres in Newport and Northumberland is underway, one more centre is in the planning phase and two are subject to commercial negotiation. At each centre, Proton Partners International aims to be able to treat 500 patients annually and, in addition to proton beam therapy, will offer imaging, chemotherapy, traditional radiotherapy and well-being.
You have 30 years of experience in strategic leadership, planning and programme delivery – what do you feel has been your greatest career accomplishment to date?
I have been fortunate to have had a very varied and unorthodox career path with 20 years in the British Army followed by 16 years, to date, in business. I have always viewed my time in the Army as a proving ground for business; after all, much of what people teach in business is borne from military strategy. Therefore, I found the transition from military life to business to be quite straight forward, it was just the lexicon that changed. However, to respond directly to the question; while I feel that I have achieved a great deal, the most significant achievement has been to lead the £160m fundraise for Proton Partners International. As a start-up business this is an incredible achievement and speaks volumes for the confidence that investors have in the business and the team that I have put together.
What has been the biggest disappointment in your career to date, and what did you learn from it?
This is a very difficult question to answer. However, in short, I think that disappointment is a mindset. I tend to focus on the positives in business and in life. While I have had less desirable outcomes, I don’t think that I have had any real disappointments to speak of.
What would you say is the best thing about running your own company? What motivates you most about your role?
I am extremely proud to be one of the founders of Proton Partners and I am privileged to be its CEO. The best part about running this Company is the opportunity to lead such a talented team. Together, we are delivering the most strategic healthcare project in the UK for decades and we are challenging the norm while doing so. I need little more motivation than that.
We started Proton Partners with a robust strategy for growing a network of cancer centres to deliver; chemotherapy, radiotherapy, imaging and proton beam therapy. I am confident that we will achieve this and that Proton Partners will grow to be the world’s largest oncology company.
However, what will make us different, and what will motivate the team around me and others to join us, is how we contribute towards the research effort to combat cancer. We have already started down this path with a research collaboration with Liverpool University Physics Department and the development of a data repository.
In your opinion, how important is it that your staff feel they can come over to your desk and talk to you?
While I would like to think that staff find me approachable, the reality is that with the pace of growth, I don’t dedicate enough time to spending time listening to staff. I have a dynamic leadership style and I am often described by some people as intimidating, while my children think that this is hilarious, I do recognise the trait. I have always been a man of action and I do like to drive the business hard which is why I rely so heavily on the team around me for support. I always balance my role with a number of people-orientated people who can talk to the staff and feedback to me any concerns that they may have.
Knowing this about myself helps me with my recruitment strategy. From the outset of the business, I engaged with RWB Global, a Herefordshire-based recruitment company, to find my staff. I have worked with the Managing Director of RWB Global, Mel Nash, for over a decade and she knows how I work and what works for me. Mel has managed to ferret out the very best people and worked with them prior to interview to bring the best fit for selection.
What do you see as the most important challenges that Proton Partners face? What specific strategies are you implementing to overcome them?
As a start-up business we do face a number of challenges; from execution risk through to the wider acceptance of proton beam therapy. I always view challenges from the viewpoint of opportunity, for instance; some may see the infancy of proton beam therapy as a challenge to acceptance of its efficacy, whereas I see it as an opportunity for growth. We have a unique opportunity to work collaboratively, on a global level, to contribute to the research effort of proton beam therapy to demonstrate its efficacy which will lead to broader acceptance.
This strategic approach will help to place Proton Partners at the heart of the global growth in proton beam therapy. To some, that may seem like a bold statement from a start-up and a newcomer to the proton community. However, for me it is about putting together simple building blocks and working collaboratively.
Another significant challenge is the development of the treatment centres themselves. Most people face difficulty building one centre at a time. We are doing something that has never before been achieved. We are building five centres in the UK and one in the UAE at the same time. At the time of going to print, we have three centres under construction, one in the planning process and two in commercial negotiation.
We can achieve this because I took the early decision to develop an in-house programme management team. The team, led by John McIntosh, will manage each site with strategic partners including; IBA, the world’s leader in PBT capability, Pravida Bau for vault construction with the quick erect Forster sandwich panels, Philips for CT and patient planning software, Elekta for radiotherapy equipment and JDDK, a leading architect with significant healthcare experience.
Looking into 2017, what do you anticipate for the company?
In 2017 we will see our first two cancer centres open, in Newport and Northumberland, which will initially be able to offer imaging, chemotherapy, traditional radiotherapy and well-being. In Q3 2017 we will open our proton beam therapy centre in Newport – making it the first centre in the UK to offer this kind of cancer treatment.
Looking ahead, the biggest challenge for Proton Partners is the acceptance of proton beam therapy among oncologists in the UK – it will be their referrals that will get patients into our centres. Similar centres in the USA faced this issue several years ago and now it is an accepted treatment across a growing number of tumour sites. Therefore, we hope over the next year to build upon the UK’s reputation for clinical excellence, and through our existing academic affiliations, our centres will be at the forefront of proton beam therapy research, using patient experience to inform oncologists and drive the improvements in technology.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Proton Partners has recently announced that we have agreed terms for the acquisition of the Gulf International Cancer Centre in Abu Dhabi as part of plans to create the first proton beam therapy treatment centre in the UAE.
Proton therapy is suitable for around 10% of patients receiving conventional radiotherapy and delivers a much more precise dose distribution, sparing normal tissue and so serious long term toxicity. We are confident that with the skills and enthusiasm we’ve seen in Abu Dhabi, we can deliver this project within the next two years. Cancer incidence is rising globally and more innovation is needed to deal with this disease. We envisage this development will put the UAE in the frontline of cancer treatment and research.