Jasmine Reese, Cheryl Tan, Serena Vales, Kim-Shen Pang, founders of Trialex

Trialex Logo

Cheryl: Cheryl is a first-year postdoctoral researcher at the Ludwig Cancer Research Centre at the University of Oxford. She is the CEO of the TrialeX with over 5 years of experience in conducting and leading clinical trials with strong connections with clinical scientists, funding bodies and the public. TrialeX was founded based on the firsthand challenges encountered during our DPhil journey in clinical trials recruitment and retention.

Jasmine: Jasmine is pursuing a DPhil in Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Oxford. She is co-founder and COO of TrialeX. She possesses experience with clinical trial workflows and is knowledgeable surrounding frameworks for underserved groups.

Serena: Serena is a DPhil Medical Sciences student at the University of Oxford. She is a co-founder of TrialeX with experience in team management, communications, leadership and marketing. Serena is leading the market research of TrialeX. Established TrialeX’s social platforms.

Kim Shen: Kim Shen is pursuing a MSc in Software and Systems Security at the University of Oxford and is a co-founder of TrialeX. He is the CTO of TrialeX with experience in start-up, IT project management, consultancy, and cybersecurity.

TrialeX improves efficiency, diversity, and inclusivity in clinical trial recruitment and retention by bridging the gap between scientists and participants and pairing digital technology with human touch. Our mission is to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion in clinical trials, expediting the translation of lab research to ensure life-changing treatments are reaching those who need them.

What is your background? What made you decide to get involved in supporting entrepreneurs?

Jasmine: My educational background includes completing an integrated masters in Neuroscience at Cardiff University, followed by pursuing a DPhil in Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Oxford. Throughout my academic journey, I became acutely aware of and frustrated by the slow pace at which academic research is translated into real-world applications. However, my perspective shifted when I encountered the world of entrepreneurship during an innovation strategy course at Oxford in 2022. It was during this course that I had the privilege of meeting my co-founders, and I immediately became captivated by the prospect of being at the forefront of a business that holds immense potential to make a significant impact on public health.

Cheryl: I completed my Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Biomedical Sciences and Master of Research in Reproduction and Pregnancy at the University of Manchester. I recently completed my DPhil on Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Oxford. During the final year of my DPhil, I attended Oxford Strategic Innovation Programme, and it had inspired me to share about my idea on a clinical trial recruitment app. During my DPhil journey, I had the opportunity to participate in the Oxford Strategic Innovation Programme, which played a pivotal role in inspiring me to share my idea for a clinical trial recruitment app that serve to address the problems my team and I was facing when conducting clinical trials. Interacting with fellow start-up entrepreneurs during this time opened my eyes to the realm of possibilities beyond my role as a clinical laboratory researcher. Witnessing their dedication and success inspired me to embark on the entrepreneurial path, despite initial doubts. However, my greatest source of motivation comes from my incredible team members. Together, we form a strong, passionate, and cohesive unit, all driven by a shared vision and common goals. Our collective aspiration is to create a positive impact on society by improving clinical trial recruitment and ultimately advancing public health.

Serena: I graduated with first-class honours in Biomedical Sciences at Brunel University London and am currently researching as a DPhil Medical Sciences student at Oxford. I have always been deeply passionate about positively contributing to the medical field and improving people’s lives daily. This passion has been evident throughout my academic career, where I actively engaged in various volunteer projects, constantly striving to enhance current solutions and positively impact society. My journey into entrepreneurship truly took off during the Oxford Strategic Innovation Programme. There, I gained invaluable insights into the world of entrepreneurship, realising the immense possibilities that arise from combining a science background with an entrepreneurial mindset. During this program, I had the privilege of meeting my brilliant co-founders, who have become not only my business partners but also my dear friends. Embarking on this entrepreneurial journey has been nothing short of exhilarating and humbling. It is a continuous learning process that demands adaptability and resilience. As a team, we are driven by the challenges of building a business and the personal growth opportunities that arise from it. We are fully committed to not only achieving success in the business world but also making a positive impact on the world at large. By leveraging our scientific expertise and entrepreneurial spirit, we aim to revolutionise the medical field to bring about meaningful and lasting change.

Kim Shen: Having served two years of military service prior to pursuing my Bachelor of Engineering at the National University of Singapore (NUS), I had the remarkable opportunity to participate in an overseas entrepreneurship program, where I immersed myself in the vibrant culture of an Israeli startup. This experience inspired me to launch my own startup upon returning home. Our efforts garnered recognition, including a SGD10,000 startup award from the university, and acceptance into Daimler’s prestigious Startup Autobahn Accelerator program. Although we eventually decided to discontinue operations, my commitment to personal growth remained steadfast. I further sharpened my technical skills by working in a prominent Japanese IT consultancy before transitioning to cybersecurity policy and plans within one of Singapore’s Critical Information Infrastructures (CII). Seeking to broaden my expertise, I pursued an MSc in Software and Systems Security at the University of Oxford, reigniting my entrepreneurial spirit. It was during my time at Oxford that I became aware of the intricate challenges faced in the realm of clinical trials. Fuelled by a strong motivation to drive change and overcome these obstacles, I am dedicated to leveraging my diverse background and skills to make a positive impact in the field of clinical trials.

What is your definition of entrepreneurship?

Jasmine: Unfiltered innovation that through creativity and relentless pursuit can make the world a better place.

Serena: Entrepreneurship is the transformation of a passionate vision into reality with the aim of creating a positive impact.

Kim Shen: Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of innovative opportunities, leveraging diverse skills and experiences to create solutions that address challenges and create value in the market.

Cheryl: Entrepreneurship is like filling up potholes on a road. Just as potholes can hinder progress and make a journey rough for users. Entrepreneurs play the role of road repairers, diligently seeking innovative solutions to address these challenges and improve the overall experience. They actively seek out innovative solutions, and continuously refining approaches to improve the overall journey and create positive change and to pave the best way forward.

How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?

Jasmine: The moment I realised the potential of our idea was when we delved deep into the problem itself and uncovered the staggering amount of time and funding being wasted in clinical trial recruitment and retention that often does not even capture the diversity of the population. It was a revelation to see the persistent inefficiencies that were impeding the translation of critical pre-clinical research, work that scientists dedicate their lives to. The fact that these issues and barriers still existed to such a great extent in 2023 was truly surprising. Our belief in the viability of our idea grew even stronger when we had the opportunity to present our concept for the first time during the All Innovate 2022 competition at the University of Oxford Said Business School. The positive reception and recognition we received, earning us a spot in the finals, further validated the potential impact and value of our solution. It was a significant milestone that solidified our conviction to develop our idea and bring about positive change.

Cheryl: We’ve received positive feedback from a diverse range of individuals, including potential users, customers, and investors, which was incredibly encouraging. Their positive response validated the value and potential impact of our product. To ensure that our product effectively addresses the needs of our customers, we are actively engaging in conversations with them. By listening attentively and seeking their input, we can gather valuable insights and incorporate them into our development process. This customer-centric approach enables us to refine and enhance our product to better serve their requirements. Furthermore, the recent framework introduced by the UK government, focused on supporting clinical trials, reinforces the significance of TrialeX now more than ever. With this favorable environment and growing recognition of the importance of clinical trials, TrialeX is poised to play a pivotal role in facilitating and improving the clinical trial process.

Kim Shen: We knew our idea was good enough to develop when we received positive responses and feedback from esteemed clinical trial scientists who recognized the value and potential impact of our concept. Their validation and support served as a strong endorsement of our idea’s viability. Additionally, as we started participating in various competitions and qualified for subsequent rounds, it further reinforced our confidence in the idea’s strength and market appeal. The positive response from both experts in the field and the recognition in competitions gave us the assurance that our idea had significant potential and was worth pursuing with dedication and enthusiasm.

Serena: Sharing the same sentiments as the team

What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?


1. Adaptability- the ability to navigate through uncertainty. Be prepared to pivot and/or adjust strategies or grasp new opportunities.

2. Determination: There will be setbacks and failures, bounce back from them and stay positive- aim for a growth mindset.

3. Open-mindedness- Recognise the importance of diverse perspectives and ideas. Actively seek and be receptive to constrictive criticism and utilise your teams’ diverse mindsets to develop creative solutions to this criticism.

Cheryl: Grit, networking, leadership

Serena: 1. Drive and resilience. They involve unwavering motivation, determination, and the ability to bounce back from setbacks, enabling entrepreneurs to pursue their visions and make a positive impact. 2. Integrity. By encompassing honesty, transparency, and ethical behaviour. It builds trust, establishes a positive reputation, and contributes to long-term success. 3. Presence and influence are vital in entrepreneurship. Through projecting confidence, credibility, and charisma, entrepreneurs can inspire, engage, and captivate their teams and audiences. These qualities play a significant role in building relationships, attracting resources, and driving success in their ventures.

Kim Shen: Resilience, Strategic Thinking, Adaptability

What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?

Jasmine: The proactive and direct role I have in driving innovative change to overcome critical challenges. Through entrepreneurship, I have the opportunity to make a tangible impact on people’s lives, and all within a relatively short span of time.

Cheryl: Working in a fast-paced environment with people who are so passionate about the work you are doing.

Serena: The entrepreneurial journey has been a tremendous learning experience, pushing me beyond my perceived limits. It has fostered personal growth, boosting my confidence and empowering me with ambition. The prospect of making a direct and meaningful difference in public health is exhilarating and fuels my excitement for the path ahead.

Kim Shen: Being an entrepreneur is the perfect combination of flexibility and the fast-paced nature of the work. Unlike the structured environment of a corporate setting, I have the freedom to shape my own path and make decisions that have a direct impact on my business. The flexibility allows me to explore new ideas, take risks, and adapt quickly to changes in the market. Moreover, being able to solve problems that aligns with my interest and values is incredibly fulfilling. It is rewarding to see my ideas come to life and make a positive impact on the world.

What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?

Cheryl: Ani Haykuni, the founder of VANN, is an exceptional individual whose personal experience as a cancer patient has fueled her unwavering drive to support and uplift others facing the same challenges. Ani’s resilience, compassion, and determination make her a true inspiration in the field of cancer care and support. As a cancer patient herself, Ani intimately understands the physical, emotional, and psychological toll that cancer can take on individuals and their loved ones. Her firsthand experience has shaped her perspective and deepened her commitment to making a positive impact in the lives of cancer patients. Ani’s journey has transformed her into a beacon of hope and a catalyst for change. She has dedicated herself to creating meaningful solutions that address the unique needs and challenges faced by cancer patients. Through VANN, she strives to provide support, resources, and a sense of community to individuals navigating the complexities of cancer treatment and recovery.

Kim Shen: Elon Musk, the visionary entrepreneur behind companies like Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink, is an individual who truly inspires me. His relentless pursuit of groundbreaking innovation, coupled with his audacious goals, has reshaped multiple industries and captured the world’s imagination. What I find most inspiring about Elon Musk is his determination to solve some of humanity’s most pressing challenges. From revolutionising the automotive industry with electric vehicles to pushing the boundaries of space exploration and colonization, he consistently pushes the boundaries of what is possible. Elon Musk’s ability to envision a better future and then take bold action to bring that vision to life is truly remarkable. He is not afraid to take on seemingly insurmountable challenges and is willing to take risks that others might shy away from. His resilience in the face of setbacks and his ability to rally teams around ambitious goals is truly awe-inspiring.

If you had 5 minutes with the above individual/ company/organization, what would you want to ask or discuss?

Cheryl: How does she keep her motivation and passion going even in the toughest time.

Kim Shen: I would like to engage in a meaningful discussion centred around a few key topics: Innovation and Vision, Entrepreneurial Mindset, Mentorship and Leadership.

What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
Jasmine: The customer discovery process. Engaging with potential customers, sharing our prototype, and receiving positive feedback has been an incredibly gratifying experience. During this process, we have had the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with individuals who could benefit from our solution. Seeing their enthusiasm and hearing their positive reactions to our prototype has been immensely rewarding. It validates that we are addressing a genuine need and that our solution resonates with the target audience. What has been particularly satisfying is when potential customers express their eagerness to join our platform as soon as we complete its development. Their willingness to become early adopters showcases the value they see in our offering and affirms that we are on the right track. Cheryl: Customer discovery and product development are integral parts of the entrepreneurial journey, and I find immense joy and fulfilment in both aspects. Engaging in customer discovery allows me to connect with users and customers, gaining valuable insights into their needs, challenges, and preferences. It’s a fascinating process of understanding their pain points, desires, and expectations. Hearing their opinions and experiences is not only informative but also inspiring, as it fuels my passion to create solutions that truly address their concerns. Translating those learnings into tangible product development is an exciting and rewarding experience. It’s the moment where ideas take shape and become reality. I thrive on the creative process of transforming concepts into functional, innovative, and user-centered solutions. Witnessing the evolution of an idea from customer discovery to the development stage is immensely fulfilling. Serena: Sharing the same sentiments as Jasmine and Cheryl. Kim Shen: The most satisfying and successful moment in business is when I witness my product effectively solving the problems faced by my customers. It is a pivotal moment of validation, knowing that the solution we have developed is making a tangible difference in their lives. As our business and customer base continue to grow, this success scales alongside it, amplifying the positive impact we can have.

What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?

Jasmine : As scientists, we were naturally inclined to approach our business with meticulous attention to detail and a desire to ensure everything was done in a rigorous and scientifically sound manner. While this commitment to precision is important, it sometimes hindered our progress. We found ourselves making slow strides or delaying important actions because we felt the need to adhere strictly to current protocols. However, we have come to realise that in entrepreneurship, speed is of the essence. Moving swiftly and seizing opportunities is crucial; otherwise, there is a risk of being left behind in a rapidly evolving landscape.

Cheryl: I agree with Jasmine. As scientists turned entrepreneurs, our initial inclination was to approach our business with meticulous attention to detail in a scientifically sound manner. While precision is valuable, we soon realized that it sometimes impeded our progress. We found ourselves taking slow strides or delaying crucial actions, fearing to deviate from the norm. However, in the realm of entrepreneurship, speed is paramount. Acting swiftly and seizing opportunities is essential to avoid being left behind in a rapidly evolving landscape.

Serena: Entering the entrepreneurship world from a scientific background can indeed be intimidating. The uncertainty, the fear of not knowing where to start or if you’re the right person for the mission, can be daunting. However, one valuable lesson I’ve learned is the importance of reaching out and taking action sooner rather than dwelling on ideas indefinitely. There is a vibrant business community eager to hear about your ideas and support your success. Engaging with this community early on can provide valuable guidance and opportunities for collaboration. Sharing your vision with others can lead to new perspectives, valuable feedback, and potential partnerships that can propel your entrepreneurial journey forward.

Furthermore, building a supportive and motivated team is crucial. Inevitably, there will be slow phases and setbacks along the way. However, having a team that believes in your collective potential and shares the same self-belief is essential. This collective confidence in overcoming challenges, adapting to circumstances, and achieving entrepreneurial goals is what helps sustain momentum and resilience during difficult times.

Kim Shen: As an entrepreneur, I have encountered my fair share of mistakes, failures, and valuable lessons along the way. One of the key lessons I have learned is the danger of trying to solve every single problem and striving for the elusive “perfect” solution. By doing so, I have experienced the risk of investing excessive time and resources, which could potentially cause me to miss valuable opportunities. In the military, there is a saying that resonates with this concept: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” This highlights the importance of having a plan, even if it may not be perfect, as it provides a foundation for action and adaptation. Similarly, in entrepreneurship, I have learned that it is sometimes better to fly with half of the solution than to have no solution at all. By acting on and implementing a partial solution, I can buy myself valuable time to reflect and strategize on the second half of the solution. This lesson has taught me the value of agility and the ability to iterate quickly. It has shown me that progress and learning often come from taking calculated risks and making adjustments along the way. Embracing a mindset of continuous improvement allows me to address immediate needs, gather user feedback, and refine my solution over time.

How have you funded your ideas?

Bootstrapping and self-funding.

Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?

Yes, all the courses and programmes we’ve attended have been so helpful, it had shaped our company and ourselves to be better.

What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?

Oxford offers a vibrant ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship, providing numerous programs and opportunities for individuals to engage with entrepreneurship and gain knowledge about running a business. The availability of these programs has undoubtedly made it easier for us to dive into the entrepreneurial world and acquire essential skills. The great entrepreneurship community has allowed us to meet several great people. This supportive environment has been instrumental in our entrepreneurial journey, providing us with the guidance and encouragement needed to navigate the challenges. Furthermore, the opportunity to network with like-minded peers has been immensely motivating. This collaborative atmosphere fosters innovation and propels us forward in our pursuit of building a successful business.

However, it is important to be mindful of the abundance of entrepreneurship courses and accelerators available and not succumb to the temptation of joining all of them. Your time is valuable, so it’s crucial to prioritise the ones that are well-organised and seek feedback from past participants to make informed decisions.

If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?

The Said business school- join any entrepreneurship programmes they have on and ask for suitable mentors. For scientists, the Medical Sciences Division also has great resources to dip your toes in the entrepreneurship world.

Have you faced any challenges as a woman entrepreneur? If so, how have you overcome them?
What resources would you recommend for other women?

WEACE programme and the ALS Peer mentorship programme are great. They empower female entrepreneurs and are very supportive.

How could institutions such as the University of Oxford better support women entrepreneurs?

Provide more courses for female entrepreneurs and opportunities to network.

Do you have any advice specifically for other women who want to be entrepreneurs?

Cheryl: Be brave, be bold. You can do it.

Serena: You never know until you try!

Jasmine: Be ambitious, don’t underestimate what you are capable of.

Any last words of advice?

Jasmine: Don’t limit yourself. Be willing to try anything that piques your interest or aligns with your goals. Don’t be afraid to fail; failure is not the end, but an opportunity for growth and learning.

Serena: You can achieve anything you put your mind to. The first step is to believe in yourself!

Cheryl: Entrepreneurship is a thrilling journey filled with highs and lows. Like surfers riding waves, entrepreneurs embrace the excitement and challenges, staying determined to navigate any turbulence towards success and fulfilment.

Kim Shen: Get ready for a rollercoaster ride and enjoy every part of the journey!