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Early career researchers gear up for entrepreneurship battle

23 November 2010

11 teams (see below) from academic institutions across the UK are preparing for the final of the Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme, which will be held in London on 13 December.

  Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme.

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Each team has beaten off stiff competition in a series of regional heats to have the chance to compete for a £1000 prize in the Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (Biotechnology YES). They will present their hypothetical business ideas to a panel of investors at County Hall, London.

The competition, run by BBSRC and the University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI) has given the teams the opportunity to develop their skills in marketing, finance and intellectual property. They will pitch as though seeking investment in their hypothetical company. Each team will present a product that is imaginary but may be based on actual research.

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Director of Innovation and Skills added: "Now, more than ever, we need UK bioscientists with the skills and knowledge to realise the economic and social benefit of their research. The Biotechnology YES finalists have demonstrated that they possess an ability to see what is required in finance, marketing and intellectual property to propel their research into the commercial sphere. The teams have done well to get this far and are developing knowledge and skills that will put them in an excellent position to exploit their abilities in bioscience and entrepreneurship to develop real-life products and technologies in the future. We wish them the best of luck in the final."

Joining the Biotechnology YES finalists will be 3 teams (see below) competing in the final of the Environment Young Entrepreneurs Scheme. This is a sister competition run by the Natural Environment Research Council.

About Biotechnology YES

Biotechnology YES is an annual business plan competition designed to raise awareness of commercialisation amongst bioscience postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers. The competition - now in its 15th year - was developed and is delivered by a partnership between the University of Nottingham, Institute of Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) with the Medical Research Council providing significant financial support.

Biotechnology YES has grown year on year and in 2010 around 100 teams entered. The value of the scheme has been recognised by Newcastle University in particular and it has now been integrated into their postgraduate continuing professional development programme. For several years now, a spin-off competition has been running, this is called Environment YES and was established by the Natural Environment Research Council.

A recent independent review of the scheme shows that it gives early career researchers the edge in entrepreneurial skills and future career prospects. Having participated in the Biotechnology YES competition, early career scientists are well prepared to move into industry where their improved entrepreneurial skills are highly valued. There is some evidence to suggest that past participants perceive their earning potential as greater following the competition and the review indicates that the skills gained are exactly complementary to those acquired during a PhD.

Teams in the Biotechnology YES 2010 final

NB. All companies are hypothetical and products are imaginary

  • Aeternus (Queen Mary, University of London) have developed a novel delivery system that penetrates the cornified layer of skin to deliver a range of novel peptides to living cells
  • Aptatek (University of Bristol) discovered a surface protein unique to legionella and an aptamer which binds to it. They have patented this interaction as a means of testing for legionella. They have applied this to an existing technology that converts this interaction into an electrical signal. Their instrument will be installed into water and air conditioning systems to comply with government legislation on legionella testing
  • Co-Alyst Technology (University of East Anglia) provides the science that allows the attachment of biological cofactors, such as purified heme, on a carbon fibre mesh, which can then be used as a catalyst in car exhaust pipes. This catalytic filter, HemeCleanT, is able to convert NO and CO to less toxic exhaust gases at an efficiency rate of > 90%. HemeCleanT is the only product available that allows car manufacturers to fulfil EU regulations and does not rely on the use of precious metals or reduces the fuel efficiency of the car engine
  • DeeNature (University of Aberdeen) who have patented a polymer filter that can remove oxalate from drinks without changing their tastes
  • DentRegen (University of Manchester) offers the first, unique biodegradable dental filling material that fully regenerates the tooth. The filling material is a gel/fibre composite which degrades at the same rate as new tooth formation. This material will remove the need for unsightly dental filling materials and fillings that require repair. DentRegen provides a single procedure and leaves your tooth as good as new
  • Disulfide bonds create curls in hair. Eden Laboratories (University of Exeter) have isolated an enzyme that can be incorporated into a shampoo that will temporarily and harmlessly break these disulfide bonds. When washed with a normal shampoo, hair will return to previous state. The temporary and non-damaging nature of Eden Laboratories product "Duolocks straightening shampoo" makes it a novel and appealing straightening method
  • Hema Stem (Imperial College) has made a major scientific breakthrough by mimicking the human bone marrow in producing fully functional red blood cells that have passed pre-clinical trials stage. This consists of an automated system that uses usually discarded umbilical cords to produce natural blood cells in a continuous fashion
  • While allergies are on the rise in the west, populations in developing nations, with high burdens of gut parasites, suffer lower levels of hay fever and asthma. Exploring this phenomenon the Immuno-Peptech team (John Innes Centre) have identified proteins from the parasites that the human immune system recognise to start an immune response. These proteins pre-stimulate the immune system's own regulatory networks resulting in widespread anti-inflammatory action. This novel approach to drug discovery is allowing the development of immunotherapy treatments for major inflammatory disorders including allergies, IBD and arthritis
  • Microbe Solutions (University of Manchester) have developed the nitro-pod. Their enhanced, naturally occurring bacteria optimally fix nitrogen when enclosed in their unique capsule pods, which can be sewn along with seeds. The pods are activated once in contact with wet soil and last roughly two years but should be applied annually for optimum effect. The pods can be used with any plant and the bacteria cannot survive outside of the pod ensuring an environmental safeguard. The nitro-pods are not only cheaper to produce than existing fertilisers but also increase yield by 20-25%
  • Orexipro (Newcastle University) have developed an idea to manipulate the ratio of two gut bacteria therefore reducing the calories absorbed from food
  • Ribotech Biosystems (University of East Anglia) uses a patent synthetic ribosome technology to make de novo peptides

Teams in the Environment YES 2010 final

NB. All companies are hypothetical and products are imaginary

  • Buzz Scientific (University of Southampton) have identified the honey bee genes responsible for disease resistance and developed a handheld device so breeders can perform a genetic analysis at the hive to assist in selective breeding
  • Mara Mor Ltd (UHI Millennium Institute) have identified and isolated a spawning stimulant for the European Eel
  • Tellus Technologies (Geological Survey of Northern Ireland) have developed a technology which allows them to produce a product which downscales and deskills the use of a magnetic resonance based approach to ground water prospect targeting