Hair loss entrepreneurs triumph in biotechnology business plan competition
11 December 2012
A team of aspiring biotechnology entrepreneurs from the University of Cambridge has won the Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) 2012 after a day of tough competition in London.
Yesterday (Dec 10 2012) the team behind the 'Calvitium Solutions' business idea scooped the £1,000 top prize in the annual contest co-organised by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI) at the London Marriot Hotel County Hall.
Team members Ajoeb Baridi, Alap Chavda, Anastasiia Kamenska, Liam Hurst and Linsey Porter saw off competition from 11 other teams in the final to win with their idea for a hypothetical hair loss prevention product, which impressed a panel of expert judges from academia and industry.
Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said: "The participants in this competition have shown that there is a bright future ahead for biological science. This is one of the most vibrant and increasingly important sectors of the UK. They are developing the skills needed to translate world class research into wider economic and social benefits."
The competition, in its 17th year, sees bioscience postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers develop hypothetical business plans for plausible biotechnology companies. They receive help and advice from speakers, mentors and judges in areas such as intellectual property, financial planning and marketing.
The team members assume the roles of directors of their company and seek funding for their business plan from a group of "equity investors" - drawn from science and industry.
The hypothetical companies compete against each other and during the process participants gain valuable knowledge and skills about entrepreneurship, the world of business and commercialisation, in addition to transferable skills such as team working and time management.
Alap Chavda, who assumed the managing director role for their Calvitium Solutions business idea, said: "To win feels quite amazing, we certainly worked hard. We knew it would be a tough competition.
"The main purpose was to experience the commercialization process. We tend to just think about science really and not about money, it was quite a different world we actually experienced. It's given us a real knowledge about how it works.
"The experience is absolutely worth it, not only for those who want to go into business but having experienced that different world people can make a better choice for future careers."
The five members of Calvitium Solutions came top of the 377 competitors across 82 teams in five regional workshops held in October and November.
This year for the first time a Biomedical-themed workshop was hosted by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst which attracted researchers from the clinical biosciences. It also received support from the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the Technology Strategy Board (TSB).
As in last year's competition agri-business Syngenta also hosted a workshop to give participants a chance to learn about the commercialisation of science from the perspective of a large agri-business company.
Past entrants of the competition have gone on to form successful companies, develop business ideas and work in industry, as well as pursue research careers.
Professor Sir Tom Blundell, chair of BBSRC and after-dinner speaker at the Biotechnology YES 2012 final said: "Congratulations to the winners Calvitium Solutions and to all of our finalists.
"Biotechnology YES has not only grown, but its evolved into a broader area of application, particularly with Environment YES and the biomedical clinical side as well, which I think is impressive.
"The participants are full of exciting and innovative ideas and have bright futures. I hope that by taking part in Biotechnology YES they have acquired invaluable skills in areas such as finance, marketing and intellectual property which will benefit them in years to come.
"I would like to add a thank you to all the sponsors, mentors, speakers and judges who give up their time to make Biotechnology YES the success it is."
Competition judge Dr Andy Richards, a serial biotechnology entrepreneur and investor, said: "Biotechnology YES is now an institution. It's one of my highlights of the year; bright, motivated teams pushing innovation and business ideas until they scream.
"We have already seen that the programme is generating some of our biotechnology leaders of the future, and looking at the teams here today, that will continue."
Other hypothetical company ideas to win Biotechnology YES competition categories were:
- Best consideration of financial planning strategy sponsored by James Cowper LLP - BioDetect, Imperial College London
- Best consideration of IP strategy sponsored by Potter Clarkson - Enzomax, University of Manchester
- Best consumer product sponsored by Procter and Gamble - Calvitium Solutions, University of Cambridge
- Best food sponsored by Leatherhead Food Research - BioVita, University of Dundee
- Best healthcare business plan sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline - Vermunity, University of Cambridge
- Best plant and microbial business plan sponsored by Syngenta - CosmoClear, University College London
- Best presenter sponsored by University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation - Alistair Davies from BioVita, University of Dundee
An independent review of Biotechnology YES published in 2010 ( www.bbsrc.ac.uk/web/FILES/Reviews/1007-biotechnology-yes-review.pdf (PDF 1.70MB)) showed that it gives early career researchers the edge in entrepreneurial skills and future career prospects. Having participated in the 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.
For the seventh year, a spin-off competition called Environment YES has been co-organised by the Natural Environment Research Council and the University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI)
The winners of the Environment YES competition, Capture Company, showcased their idea for a calcium-based filter to collect carbon dioxide from vehicle exhausts at the Biotechnology YES final.
The winning team, Calvitium Solutions, from University of Cambridge. From left to right: Linsey Porter, Liam Hurst, Alap Chavda, Ajoeb Baridi and Anastasiia Kamenska. Image: Tim Gander 2012
Biotechnology YES 2012 finalists
Note: All companies are hypothetical and products are imaginary
AlgaLyse Ltd has designed and tested a unique, patent protected expression platform compatible with a broad range of algae, which can dramatically reduce the cost of product recovery.
BioDermics have developed a patented new method which makes diagnosing allergies quicker, simpler and completely painless. BioDermics' unique design allows allergies caused by skin contact, inhalation and ingestion to be tested all at the same time.
BioDetect is focused on developing point of care diagnostic devices and allow fast diagnosis when it matters. Their revolutionary new product, the FASTchip relies on patented biomarker-induced fluorescence technology allowing for fast diagnosis of stroke from a single drop of blood.
BioVita are the producers of the überfreshTM system, a specialised plastic film which increases the shelf life of fruit by 48 hours via the removal of ethylene. Their technology couples an ethylene receptor to plastic film on fruit packaging.
- Calvitium Solutions
Calvitium Solutions has developed a patentable hair-loss prevention product with a novel and specific mode of action, with potentially less side effects and is cheaper than the current drugs on the market.
CosmoClearTM have patented a specific combination of probiotic bacteria able to control oily skin. ProBaClearTM provides a unique alternative to chemical products currently available which can have negative effects on the condition of the skin.
Enzomax have a proprietary platform technology, known as Enzomax SHIELD™, which they use to deliver cost-effective solutions for maximising the performance of enzymes in industrial biotechnology.
- INGENIUM Biotech
INGENIUM Biotech® develops and licenses thermostable endolysins. INGENIUM Biotech® is exploiting the technology, with their first product Endolytix®, targeting enteric bacterial pathogens in economically important animals which cost the global food industry billions of pounds per year.
- InstaTest Systems
Utilizing the "pregnancy test principle" InstaTest Systems are able to provide a new, quick and cost effective solution in detecting bacterial pathogens.
- Irresistible Tech
Irresistible Tech has developed a novel platform technology using modified bacteriophage enzymes to create new antibiotics against MRSA.
By preventing micro organisms (bacteria and yeasts) from being stolen or reverse engineered, Kriptomics' proven and robust biological encryption technology provides a unique novel tool for the protection of commercially valuable genetic information.
Vermunity Ltd is a biotech company that has a unique peptide discovery platform based on parasitic worm biology to develop treatments for autoimmune diseases.
The competition receives support from:
- BioIndustry Association (BIA)
- Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
- GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)
- Medical Research Council (MRC)
- Medical Research Council Technology (MRC T)
- Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
- Proctor and Gamble
- Technology Strategy Board (TSB)
- University of Manchester Intellectual Property (UMIP)
- University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI)
- Wellcome Trust
In addition, numerous other organisations support the competition through providing speakers, mentors and judges for the workshops and final.
Biotechnology YES 2012 winners Calvitium Solutions flanked by judges and sponsors of the competition. From left to right: Mike Bushell, Syngenta; Simon Cutler, BBSRC; Sir Tom Blundell, BBSRC Chair; Joanna Robinson, MRC; Andy Muir, Rainbow Seed Fund; Elena Lurieluke, P&G; Kirsty Grainger, NERC; Andy Richards, BBSRC Council; Linsey Porter; Liam Hurst; Alap Chavda; Ajoeb Baridi; Anastasiia Kamenska; Simon Mosey, UNIEI; Celia Caulcott, BBSRC; Martin Wickham, Leatherhead Food; Ted Bianco, Wellcome Trust; Malcolm Skingle, GSK. Image: Tim Gander 2012
The University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI) is a world class centre committed to the development of entrepreneurial skills and the commercial innovation of new technologies and ideas. Our purpose is to engage staff and students in the acquisition of enterprise skills so that they are better able to realize the opportunities generated in a rapidly developing entrepreneurial culture. UNIEI aims to be at the forefront of international thinking and best practice in engaging universities and businesses in the process of wealth creation.
For more information see: www.nottingham.ac.uk/enterprise.
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £500M (2012-2013), we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.