A team of aspiring biotechnology entrepreneurs from the College of Life Sciences have scooped two prizes at the Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) 2012 in London.
The team behind the BioVita company idea won the prizes for:
• Best food sponsored by Leatherhead Food Research – BioVita, University of Dundee
• Best presenter sponsored by University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation – Alistair Davies from BioVita, University of Dundee
The Dundee team designed and produced a specialised plastic film which prevents the over-ripening of fruit on the supermarket shelf. The film functions by scavenging the plant hormone ethylene which is responsible for the fruit ripening process. Effective removal of ethylene from fruit packaging can successfully extend the shelf-life of fruit in the supermarket.
“The BioYes competition has been a fantastic experience to be involved with and has seen us nurture our initial idea and come up with a defendable and very strong business model throughout the competition,” said Alistair Davies, who was joined in the team by Dun Jack Fu, Anna Kelner, Eleni Karinou and Alexander von Wilamowitz-Moellendorf. All are PhD students at Dundee.
Alistair added, “I think I speak for all members of the team when I say that the experience has been highly rewarding and has really opened up our eyes to a career outside of academic research.”
The annual contest is co-organised by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI).
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 main prize was won by a team from the University of Cambridge for their `Calvitium Solutions’ project.
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.
377 competitors across 82 teams took part 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 recieved 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: “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.”
An independent review of Biotechnology YES published in 2010 (http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/web/FILES/Reviews/1007-biotechnology-yes-review.pdf) 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.
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 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. ProBaClearTMprovides 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® 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.
Utilizing the “pregnancy test principle” InstaTest Systems are able to provide a new, quick and cost effective solution in detecting bacterial pathogens.
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.