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A decade of training Biotech entrepreneurs

13 December 2005

A national competition to help PhD students and early-career researchers to understand how to launch a biotech company is celebrating its tenth anniversary tonight with a showcase in London. Since its launch a decade ago, the Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) has seen over 1,000 young researchers compete in annual competitions to pitch hypothetical biotech business plans to a panel of investors. Some of the hypothetical business ideas that have been presented have included contact lenses that change colour to diagnose illness and ways to revolutionise the production of ethanol. Several of the participants have since launched their own successful biotech companies, raising over £5M of investment between them.

Participants in Biotechnology YES acquire key skills that include financial awareness, management skills, team working and an understanding of how to raise venture capital. The skills are so useful that a survey to mark the 10 th Anniversary found that participants are almost twice as likely to develop careers in the private sector as other BBSRC-funded PhD students.

The scheme is organised by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI) and has backing from some of the biggest names in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and research sectors.

Biotechnology YES aims to provide participants with training in entrepreneurship and commercial awareness within a competition. During regional heats the teams from across the UK bioscience community receive training from entrepreneurs, patent lawyers, financiers and industry figures in how to successful harness the outputs from research. A national final is held in London every year and as the competition has grown the prizes for the winners have included trips to the USA to participate in prestigious American business plan competitions sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry. The competition has also spawned regional competitions, sponsored by Yorkshire Forward and with involvement from the East Midlands Development Agency.

In remarks for the anniversary celebrations, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP, said, “The scheme exemplifies the importance of entrepreneurial awareness and skills in ensuring that the UK benefits from its world-class science, both economically and across society in general. The partnership between research funders, academics and industrialists ensures that the young participants receive a thorough, and above all useful, training that will help them realise the entrepreneurial potential of their skills as researchers.”

Professor Julia Goodfellow, Chief Executive of BBSRC, said, “Biotechnology YES has shown itself to be a huge success over the last decade. Over 1,000 young bioscientists have taken part and the competition has proved itself to be a springboard for many of them to help their own careers or even in setting up their own biotech companies. The biotechnology sector is one of the success stories of the UK economy and it is made up of thousands of small and medium companies. I am proud that Biotechnology YES is helping young bioscientists to gain the entrepreneurial skills to make their own contribution to this success.”

Professor Martin Binks, Director of UNIEI, said, "It is my pleasure to witness the continued success of Biotechnology YES. I believe that the scheme has thrived as it provides a unique learning experience to participants. By combining expert tuition, practical advice and experiential learning within a competition format the scheme delivers entrepreneurial skills and raises the aspirations of young scientists. As ten years of the scheme has passed we are now witnessing past participants gaining senior positions within the biotechnology industry. This provides a virtuous circle as they return to pass on their knowledge and provide role models for today’s researchers."


Notes to editors

Celebrations to mark the 10 th Anniversary of Biotechnology YES are being held at the Dali Universe, County Hall Gallery, London on December 13 2005. The reception will hear from Sir Keith O’Nions FRS, Director General of the Research Councils, Professor Julia Goodfellow and former Biotechnology YES participant Managing Director and founder of Cybersense Biosystems, Dr Tim Hart.

Success stories from ten years of Biotechnology YES will be on display. The individual researchers will be on hand to talk about their experiences.

Biotechnology YES is organised by BBSRC and UNIEI. Biotechnology YES is sponsored by: BioIndustry Association, Cancer Research UK, Celtic Pharma, the Department of Trade and Industry, Eric Potter Clarkson, GlaxoSmithKline, Lonza Biologics, Medical Research Council, Natural Environment Research Council, Nestle, Royal Academy of Engineering, Syngenta and Yorkshire Forward.

The survey of the career destinations of past participants of Biotechnology YES was commissioned by BBSRC and conducted by the University of Nottingham. 156 past participants responded.

The final of Biotechnology YES 2005 will be held at the Department of Trade and Industry in London on December 14 2005. The hypothetical business ideas from the teams in the final are:

  • Klentech (University of Leeds) have developed an innovative product for the containment and eradication of C. difficile, a major hospital super bug
  • The Designer Milk Company Limited (Institute for Animal Health) has developed a 99.9% lactose-free fresh Milk: NoLac™. This product is targeted at lactose intolerant consumers which make up between 80-90% of the total world population
  • Metalogica (University of Birmingham) have developed a technology to produce high purity Platinum using a more efficient and cost effective biological process to address market deficit and environmental concerns
  • Nutrabacta (University of Sheffield) is based on a novel strain of bacteria that we have isolated and modified so that it is capable of breaking down a third of the currently wasted un-digestable protein within animal feeds
  • Spidex ICT TM (Royal Vet College) has developed a novel insecticide, Spidex Blue TM, derived from spider venom. The active component is a peptide which is biodegradable and also insect specific
  • Surgiclean (University of Edinburgh) have developed an easy and efficient enzymatic wash for instruments and apparatus to remove endotoxins - contaminants that cause sepsis and cost the NHS £500M per year in extended hospital stays and treatment
  • Biochiral Ltd (University of Glasgow) is dependent on the enzymatic degradation of hydantoins to provide chiral amino acids as a basis to synthesis drugs with greater safety and efficacy in a cost-effective, environmentally friendly process
  • Fagio Therapeutics (University of Edinburgh) uses bacteriophages together with a surfactant molecule to target specific host pathogens to cure bovine mastitis

For more information on the Biotechnology YES competition go to: http://www.biotechnologyyes.co.uk/


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £380 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk

External contact

Tracey Hassall-Jones, University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation

tel: 07956 156629


Simon Cutler

tel: 01793 413243
fax: 01793 414674

Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382