Early career scientists win prestigious prize for entrepreneurial skills
15 December 2009
A team of early career scientists from University of Cambridge and Imperial College London has beaten off competition from 13 other teams to win a national competition that rewards exceptional entrepreneurial skills. Their hypothetical company, Gluten Replacement Technologies Ltd, which produces an imaginary product called GlutaSafe – a cheap, non-allergenic gluten replacement – impressed the judges at the final of the Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (Biotechnology YES). Biotechnology YES is run annually by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI).
Team members Fan Cheng, Lizzy Day, Harry Harris, Sarah Leigh-Brown and Daniel Naujoks all began their careers together as undergraduates in the University of Cambridge department of genetics. Fan, Lizzy, Harry and Sarah have stayed on at Cambridge for postgraduate study, while Daniel has moved to Imperial College London. All are working towards a PhD. The team received mentoring and coaching to develop skills in developing a business plan; commercial and marketing strategies; raising and managing finance; and patenting strategies.
Gluten Replacement Technologies Ltd made it through the first ever regional heat to be held in the East of England, which is supported by the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) and ERBI. Yesterday they joined 13 other teams in the final at One Whitehall Place, London. They walked away at the end of a gruelling day of pitches and head-to-head competition, with the Biotechnology YES 2009 title, £1000 prize money, tickets to the Bioindustry Association (BIA) gala dinner and the chance to present their hypothetical product at the Rice Business Plan Competition in Houston, Texas.
Science and Innovation Minister Lord Drayson said: "Congratulations to Gluten Replacement Technologies Ltd. The UK leads the world in bioscience research, so winning Biotechnology YES means overcoming stiff competition.
“I hope these young scientists go on to successful careers in which they exploit the full promise of their research”.
Professor Sir Tom Blundell, Chair of BBSRC, who attended the regional heat in Cambridge, said: “Having been involved with the launch of Biotechnology YES in 1995, it has been good to see that the competition continues to grow from strength to strength. The standard is remarkably high and the ideas people have come up with are certainly innovative. I would like to congratulate all the finalists for their impressive achievements and acknowledge the hard work everyone has put in to developing their ideas.
“This competition is an excellent opportunity for scientists to develop important skills for commercialising research, and indeed these scientists now have a good grasp of finance, marketing and intellectual property. UK science has great potential and researchers must recognise and realise that potential for social and economic benefit in the UK and beyond. The participants in the competition should be commended for their commitment to developing the skills to make this happen for their own research.”
Lizzy Day, Managing Director of Gluten Replacement Technologies Ltd said: “Winning this competition is the icing on the cake; this has been an incredibly valuable experience for us throughout. We are confident that we now have the skills required to approach a real life product and take the necessary steps to bring it to market. This is a really exciting prospect and could take us down some new avenues with our research and in each of our careers.”
Biotechnology YES is an annual competition, now in its 14th year, that aims to help the UK's early career bioscientists gain the skills and understanding needed to turn research into commercial reality. Year on year the competition grows in popularity and the additional heat in the east of England has been a great success with teams from the Animal Health Trust, University of Cambridge and University of East Anglia represented in the final 14, and of course a win for Cambridge.
Other winners in the Biotechnology YES competition were:
- Best consideration of IP strategy sponsored by Potter Clarkson
Mitee Solutions (University of Edinburgh)
- Best healthcare business plan sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline
Affinity Medical Enterprises (University of Bristol)
- Best medical technology by Smith & Nephew Prize
Elite Spec (Cranfield University)
- Best plant science business plan sponsored by Syngenta
Gluten Replacement Technologies (University of Cambridge/Imperial)
- Pfizer Prize for Innovation
SynthiBac (University of Sheffield)
- Best team presenters
Epidene (University of Durham)
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Notes to editors
A parallel Environment YES was run this year for the fourth time, sponsored by the Natural Environment Research Council and Indigo. This was won by Ecosphere team members Susan Fitzer, Mohammad Mehedi Hasan, Rebecca Herdman and Helen Paget, with fifth team member Liadi Mudashiru unable to make it to the final. Ecosphere pitched their idea for using a second generation antibiotic to reduce methane from ruminants such as cows.
About the sponsorship
The competition is sponsored by 27 different organisations:
- East of England Development Agency (EEDA)
- Manchester Investment Agency (MIDAS)
- Medical Research Council (MRC)
- Medical Research Council Technologies (MRCT)
- Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
- ONE North East
- Potter Clarkson
- Smith & Nephew
- The North West Development Agency (NWDA)
- The University of Manchester Incubator Company (UMIC)
- The University of Manchester Intellectual Property Ltd (UMIP)
- The Wellcome Trust
- University of Liverpool
- University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI)
- Vitae East of England Hub
- Yorkshire Forward
Profiles of the hypothetical companies:
Affinity Medical Enterprises
Affinity Medical Enterprises (University of Bristol) was founded in 2005 with the aim of commercializing a novel medical device to treat Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a degenerative neurological disease for which there is currently no effective treatment. Our device, the AviFilter, removes disease causing white blood cells from the blood without any of the side effects associated with existing therapies. Through clinical trials and early stage marketing to key clinicians across Europe, we have shown unprecedented efficacy and generated early revenue streams. We are now seeking funding for a PMA trial allowing us access to the $7 billion dollar a year US market.
AgriVet® (Animal Health Trust) is a company specialising in reducing agricultural methane emissions. Our product, BovaMet™, is a commensal bovine gut bacterium that has been genetically modified to convert waste methane in the bovine rumen to glycine. Two major benefits are decreased methane emission and improved digestion efficiency. BovaMet™ is market-ready, supplied in the form of a powder to be added to cattle feed. We plan to sell it to farmers and cattle feed manufactures and market it to government and supermarkets with the aim of gaining their endorsement. Concurrently we will research and develop similar products in other species.
Aquaestus (Newcastle University) has developed a product known as BIO-AD that can conserve heat through the use of biochemical bacteria, which is able to maintain a steady equilibrium and dissipate heat at a slower rate than conventional cooling processes. This product finds initial application in central heating systems and generates huge savings in utility bills for customers.
Biobug Systems (Rothamsted Research) has developed an idea to provide a safe, environmentally friendly, cost effective means to monitor and control the increasing number of bed bug infestations. Bed bugs will be attracted to a control device by an attractive chemical blend, where it will pick up fungal spores. When the bedbug returns to its refuge it will infect the colony.
Police carry out 600,000 breathalyzer tests every year, catching 100,000 people over the legal limit – many of whom were unaware that they were unfit to drive. Part of the reason for this is that there is a lack of self-testing products available to the general consumer. Eagleyz (University of Sheffield) has developed a novel Ethanol detecting compound that is incorporated into chewing gum. If the user is over the legal limit the gum undergoes a distinct colour change. This will allow consumers to quickly and easily determine their blood alcohol level, and therefore suitability to drive, at low cost but without compromising accuracy.
An optimal training performance with low risk of injuries is vital for all elite athletes. Levels of cortisol and lactate are closely correlated with stress related injuries. Elite Spec (Cranfield University) has developed a novel nanodevice based on Raman spectroscopy to measure these concentrations noninvasively. Realtime continuous monitoring using in-house developed software will allow optimization of training whilst reducing the risk of injuries.
The Enzyme Attic (University of Edinburgh) has developed an enzyme mixture that can be added to the raw materials for cement production, lowering the activation energy of the three chemical reactions that occur in a clinker kiln. This saves on fuel, saving money and decreasing carbon emissions.
Epidene (University of Durham) have developed Tatene, a tattoo removal cream which uses a naturally-occurring plant protein to bind tattoo pigments. When applied, it facilitates the removal of the pigment as part of the natural skin cycle. The tattoo is removed completely within six weeks, without pain or scarring.
Gluten Replacement Technologies Ltd
Coeliac disease affects 1% of the population. Sufferers must currently avoid foods containing gluten, which is used as a thickener in numerous everyday products. Gluten Replacement Technologies (GRT) (University of Cambridge) has developed a cheap, non-allergenic gluten replacement, GlutaSafe. Gluten is composed of non-allergenic glutenin and allergenic gliadin. GRT has designed a modification to the existing gluten extraction process that allows the removal of gliadin, and has discovered a novel protein, Renna, that can be used to replace gliadin to make GlutaSafe. GlutaSafe can be used in the manufacture of safe foods for coeliac disease sufferers without compromising on taste or affordability.
The Varroa mite is one of the major threats to the honey bee which is rapidly disappearing worldwide. Mitee Solutions (University of Edinburgh) has developed a product based on specific siRNAs which targets the gene in the mite which controls the hatching of the mite nymph from the egg.
Rapisense (University of East Anglia) are seeking investment to fill a market gap to rapidly identify microorganisms. Our detection technique monitors voltage changes when biomolecules from pathogens specifically bind DNA sequences immobilised to gold electrodes. We have developed a prototype capable of on-field crop pathogen detection in under thirty minutes. Investment will fund: the manufacture of a first batch of machines, the development of new variants to detect animal and human pathogens, and the integration of our machine into a data repository which will be used to model and predict agricultural disease outbreaks.
RedBio (University of Liverpool) have developed a novel patent-pending protein that coats hard surfaces and provides an anti-microbial shield that prevents microbial re-growth for one week.
Somatech (University of Manchester) has developed a patented enabling technology, the SomaSphere®. SomaSpheres® are a specialised liposomal delivery system which have many prospective applications, made possible by the controlled delivery of potential compounds to the lower layers of the epidermis without bloodstream entry. Our first Somatech product using this technology is the SolarSphere®, which aims to revolutionise the sunless tanning industry. It works by stimulating the natural tanning response of the body, without the dangers of UV exposure. To continue our product pipeline, we are also developing CelluSpheres, SomaSpheres® containing a compound to help reduce the appearance of cellulite.
SynthiBac (University of Sheffield) uses a modified bacterium to synthesise large yields of pure, high grade cellulose, something that trees alone cannot produce. The product has applications in many markets but currently the company focuses on high end paper products, a section of the lucrative paper market that cannot be supplied for by the recycling industry.
Atmosphane (Newcastle University) will exploit methane clathrates, using a novel bacterium and biostimulant, to provide low cost methane as an alternative to traditional fossil fuel.
Ecosphere (Newcastle University) uses a second generation antibiotic to reduce methane from ruminants. Thus increasing cow meat yield and milk yield and lowering meat to market period. iBiotic2g has a molecular size too large for absorption to ruminant stomach therefore avoiding resistance build up to ‘antibiotic’ and resistance passing to humans.
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: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/enterprise/
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 £450M 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. BBSRC carries out its mission by funding internationally competitive research, providing training in the biosciences, fostering opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promoting interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest in universities, centres and institutes.
The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre and Rothamsted Research are Institutes of BBSRC. The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.
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