Cambridge scientists win National Entrepreneurs Competition - (2003 competition)
Five Cambridge scientists have been crowned the UK 's brightest biotechnology prospects after winning the final of a national competition held in London on December 8th . The team from the University of Cambridge received a prize of £1,000 and the opportunity to attend the prestigious Business Plan Competition at Rice University in Texas, USA , in 2004.
The competition, Biotechnology YES, helps young scientists develop business awareness and understanding of the skills needed to become a successful entrepreneur. The seven teams taking part in the final had to prepare a business plan for an imaginary biotechnology company and present it before a panel of expert judges that take the role of venture capitalists.
"We are really excited to win the competition," says Kouki Harasaki, Managing Director of Clairvoyenz - the name chosen by the Cambridge team for their imaginary company. "This has changed our whole perspective of the biotechnology area and it is certainly something we would now consider as a future career."
The Cambridge team came up with the idea of developing disposable contact lenses for diabetics that change colour when their glucose levels change. The technology could also be developed to detect the tell-tale signs of heart attacks in high-risk groups.
"The judging panel were very impressed with the overall quality of the presentations", says head-judge Dr Peter Ringrose, Chairman of BBSRC who sponsor the competition which is co-organised with the University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI). "Clairvoyenz were particularly high on the technology wow factor, coming up with an exciting idea for use in areas of particular medical importance around the world."
The runners-up in the competition were the EntEssence team from Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire whose company produced genetically modified pot plants that repel mosquitoes. Additional team prizes in the seventh successful year of the competition went to:
- Best Intellectual Property Strategy - ProVent - Institute of Food Research , Norwich - sponsored by Eric Potter Clarkson
- Best Commercial and Marketing Strategy - Clairvoyenz - University of Cambridge - sponsored by Martineau Johnson
- Best Plant and Microbial Science Plan - Entessence - Rothamsted Research - sponsored by Syngenta
An additional prize for the best individual presenter was awarded to Helen Pinfield-Wells from the University of York team, AquaChem. This award is sponsored by Dr Tim Hart, a previous participant in the competition and now a successful biotechnology entrepreneur with his own company - Cybersense Biosystems.
"I wish this kind of competition had been around when I was in a similar position," says David Gill, Head of the Innovation and Technology Unit at HSBC Bank. "Taking part in the competition helps you convert your academic knowledge into something that you can apply to the rest of your life."
Pictures are available.
- AquaChem ( University of York )
The York team discovered a natural product ("X-Factor") from seaweed, and determined its high anti-biofilm activity and propose to exploit its use as an anti-fouling agent in paint applied to ships.
- Clairvoyenz ( University of Cambridge )
The Cambridge team came up with an idea for a healthcare monitoring company which has a platform technology around a transparent polymer that can change colour depending on certain ligand concentrations; they propose to exploit the technology with contact lenses to monitor metabolites in tears.
- EntEssence (Rothamsted Research)
The Rothamsted team came up with and developed the idea based on the identification of compounds in plants that act as repellents to pest insects with their main product being "mosquito repellent ornamental plant".
- FreshTek ( University of Leeds )
The Leeds team came up with and developed the idea of an imaginary company based on novel pH indicator technology that may be incorporated into packaging to establish the freshness of a food product.
- Pirbright Detection Systems (Institute for Animal Health)
The Institute for Animal Health team developed a novel protein which undergoes a rapid and intense colour change in the presence of the human pathogenic bacteria Campylobacter.
- Provent ( Institute of Food Research)
The IFR team came up with and developed the idea for prevention of MRSA through novel spray delivery of probiotics.
- Ready Yet ( University of Reading )
The Reading team developed a label based on detection of ethylene produced by ripening climacteric fruit which changes colour with increasing levels of ethylene.
The 2003 competition is sponsored by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI), the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, Eric Potter Clarkson, Cancer Research UK , Syngenta and endorsed by the BioIndustry Association (BIA). The opportunity to attend the US Business Plan competition is sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry.