Promising start-ups get a cash kickstart

五月 17, 2002

Methods to protect the active ingredients in drugs and to detect cancers using light have won the research councils' business plan competitions.

Last week, scientists from Nottingham University and a consortium led by University College London won awards that will help them turn their research into commercial companies.

The competition provided entrants with workshops on how to write business plans and get sponsorship and a mentoring process with access to venture capitalists, lawyers and marketeers.

The winner was Critical Pharmaceuticals, set up by Kevin Shakesheff of Nottingham University's Pharmacy School, and Steve Howdle, in Nottingham's chemistry department. The start-up beat 60 entrants to claim the £25,000 first prize.

Critical Pharmaceuticals developed a new method to help next-generation drugs made from proteins stay in the body for up to a month. The process involves suspending the drug in a new porous polymer.

Professor Shakesheff said: "A year ago, as academics, we didn't know how to put together a good business plan." The company is now looking for £2.5 million funding.

UCL spin-off MedOptica, whose researchers are based at the National Medical Laser Centre at UCL and at Boston University, won £20,000 to develop light scattering technology that could cut the time to detect cancer to a matter of hours.

The optical biopsy system sends pulses of white light into tissue and differences in the signatures of normal and cancerous tissue are used to make the diagnosis.

MedOptica scientific director David Pickard said: "Winning the competition will spur the team on to continue development with a goal of eventually seeing the technology used in clinical practice."

The competition was a joint venture between the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council and the Natural Environment Research Council.

It was run by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council with the Medical Research Council, the Department of Trade and Industry, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation.

Two runners-up from Newcastle and Aberdeen universities received £10,000 each and teams from the universities of Manchester, Newcastle and Warwick and Imperial College London each received £5,000.



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