The first of a new breed of university "hothouses" for the commercial exploitation of biomedical research went into operation at Manchester University this week.
The Pounds 12 million "incubator", called Manchester Biotech Ltd (MBL), is wholly owned by the university. Financial backing also came from the European Regional Development Fund and the Wellcome Trust contributed Pounds 4 million towards a specialist research unit at the incubator.
University scientists started moving into the facility only this week but Mark Ferguson, co-founder and MBL chairman, said they "hit the ground running".
Over the past year MBL has spun out five companies on the back of promising research. These include: Bioinformatic Solutions, a specialist in the analysis of genetic data; Functional Fungal Genomics, which deals with treatments for fungal diseases; and Renova, which is developing treatments to prevent scar formation after injury.
Linda Magee, MBL general manager, said the incubator will eventually be home to 250 researchers. The company is keen to attract industrial research teams. "We are talking to a number of large biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies which are interested in locating research teams at the incubator," she said.
"We envisage they will want to tap into academic expertise informally by attending lectures or discussing problems with us, or be interested in full-scale research collaborations with university scientists."
Dr Magee stressed that MBL should be seen by other universities as a national resource: "Although Manchester University wholly own MBL, we would be very happy to look at accommodating research teams from other institutions."