Millionaire pair's spin-off triumph

April 21, 2006

It was love at first sight for scientists Anne Eady and Jon Cove, writes Jessica Shepherd.

She was a 26-year-old doctoral student, he was a 29-year-old postdoctoral researcher, both in the microbiology department at Leeds University. After a whirlwind romance, they married.

Now, 25 years and two children later, it appears that their academic marriage was also made in heaven.

The couple's spin-off company, which develops acne treatments, has made them millionaires on paper.

In the month since Syntopix floated on the Alternative Investment Market its value has grown from £10.1 million to £10.8 million and shares have risen from 177p to 190.5p.

The firm, which was spun off from Leeds in 2003 with help from intellectual property firm IP Group Plc, is about to double its workforce to eight.

This week marks the start of plans for preclinical trials, which means the company's products could be on pharmacists' shelves in two years.

Analysts have predicted that a cure for acne could create a market worth Pounds 6 billion a year. The condition is said to strike most teenagers, half of women and a quarter of men.

The couple still work at Leeds, in the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology, where Dr Eady is a principal research fellow and Dr Cove is a senior lecturer.

Dr Eady said: "I think academic marriages work because you can spark ideas off each other. We look for synergies and interaction between chemical compounds and we find synergy between each other too.

"I remember being desperate to open the incubator door to check the results of experiments. I could share that with Jon. Science gives us both a huge kick and that is an important thing to share.

"I guess it can be difficult to have an off-switch when you work with the person you love."

Dr Eady, Syntopix's scientific director, and Dr Cove, the firm's research director, join a growing list of highly successful husband-and-wife teams in the biotechnology sector.

These include Alan and Sue Kingsman of Oxford BioMedica, Steve and Kay Davies of Vastox and Jamie Burnie and Ruth Matthews of Neutec Pharma.

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