Phantom plans help young scientists profit

November 21, 1997

THE BIOTECHNOLOGY and Biological Sciences Research Council has announced the finalists for a national competition to encourage business acumen among young scientists in universities.

The qualifying teams, made up of postgraduate and postdoctoral scientists, are from the universities of Aberdeen, Nottingham, Manchester, Reading, Queen's University Belfast and University College, London.

Called the Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme, the challenge for the teams of scientists has been to draw up imaginary biotechnology ventures.

The business plans of the finalists were chosen by judges from 32 submissions from universities and research institutes.

The finals will take place in mid-January.

National finalists for a parallel competition for graduates will be announced next month.

The ideas behind the qualifying postgraduate businesses range from medical solutions, such as Manchester's unique method of aiding the recovery of head trauma and stroke patients, to Aberdeen's novel treatment of infections using engineered antibodies.

The plans come complete with imaginary company names. Queen's University Belfast has called its vehicle for marketing a new vaccine for controlling fleas in cats and dogs "Immunosphere".

The University of Nottingham is offering a novel gel for the delivery of therapeutic drugs through its company dubbed "Rednik".

The University of Reading's "Innulinx" is proposing to storm the market for genetically engineered plants producing dietary fat, while University College London's "Animapharm" is offering a business plan for a new vaccine to control cattle ticks.

The competition has been devised jointly by the BBSRC and Nottingham University to address a shortage of business skills among young bioscientists.

The BBSRC says this hinders the expansion of small and medium-sized enterprises in the bioscience sector.

Nottingham University's John Peberdy, one of the originators of the scheme, says there has been a high level of interest.

"It demonstrates the importance of developing fundamental commercial skills among the next generation of our biotechnology workforce," he says.

Doug Yarrow, director of the BBSRC's business innovation group, says: "The quality of the business plans presented was extremely impressive and a particularly encouraging indication of the future of the United Kingdom's biotechnology industry."

Sponsors of the competition include Zeneca, Rothschild Bioscience Unit, Price Waterhouse, Merlin Ventures, Coopers and Lybrand, Knoll Pharmaceuticals, Delloitte & Touche and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation.

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