Rising stars in the market and on the shelves

April 21, 2006

Business Initiative of the Year

It can be all too easy for spin-off firms to feel that they are losing their ties with parent universities. But The Times Higher Award for Business Initiative of the Year can help to strengthen bonds, according to last year's winner.

Kenneth Mulvany, chief executive of the winning firm Proximagen Neuroscience, said: "It has served to further strengthen the relationship we already had with the university (King's College London). It gave us the opportunity to raise our profile a bit within the university and opened some doors for us."

Invitations to dinners and networking events from the university and plenty of useful words of advice from the principal followed hot on the heels of the award, he added.

The biotechnology firm, a spin-off from King's, won the award for its vision and strong management. Proximagen Neuroscience was established in November 2003 and was launched on the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market just over a year later. So far, the firm has concentrated on developing drugs for Parkinson's disease, one of the areas of expertise of its founder Peter Jenner, professor of pharmacology at King's.

The firm has high hopes for two groups of drugs going into the development stage. Both are aimed at correcting problems associated with certain treatments for Parkinson's. Their effectiveness can vary from day to day and some treatments can cause uncontrollable movements. The company plans to expand its work to include other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's, and depression and anxiety.

Young Academic Author of the Year

As China assumes a greater role on the world stage, it seems appropriate that last year's prize for academia's rising star was won by a Chinese history expert.

Rana Mitter, The Times Higher' s Young Academic Author of the Year 2005, said the prize helped to take his book on modern Chinese history to a wider audience.

"The prize is unusual in that it celebrates a book that uses original research to bring a new argument to a readership beyond a single specialist field," Dr Mitter said. "I know of historians and political scientists who don't work on China, and would be unlikely to read any of my very specialist work, but who did read A Bitter Revolution."

A Bitter Revolution: China's Struggle with the Modern World told a story the judges had not heard before that is relevant to China's position today.

The book focuses on a demonstration against foreign imperialism on May 4, 1919 that sparked a liberal movement that has echoes in later events, including the Cultural Revolution, the war with Japan and the rise of a semi-market economy.

Dr Mitter, who is lecturer in the history and politics of modern China at Oxford University, is working on a new project on nationalism in China. It will explore how the country was shaped by the war between China and Japan in the 1930s and 1940s. The £5,000 prize money that accompanied his Times Higher award has helped to fund his latest work in China.

Dr Mitter said: "The prize also helped to stress that work done in universities does have relevance to real concerns in the outside world, and can bring depth to our understanding of headline issues such as the rise of China."

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