Scientists to share in company flotation

December 8, 1995

An academic unit has launched itself as a company, without venture capital, because it developed its product sufficiently in academia.

Scientists in the molecular cell pathology unit at the Royal Free Hospital medical school will have their salaries paid by the new company, PolyMASC, and share a stake of just under a third. The head of the unit has become chief executive, with all other directors appointed from the commercial world.

The medical school is allowing the company to remain in its building and has handed over intellectual property rights, patents and licensing agreements. In return it has a 26 per cent stake.

PolyMASC is to be floated on the alternative investment market, aiming to raise about Pounds 5 million by its public offer of 25 per cent of shares. The nine unit staff will have a 32 per cent stake, worth nearly Pounds 7 million.

Gillian Francis, head of the unit, said that the medical school had taken risks in financing her research and applying for patents. PolyMASC already has four patents, with crucial products approved by America's Food and Drug Administration. Because the medical school has allowed the company to retain its facilities, PolyMASC had avoided some of the "crippling burden" on other new biotechnology companies, she said.

The scientists have invented a polymer coating which improves on techniques to ferry therapeutic proteins and liposomes to parts of the body without interference. Dr Francis said: "It's not a good idea to give the enabling technology to one single pharmaceutical company because each one has only a few drugs it could use it for. Attempts by pharmaceutical companies to grab the whole thing are being quite rigorously resisted."

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