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The University of Southampton

Young entrepreneurial talent reaches biotech final

Published: 3 December 2008

A team of bioscientists from the University of Southampton have beaten off stiff competition to make it through to the final round of the annual Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) competition.

This national competition, where young scientists pitch their ideas to a panel of investors, is run by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI).

The Biotechnology YES final will be held in London on 8 December, where the team will be challenged to impress a panel of judges with their proposal for a hypothetical company called New Forest Innovations. This fictional company has developed a novel technology to improve the efficiency of detecting superbug infections, such as MRSA, in hospitals. They are competing against 13 other teams for the Biotechnology YES 2008 title and £1000 prize money.

Michael Blackney, who is studying for a PhD in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and acting as ‘Managing Director’ of New Forest Innovations, comments: “The spread of hospital acquired superbug infections is a problem affecting all countries where antibiotics are routinely used. Unfortunately, current methods for detecting superbugs are time consuming and often require specialist scientific knowledge. We therefore saw a niche for a hypothetical technology that could bind a particular superbug and rapidly change colour indicating its presence. Although the product is hypothetical, the science behind the technology is plausible and it is on this technology that our fictional company, New Forest Innovations, is based.

“The competition itself has been a great experience. It was hard work, with most teams competing staying up into the early hours each day to get their business plans completed in time, but it was also very enjoyable. The competition has certainly given me a much greater understanding of the business strategy behind commercialised science, something I would probably never have learnt while at the lab bench.”

Dr Celia Caulcott, Director of Innovation and Skills, BBSRC adds: “For science to contribute significantly to the UK economy, now and in the future, we need to have excellent scientists with vital entrepreneurial skills. This competition gives young scientists an opportunity to develop necessary skills in finance, marketing and intellectual property to ensure that world-class research is turned into deliverable benefits for the UK. We wish all of the finalists the best of luck in the final stage of the competition.”

Biotechnology YES is an annual competition, now in its 13th year, that aims to help the UK’s young bioscientists gain the skills and contacts needed to turn research into commercial reality. Through regional heats across the UK, young scientists competed for places in the final, mentored by a team of advisors including financiers, intellectual property experts and spin-out company heads.

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