UCL News


Young entrepreneurial talent from UCL reaches biotech final

1 December 2008


pills biotechnologyyes.co.uk/" target="_self">Biotechnology YES
  • The UCL Institute of Child Health
  • The BBSRC
  • A team of four bioscientists from the UCL Institute of Child Health have beaten off stiff competition to make it through to the final round of the annual Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) competition, in which young scientists pitch their ideas to a panel of investors. This national competition is run by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI). 

    The finalists from the UCL ICH formed a company called 'Sensus Biotech', which has identified a number of compounds with high potential as anti-obesity drugs and flavouring substitutes, using an innovative system based on taste-receptors. Edmund Poon ('Managing Director'), Francesca Menghi ('R&D Director') and Gayatri Sharma ('Finance Director') are all PhD students at the ICH, and its 'Marketing Director', Mark Kristiansen, is an ICH postdoctoral fellow in its Molecular Haematology and Cancer Biology Unit.

    'Sensus Biotech' is competing against thirteen other teams for the Biotechnology YES 2008 title and £1000 prize money. The Biotechnology YES final will be held in London on 8 December 2008, when the team will be challenged to impress a panel of judges with their proposal for their hypothetical company. 

    Edmund Poon, the Managing Director, explains that Sensus Biotech Ltd. aims to 'generate revenue by licensing our compounds through forming strategic partnerships within the pharmaceutical and food/diet industries'. The firm's uniqueness rests in the fact that 'the over-the-counter FDA-approved anti-obesity and weight-loss compounds being developed through our "Fat Blocker" programme hold a unique market position and have a clear competitive advantage over rivals due to their mode of action through receptors on the tongue, which can cause sustainable weight-loss through the modification of behaviour. The drug also has a higher safety profile than many existing drugs, due to its topical application.'

    Dr Celia Caulcott, Director of Innovation and Skills, BBSRC said: "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, which 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.

    Biotechnology YES
    Biotechnology YES has been running since 1995. Research has found that young scientists participating in the competition are more likely to enter business roles than other young scientists. The competition is sponsored by twenty-four different organisations, including the BBSRC, the BioIndustry Association (BIA), AstraZeneca, Cancer Research UK, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, GlaxoSmithKline, the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Nestle, Pfizer, the Royal Academy of Engineering, Unilever, the University of Liverpool, and the University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI).

    The UCL Institute of Child Health (ICH)
    In partnership with Great Ormond Street Hospital, the ICH is the leading British academic research institution for child health. It was established in 1945 and currently has 472 staff. It supports 46 professorships, and currently there are 110 MPhil/PhD students and 22 Doctors of Medicine/Master of Surgery students studying at the ICH. It aims to 'improve the health and wellbeing of children, and the adults they will become, through world-class research, education and public engagement. Research is carried out in seven main areas: biochemical and nutritional sciences; cancer; cardiorespiratory sciences; genes, development and disease; infection and immunity; neurosciences and mental health; and population health sciences.