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York scientists scoop another Entrepreneurs' Award

Posted on 11 December 2002

Five scientists from the University of York have won a national competition for budding biotechnology entrepreneurs. The team picked up £1,000 prize money and the prestigious Biotechnology YES (Young Entrepreneurs Scheme) award at the competition final, held in London yesterday (9 December 2002).

"This competition gave us an invaluable insight into the commercial applications of biotechnology, broadening our horizons beyond purely academic opportunities. We are proof that the University of York is a pool of fresh ideas," said Simon Chandler of the winning team, 'Aviaclean'.

The team were asked to come up with an imaginary biotech business and had to take on different roles in the company whilst giving a presentation to a panel of 'investors' from the UK's biotech community. Simon Chandler, Alex Venn, Jemma Jowett, Julie Richards and Graeme Park, all from the University of York, based their business plan on an imaginary company, 'Aviaclean', specialising in products that remove bird waste from monuments, buildings and public spaces. In addition Alex Venn won the 'Best Presenter' prize for his individual performance.

The Aviaclean Company plan is for an environmental biotechnology research and development company, whose main (hypothetical) products are inexpensive, safe and effective bird poop removal agents. These are (would be) patented, but naturally occurring, bacteria, which contain unique enzymes capable of degrading bird guano.

"They did really well," says Professor Julia Goodfellow, Chief Executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), "It is always difficult facing a panel of people that you know are experts in their field – but they coped excellently. The skills they have picked up through this competition should prove valuable when they have to face this kind of situation later in their careers."

The winning team from the University of York were also presented with the Biotechnology YES trophy donated by the BioIndustry Association. Other awards presented at the final yesterday include a runners-up prize to a team from the University of Oxford, who named their imaginary company 'Fluoromed Diagnostics'.

Professor John Sparrow from the Department of Biology congratulated the five PhD students. "This is a great achievement for our Biology entrepreneurs against stiff competition from the Universities throughout the UK. A second 'York Biology' team also reached the finals. These successes follow last year's achievements by a York Biology team which came away from the national finals with a major prize."

Notes to editors:

  • The teams taking part in the 2002 finals were:
    • AVIACLEAN (University of York) - an imaginary company specialising in products that remove bird waste from monuments, buildings and public spaces.
    • CHAMELEON TECH (University of York) - an imaginary company producing special sterile labels for use in laboratory experiments
    • ENVIROPHAGE (Rothamsted Research) - an imaginary company producing cleaning products that target so-called "superbugs" in hospitals, municipal buildings and water supplies.
    • FLUOROMED DIAGNOSTICS (University of Oxford) – an imaginary company that has developed "smart tattoos" that tell farmers when their livestock is ill with foot and mouth disease.
    • UVISUAL PEPTIDES (University of Oxford) - an imaginary company that has developed intelligent sunscreen that indicates to the user when they have been exposed to a certain dose of UV radiation whilst sunbathing.
    • TECHNOPHAGE (University of Glasgow) - an imaginary company that has developed vaccines and reagents for human Respiratory Syncytial virus (RSV), the leading cause of acute respiratory disease in children and the elderly.
  • The Biotechnology YES (Young Entrepreneurs Scheme) is an innovative competition developed to raise awareness of the commercialisation of bioscience ideas among postgraduate students/postdoctoral scientists. The competition aims to encourage an entrepreneurial culture in the UK bioscience postgraduate and postdoctoral base for the benefit of the UK economy. For more information, go to: The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is one of seven Research Councils sponsored through the UK Government's Office of Science and Technology and annually invests around £267 million in the biosciences. BBSRC sustains a world-class bioscience research community for the UK. Its mission is to fund internationally competitive research, provide training in the biosciences, foster opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promote interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest. The wide range of research funded by BBSRC makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

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