Me and 3 other PhD students from RVC (Ran, Freija and Neil) all took part in the BBSRC ‘Biotechnology YES’ competition, see their website here. It’s a competition mostly to teach you about starting up a business from academia, how to market the business and how to get funding. We took part in the biotechnology part of the competition, but there is also ‘Environment YES’ and ‘Engineering YES’.

It wasn’t too far away, in the exotic land of Stevenage, all of 10 minutes further on my commute! But, it was at the main GlaxoSmithKline site and the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, so that was quite cool to see the site of GSK, and as you can see below, it was quite a nice place to spend a few days.

GSK
View from the GSK site, overlooking the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst.

So the whole basis of the competition is to hear from current entrepreneurs currently in the biotechnology field, how they got there, how they’ve launched their business etc, but to then in our group come up with an idea, that was plausible. With this idea, we had to detail why the product was a good idea, what gap in the market there is at the moment, competition to our idea etc etc. It then ends with each group pitching our business idea to ‘potential investors’, who would then decide who they would invest in, with 3 winners from each different competition heading to the final.

We decided to go down the route of pain management, so we came up with ‘Epion diagnostics’, with the following spiel…

We have a novel, home-use diagnostic tool that will measure blood biomarkers, translate this into a pain-profile and provide the patient with a drug type and dosage regime tailored to their needs

Basically, the end patient gets the correct dosage and pain medication from their doctor according to the pain they actually have. Preventing overdoses, unnecessary side effects and potentially saving the NHS/other healthcare systems money by only prescribing the minimal amount of drugs needed. And to do this, we had a reader, that would measure the blood biomarkers (definitely not the Apple airpods just with our logo on), put this through a big data algorithm with AI (of course!) and tell you (and send to your GP) what pain medication and dosage would be best.

Lots of other groups had great ideas, but you could tell instantly that they had help before the competition, which I thought was a bit unfair, as a few fair groups (like us) had planned everything there and then, though I also suppose preparation is key. But again, lots of groups (like us) were up till gone 2am the night before prepping everything, whereas other teams seemed to have basically had everything complete before the competition.

Ultimately, it came to the pitch, it went great, we got a few good questions and we atualyl thought we might win at some point. Unfortunately though, we didn’t win, but we got some good feedback and overall it was a great time especially to see a great place like GSK. One thing though, I definitely realised I don’t want to go into business, much rather stick to doing science!