is no stereotypical Medici Fellow. Gavin
Whyman, Department of Molecular Medicine and Cancer Studies, for instance,
did not come to Medici with a great idea he wanted to commercialise.
was coming towards the end of my PhD in the Breast Cancer Research Unit, and
was applying for a post as a technician to pay the bills while I wrote up.
of the posts I applied for was in Clinical Biochemistry with Professor Alison
Goodall, and it was she who introduced me to the Medici programme. Her own
company, Haemostatix, is in the process of spinning out from the University,
but she did not have a PhD student to take part in the Medici scheme, and so
she offered to be my sponsoring academic.
more I learned about the programme the more I was interested in it.
And now I’m really enjoying the three days a week I work as one of
the fellows (giving me two days to write up my PhD).
I tend to spend two days a week working for the Research and Business
Development Office (RBDO), and one day a week working for Haemostatix, with
Alison Goodall and Sarah Middleton.”
RBDO days involve work with EMIN (East Midlands Incubation Network, http://www.emincubation.co.uk/)
as cluster manager, responsible for all the healthcare related content on the
soon-to-be-launched EMIN web portal.
of the roles of Medici Fellows is
to carry out a technology audit of their own departments, interviewing as many
(willing) research staff as possible about their research, and looking for
possible routes by which the research could be commercialised.
The RBDO had already begun an audit of the Faculty of Medicine and
Biological Sciences so Gavin and his ‘fellow Fellows’ have come just at
the right time to work through this as a joint RBDO/Medici objective.
Haemostatix his day is very different: “There
I’m working more as a management trainee, shadowing Sarah Middleton (one of
the founders). I’m also currently
redesigning the Haemostatix website, and have helped prepare presentations
amongst many other things.
I hope you can tell I very much enjoy my three-day week as a Medici Fellow.
As to how this well help my career, quite simply it’s given me so
many more options to chose from. Should
I wish to continue the standard academic route of post docs through to
lecturer, this experience and training can only increase my employability.
Through Medici I now have the option to take a new focus, whether that be
working for a technology transfer company/university office, or a small
BioScience company, or to move into industry. No
doors have been closed and so many new ones have opened.”
Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, has been associated with a
University/US spin-out biotechnology company since its creation several years
ago, and recently became its Scientific Director.
Freestone explained: “The company,
BioNutrix, produces a novel bacterial growth stimulator and resuscitative
agent called Bacxell (for Bacterial Accelerator of Growth). This growth stimulator has the potential to massively improve
microbial diagnostic techniques, as well as being a potential new antibiotic
was awarded the Medici Fellowship because of my experience and interest in the
processes involved in commercialising primary academic research (I am an
inventor on several patents) and my involvement with my biotech company
was a member of SONG (Spin-Out Network Group) before I became a Medici
Fellow,” Dr Freestone commented. “While
I am not by any means a flag-waving pro-commercialisation evangelist, I do
believe that with correct and adequate support – usually financial –
scientists can balance traditional research programmes and commitments with
commercial development of their research.”
Freestone’s objective in applying for a Medici Fellowship was to gain more
formal business instruction as an entrepreneurial scientist, with the aim of
becoming more effective in her existing role, rather than turning into a
a researcher and lecturer she also has to balance a full programme of
University commitments with her commercial concerns, so the Medici stipend
pays for a useful extra pair of hands that frees her from some more routine
laboratory work. However,
she remains a practising biochemist who “loves experimental work”.
date, she is favourably impressed by Medici. “The
programme of training is flexible, very useful in the topics covered and has
the potential to be tailored to individual needs, which is excellent.
So far the Medici experience has also been very interesting and
enjoyable. I am confident Medici will
enable me to become more knowledgeable about the business side of my company,
which will assist BioNutrix to become a huge commercial success. I also hope the training will allow me to assist more effectively
my colleagues who may also wish to explore the commercialisation route.”
Munson is an Experimental
Officer in the Biochemistry Department. She
runs the Embryonic Stem Cell Facility which provides a gene targeting service
to both internal and external research groups, building on the success in
knockout technology established at Leicester.
explains her interest in becoming a Medici Fellow: “Over the last two years my primary objective has been to oversee
the transition of the Embryonic Stem Facility from a grant-supported unit to a
semi-commercial, self supporting venture, which now generates its own income
from contract work undertaken.
was therefore delighted to be accepted on to the Medici Fellowship programme.
It will provide an ideal means to learn the key business skills in
which I am lacking after 15 years of academic training, but which will
hopefully enable me to run the Facility more effectively on a commercial
“However, more than simply filling
the gaps in my entrepreneurial knowledge, I feel that Medici has given my work
a third dimension, allowing me to view my research from a new perspective.
“I have had the opportunity to meet
and interact with 30 other Fellows who ooze enthusiasm in all their fields and
ambitions, which is infectious and refreshing.
We have also had the chance to meet some inspiring contacts from the
biotech industry who are happy to offer a wealth of advice and experience.
“The Medici Fellowship Programme is a unique initiative and one which I am really excited to be a part of. Given the tangible benefits to both the University and staff on a personal level, I hope it will continue beyond its initial two-year trial.” [The University is seeking further support from HEFCE to continue Medici, through the Higher Education Innovation Fund.]
Budding Entrepreneur's Experience
first heard of the Medici course through his work as a Healthcare and
Biotechnology Consultant at Bridgehead Technologies in Melton.
Since being awarded a PhD by the University of Leicester in 2001 he had
become increasingly interested in commercialising an idea for a low-tech,
low-cost and high speed method for diagnosing leukaemia which came to him
whilst writing-up his thesis.
commented: “When I found out more
about the Medici programme I realised that this would be a tremendous
opportunity to learn all of the steps and skills required in forming a
start-up biosciences company in a hands-on manner.
The programme would instruct me in a variety of key business areas,
such as management, finance, marketing and intellectual property issues;
foster networks amongst the East Midlands Biosciences community; and open up
access to business and scientific expertise within the University.
starting in September I have been attached to the University’s Research
& Business Development Office, where I am currently involved in auditing
the newly restructured School of Medicine.
have high hopes for what I can achieve through Medici over the coming year.
It has already focused my efforts and has given me the confidence (and
back-up) to get things started. In addition to the first-rate instruction that
I have already received I have had tremendous support and encouragement
towards developing my idea.
am being allowed time to investigate and develop my technology, and
early-stage funding is being sought for proof-of-principle tests and the
development of a prototype device. Medici
really does offer a unique opportunity for the budding entrepreneur!”
Last updated: 5 December 2003 12:15
Maintained by: Barbara Whiteman
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