A team of postgraduate students in the University of Leicester Genetics Department is celebrating success in the regional finals of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Biotechnology YES competition.
Their victory means that in December they will go forward to the national finals, competing against teams from Cambridge, Oxford and Edinburgh Universities.
The competition was devised by Professor John Peberdy of the University of Nottingham, as a way for undergraduates, postgraduates and postdocs to understand the processes involved in bringing the biosciences to the market place. The teams were asked to come up with a commercial idea and produce a business plan to present to a panel of judges drawn from the worlds of business and science.
The winning Leicester team formed a company they called DermaScreen, to produce a diagnostic test kit for melanoma, which would be as simple to use as a pregnancy test kit. Members of the team and the roles they adopted were: Tim Slingsby, Managing Director; Carole Yauk, Research and Development Director; Oliver Zaccheo, Finance Director; Simon Cockell, Operations Director; and Lorna Millar, Marketing Director.
The four days of presentations took place in a Nottingham hotel, but the project required considerable effort long before this, as Tim Slingsby explained: "A lot of hard work before the weekend of the competition went into considering our Intellectual Property position, identifying the market for our product, identifying the competition and why our product was better. Then we formulated a rough business strategy, in other words what our business was going to do and how it was going to do it. The allocation of the team roles was a help in that we were able to divide up the work that we had to do. However, a lot of the time it was interesting to see how everybody's roles overlapped - emphasising that the whole thing was a team effort."
In spite of all the preparation, the teams still had a lot to do at the workshop before they could develop their own proposals. They learned how to put together a business plan, and about commercial and marketing strategies, as well as hearing case histories from people working in industry and picking the brains of mentors.
Speaking of the competition, Departmental Services Manager Mr Terry Lymn said: "This department entered the competition for the first time last year, when the level of preparation, presentation and hard work that was needed to succeed became clear. This year's successful team was able to build on this experience."
Tim Slingsby concluded: "All in all, the competition workshop was very intense - a lot of hard work, but very enjoyable. We all learned far more than we expected to. We realised the value of meeting people with experience in the industry and finding out about the things that ordinarily we wouldn't get any feel for."
Note to editors: Further information is available from Mr Terry Lymn, Departmental Services Manager, Department of Genetics, University of Leicester, telephone (0116) 252 3437, email email@example.com and Tim Slingsby, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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