Aberdeen's position as Scotland's commercial centre for drug discovery will see PhD students working in biotechnology travel from across Europe to the University of Aberdeen for a masterclass from local and international experts in the field.
Thirty six hand-picked bio-entrepreneurs will attend a series of workshops over a week-long summer school delivered by bio-business industry experts.
A number of successful University of Aberdeen spin out companies in the biotechnology field have helped the institution achieve a ‘centre of excellence’ status in the field and as such it is being entrusted with training the next generation.
“With the price of Brent crude stubbornly stuck below $50 a barrel maybe Europe’s oil capital can take some comfort in the fact that its biotechnology companies are continuing to flourish. With oil and gas dominating for so long it is sometimes forgotten, even by those in the Granite City, that we are rather good at developing new drugs and treatments and the profile of our maturing biotechnology industry is growing quickly,” explains organiser Dr Allison Carrington from the University of Aberdeen.
The event was organised with funding secured from the European Union and support from the Universities of Bologna in Italy, Pau in France, Oviedo in Spain and Pécs in Hungary.
The budding bio-entrepreneurs will be expected to quickly integrate into mixed international teams with representatives from Italy, Spain, France and Hungary, together with the UK cohort, making up the majority of attendees.
She explains: “This is going to be a very intensive few days for all concerned but what we will deliver is a chance to learn directly from individuals who have been there and done it and in many cases have the commercial scars to prove it. By the end of the week the teams will be taking on Board level roles in their own “virtual” biotechnology companies and pitching for cash or contracts guided by our panel of industry dragons.”
NovaBiotics Ltd, now a well-established drug-development company, began its journey as a spin-out from the University of Aberdeen. The company made headlines recently with the early success of its anti-infective therapy Lynovex®, designed to help Cystic Fibrosis sufferers. The company will help deliver some of the workshops during the week.
NovaBiotics CEO, Dr Deborah O’Neil, says: “It's great to be able to showcase Aberdeen's biotech prowess and for the experiences of the Aberdeen cluster to be part of the learning process for the next generation of European biomedical entrepreneurs.”
One of Aberdeen’s newest biotechnology companies, Elasmogen Ltd, develop small protein drugs called soloMERs™ for the treatment of cancers and inflammatory disease.
The company’s CEO Dr Caroline Barelle has a background in large US pharmaceutical giants such as Wyeth and Pfizer and is relishing the opportunity of explaining to the next generation of company CEOs why she has taken the decision to run her own biotech firm.
She explains: “Having been part of the commercial side of life sciences for many years I have seen first-hand the clinical benefits and indeed the financial rewards of embracing innovation. These successes required a combination of good science and business savvy; and of course the blood, sweat and tears necessary to deal with the never ending pursuit of cash to keep these high-risk ventures moving forward. I’m looking forward to passing on the essentials of having a great team of people, a good sense of humour and a very thick skin!”
The summer school will run from August 24-28 at the University of Aberdeen.