OneStart Competition Launch
- Monday, 4th February 2013
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Over the past two weeks, OBR chapters across the UK have hosted launch events for the coveted OneStart competition. Proceedings were started by the Cambridge chapter on 22nd January, followed by London, Oxford and lastly Manchester. Young budding life science entrepreneurs were invited to hear from both OBR and SR One about the process of competition and how they could be involved. With around 60 attendees at each event, the OneStart launch was a success and provided a good starting point for potential participants and organisers alike.
What is OneStart?
OneStart is a unique competition. SR One, the venture capital arm of GlaxoSmithKline, has teamed up with OBR to launch the biggest competition of its kind in the world. Life science entrepreneurs with an idea for a novel and innovative technology that could have an impact on current medical treatments and diagnostics are encouraged to put their ideas forward. The unique prize includes £100,000 to be invested in the proposed biotech business and lab space at Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, a bioscience campus based in Hertfordshire. Additional benefits include one year membership to life science networks including One Nucleus plus business and intellectual property support.
The launch events provided a platform for Daniel Perez and Gabriel Mecklenburg, co-founders of OBR, to the re-iterate the rules and guidelines of the competition. The competition is open to life science entrepreneurs under the age of 35 (importantly, if applying as a team, every member of the team has to be aged 35 or younger on the day of the closing deadline for application, which is 21st February). Applicants should be working in the UK or Europe but do not have to be a UK or EU national. Applications for ideas should fall into one of the following categories: drug discovery, medical devices, diagnostics or health IT.
A key point that was emphasised is the option of applying to the competition as an individual. There are many opportunities for individuals with ideas but without a team, or individuals with a particular skill-set and passion to work in an emerging biotech to apply and find team members using the co-founder database. The database allows participants to pitch their skills, interests and potential ideas to other co-founders who want to form or supplement a team. There are currently more than 30 individuals on the database with varied backgrounds including software engineers, clinicians, basic scientists with an array of laboratory skills and business consultants, highlighting the range of professionals that can contribute to a successful team.
Who are SR One?
OBR welcomed speakers from SR One to give an insight into how a venture capital works and the types of investments they have funded in the past. SR One has investment teams in both the UK and USA, and since 1985 they have invested in more than 140 companies and currently have a portfolio of 30 private and public companies. They provide financial investment as well as business support to establishing biotech companies.
Matthew Foy is the SR One UK lead in biotech funding and has both a basic science and business background with a BSc in molecular biology and experience in investment banking. Matthew gave an enthusing talk highlighting the potential of the numerous discoveries made in academic laboratories which are ideas that could influence and change the way medicine and patient care is performed. In order to move these ideas forward there is a need for scientists with an idea and/or passion for involvement in the biotech industry, so-called “bio-entrepreneurs”, to work together with potential investors. The OneStart competition provides an excellent base for this as there is the chance to win a significant amount of funding but also to form a very strong network of contacts.
What are the details for the competition?
Entrants are invited to submit an entry form via the OneStart website giving basic descriptions of their team and their idea which will be made public on the OBR website. Additionally, they are requested to provide supporting information regarding the details of their idea, how it could affect the current market, any intellectual property issues such as patents protecting the idea and current funding. These details will not be made public but will be reviewed by the organisers of the competition and will be kept confidential during the process of the competition. There is also an opportunity to express interest in finding additional members for one’s team.
In the first round of the competition the entries will be shortlisted to 35 teams and they will have the opportunity to attend a biotech business bootcamp held in London on 16th March. Here they will receive expert business advice and guidance from some of OBR’s industrial partners including Roche and Nature Biotech. Following this, entrants will be asked to submit a full business plan by 20th April, from which 10 teams will be selected to attend a final pitch night on 16th May. The process of the competition provides each candidate with numerous opportunities to liaise with contacts from academia and industry as well as general exposure of their ideas and themselves as individuals to the public and external companies. OBR are keen to emphasise that the networking opportunities that participants can gain during the course of the competition are endless.
Feedback on the launch events
The networking receptions held after the talks were a perfect chance for teams, individuals and organisers to discuss the competition in more detail. The feedback was very positive with some participants keen to show off their ideas; one individual had even brought along the medical diagnostic device which he is keen to get funded! There was also an opportunity for individuals of a scientific background to discuss concerns and queries about the biotech industry with those individuals with a business background. In general, there was an air of excitement and anticipation in the room with participants keen to learn more about the biotech industry, how venture capitalists and scientists can work together and indeed learn more about OBR.
The biotech industry in the UK and Europe is thriving, and the OneStart competition is an ideal opportunity for “bio-entrepreneurs” with potential ground-breaking ideas to learn from the industry in order to push these ideas forward. The number of attendees across the four different OBR chapter-based events demonstrates the interest in this field across many different academic research fields. It was an excellent overview of how academia and industry can work together to push ideas forward and potentially influence the current market and the way medicine and patient care is performed.
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