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Cambridge Biosciences BBSRC DTP

YES20 - GeneSense

Photo - left to right: William McCarthy (PhD in Chemistry), Neesha Kara (Phd in Oncology and Cancer Biology) Sabila Chilaeva (PhD in Genetics), Anna Suchankova (PhD in Pharmacology) and Daniel Kottmann (PhD in Medicine).


The Young Entrepreneur Scheme is a global competition developed to raise awareness of how ideas from science and engineering are commercialised. University teams develop a business plan for a start-up company based on a hypothetical but plausible idea.

Sabila Chilaeva (BBSRC DTP Cohort 2019) and her team successfully pitched their business plan to eight venture capital investors as part of the YES competition, winning £2,500 and an invitation to the BioIndustry Garden Party.

Over the past eight months, Sabila and her team had been receiving training to understand what it takes to turn research at the bench to a product that can help prevent or alleviate human suffering. They developed GeneSense, a liquid biopsy home-use designed to detect drug resistance mutations in patients with cancer. They successfully convinced investors for a £2M investment for a share in the company.

Although GeneSense is hypothetical, the competition was an opportunity to understand how scientific ideas are commercialised. Sabila and her team learned about the importance of intellectual property, what is involved in financing a company and that a great idea is not sufficient; a driven and dynamic team is the biggest ingredient for success.

The team benefited from being in Cambridge, one of the most prestigious biotechnology clusters in Europe. Michael Salako, from StartCodon generously provided expert advice and helped the team perfect their presentation for the final.