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Enterprising Science

Three Pembroke scientists have had their work noted in the Cambridge Enterprise Annual Review for 2015.

AR-cover-2105_jsCambridge Enterprise, the commercialisation arm of the University, assists students and academics in starting spin-out companies, marketing new ideas and providing consultancy for the government and industry. They had a record-breaking 2015, investing £3.9m in 13 spin-out companies from its £16m seed fund. The investments aim to support the creation of companies based directly on research or people at Cambridge University. CE’s current portfolio of spin-out companies generates returns which has enabled them to make record-breaking investments into the next big ideas by university researchers.

Some of the companies which have benefited from investment from Cambridge Enterprise Seed Funds in the past include BlueGnome, a two-person start-up which developed technology capable of improving IVF success rates by 65%, and which was acquired for $95m in 2013; Horizon Discovery, a translational genomics company which is now a leading provider of research tools to support genomics research; and VocallQ, a spin-out company developing vocal recognition software which will enable users to communicate more naturally with their smart devices.

Pembroke’s Professor Ashok Venkitaraman, of the Cambridge MRC Cancer Unit, was involved in the work on which a new spin-out company, Phoremost, is based. Phoremost is a drug discovery company which aims to develop drugs to treat targets previously thought to be ‘undruggable’. The company hopes to use its next-generation phenotypic screening platform, Site-Seeker, hopes to identify targets for future therapies and work out how to drug them. This technology could potentially provide a more diverse range of novel therapeutics for diseases which currently have limited treatment options, including cancer.

Dr Krishnaa Mahbubani

Dr Krishnaa Mahbubani

Cambridge Enterprise’s Consultancy Services links university researchers to outside companies, handling the negotiations, contracts and admin in order to let the researchers focus on sharing their knowledge and expertise to make an impact on society. Researchers work or advise on projects for the government, industry and the private sector. Dr Krishnaa Mahbubani, a Pembroke postdoctoral research associate at the Department of Chemical Engineering, has been working with UK company Woolcool, which makes insulated packaging for food and pharmaceutical products, to create new types of eco-friendly, high-performance insulated packaging.

The third Pembroke scientist mentioned in the review, Dr Matt Castle, is a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Plant Sciences. He is currently working with the UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs on “modelling to improve understanding of the risks of pests and diseases”. His work involves using mathematical modelling to predict the potential spread of plant diseases and to analyse the likely outcomes of various methods of tackling disease.

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