BioCity Nottingham attracts ex AstraZeneca and Pfizer entrepreneurs

23 November 2011

Six new companies started by former AstraZeneca Charnwood employees will create 15 jobs within BioCity Nottingham by the end of November, contributing to 35 new jobs created at BioCity out of the global pharmaceutical giant’s closure of the East Midlands’ site.

In addition, top scientists leaving Pfizer in Sandwich are starting to enquire about BioCity support with the first virtual tenant recently confirmed.

In March 2010, BioCity Nottingham, Europe’s fastest-growing bioscience business incubator, responded immediately to the closure plans of the AstraZeneca site in Charnwood, Leicestershire, by offering a package of support to its employees that included training, advice and help with office or lab accommodation. As a direct result, the new ventures will all be up and running in BioCity within the next month.

Dr Glenn Crocker, Chief Executive of BioCity Nottingham says:  “We’re delighted that these new businesses have chosen BioCity as their first home. We’ve been working with them over the past year and I’m pleased  that the support they’ve had has not only helped them through a difficult time, but also given them access to what we hope will be an exciting and successful future.”

Already up and running within BioCity is BAST Inc, founded by former Global Discipline Lead for Pharmacometrics at AstraZeneca, Dr Joachim Grevel. Joachim (56), from Shepshed, saw an opportunity to branch out on his own and was told that BioCity was the only place to be if he was thinking of starting up in the bioscience sector.  The central location and start-up package also helped persuade him to choose the site as the launch pad for his new enterprise. 

Also on site is Sarah Hill, a former Clinical Researcher at AstraZeneca, who has launched her company, Genios Limited, following a year of BioCity support which begun with a place on the renowned three-day Bio-Entrepreneur School.

Sarah says the BioCity support helped her to focus at a time when her future looked pretty bleak.  “I’ve since received invaluable support with branding and intellectual property issues and gained advice from the many events on offer. As a BioCity tenant, I know that on-going expert business support services coupled with access to first-class meeting room facilities will be invaluable to Genios in its early growth stages.”  

Former Associate Principal Scientist in drug metabolism & pharmacokinetics (DMPK)at AstraZeneca, Dr Richard Weaver from Loughborough, moved his team of four into BioCity from early November and believes it is an ideal place to launch and grow his business, XenoGesis Limited. 

“I read about the support being offered following the AstraZeneca R&D Charnwood closure announcement and over the past year I’ve received fantastic advice and encouragement from the BioCity team.  The highly reputable address, the support infrastructure, the access to shared facilities such as the Biotel laboratory and being close to so many other innovative companies in the sector means that XenoGesis will have the best start and I’m really excited about its future.”

Dr Gary Allenby and his team of four are establishing Aurelia Bioscience, a pre-clinical biology-based screening company at Biocity. He said "Biocity has been instrumental in providing a framework for guiding our entrepreneurial efforts. Using Biocity funding we employed a venture champion to focus our ideas and knowledge into a well considered business proposal. Furthermore Biocity have offered us excellent premises to begin trading from. This will help us to establish our laboratory facilities as quickly as possible and hit the ground running."

Early November will see the arrival of Julie Corfield who, as former R&D Biobank Head at Charnwood, will take on the helm of Areteva Ltd, a consultancy for biobanking, biomedical research and clinical drug development. Julie says she was attracted to Biocity’s reputation as a well-recognised facility for R&D start-ups in Nottingham.  

 “I wanted to be in a working environment with an infrastructure more akin to what I have been used to rather than work from home or in an isolated office. I believe this kind of infrastructure is important when you’re starting up, to provide stability and to be able to concentrate on the business at hand. The meeting room facilities, security, IT capability and professionally managed reception for visitors will be a great help to us in our early phase.”

Julie, who was previously employed by Boots and worked in the R3 building on the BioCity site in the early 80’s, added: “I also see it as an opportunity to extend my professional network and potentially broaden my horizons outside my usual sphere of operations.” 

Pharmaceutical consultant, Dr Jenny Walsh from Nottingham is another AstraZeneca employee who found the Bio-Entrepreneur School invaluable and a perfect introduction to the many aspects of launching a successful business. Now a BioCity ‘virtual tenant’ Jenny says that one of the key benefits is the opportunity to network and share ideas with others.

“Having the option to work from the site and be around like-minded people relieves potential isolation that you can feel when working alone from home.” she said. “The use of the Library area and the ability to use meeting rooms is also valuable in relation to meeting potential clients,” she said.

Former Pfizer scientist Dr Karen Spink has become the latest virtual tenant at BioCity. Her new venture with The Research Network (TRN) offers in-depth scientific expertise in drug discovery and pre-clinical development to manage and advise on outsourced research strategy. TRN look forward to contributing to the BioCity community and benefitting from the specialist advice and support offered by the bioscience business incubator.

The AstraZeneca Charnwood facility will finally close its doors at the end of this year and the future for the Pfizer site in Sandwich remains uncertain.  Dr Crocker added: “Despite the tragedy of the AZ and Pfizer closures, these bioscience experts are now set to remain in the UK and they will hopefully build substantial businesses in their own right, to rank alongside the other success stories at BioCity. We wish them every success for the future.”


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