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Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology

 

Description

Science and technology, business and transitionary modules are taught in the first two terms, integrating commercial know-how with advances in research and demonstrating the many complex issues associated with bringing discovery and innovation from the laboratory to the market. The programme is highly participatory and includes numerous practical elements in the form of interdisciplinary projects, workshops, case studies and business planning activities.

Students will undertake both a consulting project and a research placement in a commercial environment, normally with a company.

The MBE class is taught as an undivided cohort. There are no elective components and all students follow the same syllabus. The class offers a professional practice experience and a high level of participation is expected.

All lectures and course components are mandatory. The taught aspects of the programme occupy two intensive terms of up to 11 weeks and the third term is dedicated to the research placement in a commercial environment and dissertation. Please note that the MBE term times thus may differ from the standard University term times.

The Department is renowned for its practical and successful approach to biotechnology entrepreneurship and the exploitation of bioscience inventions. Students benefit from a unique combination of teaching and mentoring from experienced business and academic contributors. The faculty pursue a variety of research interests and the application of the resulting technologies has led to the founding of many spin-out companies. Our innovative achievements and strong Master's teaching were recognised by the Queen's Anniversary Award (2007).

Science and Technology

Broad-ranging science and technology reviews are designed to extend the students' understanding of how contemporary biological and applied medical research generates exploitable science. Each module provides detailed analysis of current research and industrial practise, illustrated by company case studies that highlight the management, legal, ethical and regulatory issues associated with bringing scientific advances to market.

The current modules due to be delivered for 2022-23 are:

ST1 Biopharmaceutical Discovery

Teaching provides a foundation in the pathologies and treatment of major disease categories, areas that represent enormous unmet medical need and that are key targets for the drug discovery efforts of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. The syllabus covers aspects associated with cancer, obesity and diseases of the metabolism, psychiatry, infectious diseases, the gastrointestinal tract – and ethics. Contributors to the course include representatives from pharmaceutical and technology companies, academics and medical professionals, from whom students learn first-hand about key targets for drug discovery efforts and innovative technology platforms that are anticipated to provide potential new therapies.

ST2 Biopharmaceutical Development

Students follow the processes and challenges encountered in drug discovery with respect to small molecule and biological entities and molecular technologies, from target identification and validation through to clinical trials. Significant progress has been made in developing biological therapies for major diseases using molecules such as antibodies, enzymes and other protein and gene therapeutics.

ST3 Trends in Biotechnology

This module will consider a number of recent and emerging trends in the field of biotechnology for healthcare. The technical difficulties encountered in scale-up of manufacturing processes for complex, highly purified macromolecules, cells and tissues is considered, together with other barriers to development and commercialisation of these therapeutic approaches. The increasing value of candidate drugs as they progress through the process is demonstrated through case studies that illustrate how value informs and shapes the business strategy of enterprises active in the drug discovery arena. Information on US and European regulatory frameworks is integrated throughout the module.

ST4 Diagnostics and Devices

Designed to give the perspectives and methods needed to assess and manage medical device businesses - spanning diagnostics, therapies, and digital health.  The module provides a framework for assessing the utility of new markets, technologies, and processes to facilitate the development of products and delivery of value.  Key technologies and emerging innovations are considered, as are methods for developing compliant devices and marketing successful products. Case examples feature industry leaders sharing practical experience identifying opportunities, developing devices, and executing revenue and exit strategies.

ST5 Agricultural Biotechnology

Plants are the ultimate biorefineries and can be engineered to produce compounds for medical and industrial uses. This module considers plant genetic engineering, an overview of companies active in this area, food security and sustainability, clean tech, biodiversity and the industrial uses of non-food crops, together with the legal, regulatory and ethical issues associated with the issue of GM crops.

Business

The business management elements of the programme provide a foundation in the management of technology and innovation, illustrated with examples from the extremes of working in a large corporate environment to setting up a new enterprise. Also addressed are intellectual property rights, patenting, professional codes of practice and the establishment of appropriate economic, legal and social frameworks, which are key issues to consider during the development of new bioscience products.

The current modules due to be delivered for 2022-23 are:

B1 Technology and Innovation Management

In the first of the two major industry projects on the course, students work in teams acting as a consultancy venture on a real commercial question. The deliverables to the company are an oral presentation with accompanying slides, and a written report.

Consulting projects are typically diverse in nature:  Proposals are invited from across the bioscience spectrum including from start-ups and SMEs with a novel technology, or with a desire to identify potential markets, products, competitors and viable routes to market.  Alternatively, proposals may come from global companies wishing to explore the provision or diversification of services to a new customer base, or that wish to enter a new business area.  Proposing organisations may come from any bioscience related commercial entity, or healthcare NGO, active in pharmaceuticals, medical devices, IVDs, biotechnology, agribiotech, CROs, and consultancy services. 

B2 Healthcare economics

In this module we cover a variety of topics related to healthcare economics delivered by a variety speakers with different industry perspectives. From an initial introduction to economic evaluation to addressing the unique challenges of rare disease market access and policy. Health Technology Assessment (HTA) processes in selected countries will be discussed – with a focus on NICE in the UK and the EMA in Europe. Comparisons of healthcare and enterprise in low- and middle-income countries to those in northern America, Europe and other high income countries.

B3 Law and intellectual property

The module is predominantly centered on a day-long workshop in conjunction with law firm partner specialising in intellectual property, and the workshop explored key themes in their bioscience enterprise studies, such as transactional IP, patenting strategy, validity and patentability, as well as brands and copyright.  The workshop is supplemented by additional speakers and a roundtable panel.

Transitionary

Designed to bridge between the programme's broad-based academic review of exploitable science and the specialist business modules, transitionary modules deliver the knowledge and skills required for the formation and management of biotechnology and healthcare related businesses. There is particular focus on how business strategies and management principles are expressed in existing companies and on hands-on training in analytical skills.

The current modules due to be delivered for 2022-23 are:

T1 Building a Bioscience Enterprise

This module the practicalities of creating a high-tech enterprise, from a blank sheet of paper to an operational company. As investment is usually a necessary ingredient, much of what will be considered is financing. This is discussed from a practical point of view – what types of investors are out there, why would they invest in your business, what do you have to do to attract investment, and the implications and pitfalls of different approaches to financing on how you set-up, run and grow your company.

T2 Partnerships and Alliances

Designed to be somewhat ‘hands-on’, Company Analysis modules give students practical experience of analysing markets and assessing the technology offerings and financial strengths of companies active in them.  Students develop an in-depth, integrated understanding of how biotechnology businesses operate, manage their portfolios and develop their product strategies. Some of the key elements that can contribute to their success or failure are also discussed. The place of small innovative companies and the dynamics of their interactions with bigger players are considered, as is the impact of innovative technology platforms and dominant intellectual property portfolios.

T3 Finance and Valuation

Teaching is focused principally on biotech and pharmaceutical companies developing new therapeutic products and covers traditional valuation metrics, including for example discounted cash flow, real options and net present value, in the context of the attributes, technical assessments and the regulatory pathways that contribute to developing a successful drug or product. Commercial examples highlight the common pitfalls and softer aspects of biotech company valuation and licensing negotiations along with the different methodologies used for valuing public and private companies.

Thesis

During the third term of their studies MBE students spend the majority of their time working in a company placement, carrying out research with a commercial or business dimension. Normally students spend six to eight weeks working closely with their host company. They are encouraged to put into practice the lessons learnt from the academic aspects of the programme as well as to demonstrate original research and analysis.

It is important that the project addressed relates to the field of ‘bioscience enterprise’, addresses a defined research question and affords students the opportunity to collect quantitative and qualitative data. The subsequent analysis forms the basis of a substantial dissertation and the findings are also presented at a Symposium held at the end of the year, as well as in the form of conclusions and recommendations for the host company.  The output should show evidence of originality and innovative thinking and should not be simply a review and extrapolation of previously published work.

Students may elect to work within medium to small enterprises, or start-ups or multinational companies. In some cases students may decide to engage with service providers such as consultancies, accounting or legal practices or other businesses that comprise the extensive network of specialist advisors that support the life science sector. The programme receives offers of a considerable number of placements each year and guidance is provided to students, to ensure individuals are able to pursue a projects likely to be of value to them in their future careers. Students are also encouraged to arrange their own research placements, providing the project and supervision arrangements are appropriate and are approved by the MBE Office.