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Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology


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.

Company Analysis      Founding a High Tech Enterprise      Case Studies and Company Visits      Business Planning Activities

Company Analysis

Both component modules of the Company Analysis syllabus are designed to enable students to develop an in-depth, integrated understanding of how biotechnology businesses operate and the key elements that can contribute to their success or failure:

Partnerships and Alliances
Students develop an in-depth, integrated understanding of how biotechnology businesses operate and the key elements that can contribute to their success or failure. 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.

Finances and Valuation
Focusing principally on biotech and pharmaceutical companies developing new therapeutic products, teaching covers traditional valuation metrics, including 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 and also the different methodologies used for valuing public and private companies.

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Founding a High Tech Enterprise I & II

The syllabus encompass the development of technology-based businesses from the initial idea to employees, premises and products. Teaching covers the planning of a complex and uncertain business proposition and includes refining the business idea, developing business models and business cases and building a team of founders, collaborators and employees essential for the development of a real operation.

How a company is founded, what its legal structure is and how it gets money through sales or by investment are fundamental issues. Case study examples are taken from a wide range of real companies and public information, to illustrate the activities undertaken by entrepreneurs, including practical aspects of generating intellectual property, collaborative programmes, negotiating deals, due diligence, the strategies for raising finance from various sources.

The course covers what happens after funding is in place, defining the real costs of biotechnology development processes, specialist instrumentation and materials. There is also an overview of the personal, psychological and emotional implications of being an entrepreneur, a role in which the risk failure is high and even the successful entrepreneur may pay a price.

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Company Visits and Case Studies

There are many challenges associated with building a bioscience business. The MBE programme draws on the first-hand experiences of practising entrepreneurs, who host site visits or lead seminars that examine the transition from scientist to entrepreneur, the process of founding the company, and raising funding as well other vital considerations such as team building, brand identity and product placement. These activities provide an insight into the leadership and management of entrepreneurial teams, giving students the opportunity to learn to be successful managers or to initiate and lead a commercial bioscience enterprise.

An essential element of programme is the visits to operating companies, whose business strategies enable students to put into context the knowledge gained in the taught modules. Students learn how to investigate due diligence, how to ask questions and analyse the answers, and benefit from presentations by senior company executives including CEOs, CFOs, and CSOs. 

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Business Plan

From the outset, students are asked to form teams and to work together to identify a novel biotechnology or in some cases broader life sciences technology or application as the basis of a concept company. The group members collaborate to develop a business plan for the company, a submission that forms the basis of an important course assessment in the Lent term. Frequently the business plans are also submitted to Cambridge and other University’s business plan competitions, in which the MBE programme has a strong track record of success.

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