MPhil in Bioscience Enterprise

An intensive taught science and business programme for those with an interest in enterprise and the ambition to found technology companies or take up leadership, executive or consultancy roles in the life sciences sector.

© Martin Bond

© Martin Bond

The MBE programme is a component part of the biotechnology teaching and research theme within the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology. Now in its nineteenth year, more than 450 students have graduated from the course and have progressed their careers to occupy positions in every aspect of the life science business sector.

Building on its origins in the Institute of Biotechnology with its global reputation for a practical and successful approach to entrepreneurship and the exploitation of bioscience inventions, the MBE programme now occupies purpose-built facilities in the Department’s newly opened headquarters on the University's West Cambridge science site.

The programme enjoys strong connections with the biotech industry in both the UK and overseas.

Students benefit from a unique combination of teaching and mentoring delivered by business and academic contributors, who bring their diverse and first-hand knowledge of life science research commercialisation and business activities to the course. Case-studies of biotech firms, frequently described by senior executives from the companies themselves, illustrate the commercial exploitation of scientific discoveries from a practical standpoint and provide an insight into the managerial challenges that arise in high tech companies. Cambridge is Europe's leading biotech cluster, and excellent business networking opportunities are available to all course participants.

Fundamental to the Cambridge experience, MBE students are also members of a Cambridge College and profit from the breadth of cultural and enterprise activities available throughout the wider University innovation ecosystem.

About the programme

The MBE programme provides graduates with training in the latest advances in exploitable biotechnology, together with knowledge and understanding of business practice, and innovation in biotechnology companies and other commercial entities. Science and technology, business and transitionary modules are taught in each term, integrating commercial know-how with advances in research, thus demonstrating the many complex issues associated with bringing discovery and innovation from the laboratory to the market.  The programme is highly participatory and includes practical elements in the form of interdisciplinary projects, workshops, case studies and business planning activities. All components of the course are compulsory and students are required to study intensively.

Attainment is continuously assessed and there is particular emphasis on class participation and learning through practical team-work in the research, preparation, and delivery of presentations.

Written submissions include science and technology in business papers, a number of short reports and critical appraisals, a group consulting project report and a dissertation of 10,000 words based on research and analysis conducted during a company research placement. Students are encouraged to participate in extracurricular enterprise activities including business plan competitions and submit a business plan as one of the course assignments.

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.

Entry requirements

The MPhil in Bioscience Enterprise programme attracts applications from students of the highest calibre from across the world. Entry to the programme is highly competitive, with many applications received for every place. Approximately 25 students are accepted annually on the basis of a written submission, followed by interview. The strongest applicants have a record of high academic achievement and relevant work or professional postgraduate experience, gained in an academic, industrial or business environment.

A degree in the life sciences, physical sciences, engineering, medicine or veterinary science is the usual prerequisite. Occasionally suitable applicants from other backgrounds, for example, economics, finance or law, are admitted providing they are able to demonstrate their strong interest in the core disciplines of the course.

At least two years of postgraduate experience prior to application in a related academic, industrial or business environment is highly recommended but not essential. Each year a number of first class new graduates are also accepted.


Applicants for this course should have achieved a minimum equivalent of a high UK II.i Honours Degree. If your degree is not from the UK, please check International Qualifications to find the equivalent in your country.


The students enrolled in the programme originate from every part of the world and those who are not native English speakers must demonstrate that they can read, write and speak English to the high standards required to fully participate in the programme. The minimum grades that are acceptable are: 

IELTS: overall band score of 7.5, with a minimum of 7.0 in each element of the test.

TOEFL: overall score of 107 with a minimum of 25 in each element.

How to apply

Prospective students must apply to the University of Cambridge directly. Information on how to make a formal University application is provided by Graduate Admissions.

Prior to application prospective students should ensure they meet the specific admissions criteria. To make an application:

  • Complete and submit an online application (GRADSAF) via the Graduate Admissions website.
  • College Selection: naming two colleges in the relevant section of the GRADSAF facilitates the application process. Information about colleges can be found using the link on the right. Please note that Queens' College has an interest in developing focus areas within its graduate community. MBE applicants are invited to list Queens' as one of their preferences.
  • Supply details of two academic referees. One of which must be from your most recent academic institution. Your referees will be contacted via the University system and asked to upload a reference online
  • Upload your supporting documents with the minimum of delay including your CV and transcript and an optional statement of interests

Any questions please contact the MBE Office

Please note: Early application is advised as places on the programme are allocated on an ongoing basis throughout the year. Interviews are scheduled on a regular basis; however some applications are processed in a gathered field approach and therefore the application outcome may be delayed until the closing date.


When considering applying for a course, consider the living costs as well as the course fees required during your time here. The finance overview will help you calculate your costs. There are many funding opportunities at Cambridge from a wide variety of sources including the Cambridge Trust, Gates Cambridge, Colleges, Research Councils and central University funds. Eligibility for the funds can be based on what course you are studying, your country of origin, or other criteria.

You can find full information about course fees on the Graduate admissions website. Please note that there are firm deadlines for applications to be made in order to be considered for funding (please see Deadlines for further information).

You can find full information about possible sources of funding using the funding search tool on the Graduate Admissions website.

The University maintains a database of awards offered by Colleges to prospective students.


Membership of a College is a requirement of study at the University of Cambridge and admission to a College follows after acceptance by the MBE selection committee.

Visa information

Where applicable overseas applicants must ensure they are eligible for and apply for a student Visa. ATAS not required.

Programme content

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 2023-24 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. Improved nutritional content, decreased allergenicity and the ability to tailor crops to their environment are powerful, if controversial, technologies. This module covers 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.


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 2023-24 are:

B1 Technology and Innovation Management

In the first of the two major industry projects on the course, students will 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, both of which are presented to the Company and to the Department.

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 will cover a variety of topics related to healthcare economics delivered by a variety of 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 centred on a day-long workshop delivered by Simmons & Simmons LLP. Simmons & Simmons is an international 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 discussion.


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 2023-24 are:

T1 Building a Bioscience Enterprise

This module is about the nuts and bolts of creating a high-tech enterprise, from a blank sheet of paper to an operational company. As investment is usually a necessary ingredient, a lot of what we will talk about is financing. This will be 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. The assessment for this module is double weighted.

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 and the different methodologies used for valuing public and private companies. The assessment for this module is double weighted.


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.

Contact us

If you have any questions about the MBE programme or studying at the University of Cambridge that are not answered in the Graduate Studies Prospectus please send an email to the MBE Office:

© Martin Bond

© Martin Bond

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