It's YES Aston as team victorious in national biotechnology competition

Aston University's winning team of early career researchers
Aston University's winning team of early career researchers

14 December 2017

  • Hypothetical blood test lab to predict heart attacks wins engineering prize
  • Five PhD students and researchers develop winning business plan
  • Finals held at prestigious Royal Society in London

A five-strong team of postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers from the Schools of Engineering and Applied Science and Life and Health Sciences have won the engineering division of the YES competition with their blood test lab that can predict heart attacks in advance.

The Biotechnology YES competition aims to develop business awareness and an understanding of entrepreneurship. Teams competed for a prize fund of £7,500 by preparing a business plan for a company based on a hypothetical but plausible idea, based on real markets and financial data.

Eighteen teams from universities across the UK and abroad entered the competition, including University of Cambridge, University College London (UCL), and Imperial College London.

Over a period of two days, participants attended presentations from leading figures in industry on all aspects of knowledge exchange and commercialisation of ideas. They learnt how to put together a business plan, develop a marketing strategy, raise and manage finance and more.

The teams then put their new knowledge into action and developed business plans, with each member assuming a different role within the company. On the third day, they presented their business plans before a panel comprised of business, financial and academic representatives, who took the role of equity investors.

The team from Aston University was made up of Reham Badawy (Postdoctoral Researcher), Christina Kozia and Yazan Qarout (both Mathematics PhD students), Aman Soni (Computer Science PhD student) and Bushra Shammout (Life Sciences PhD student).

Their winning ‘mHealth Watchdog’ business plan focused on a blood-test lab that could predict heart attacks up to four hours in advance.

Cardiovascular disease is still the most common cause of death across Europe as a whole, accounting for 45 per cent of all deaths. Many people die suddenly from a complication of a heart attack either before reaching hospital, or within the first month after an attack. mHealth Watchdog created a biochip to be placed under the skin and which can detect important chemicals such as troponin, released in the body hours before a heart attack.

By continuously monitoring troponin levels and utilising powerful machine learning techniques, heart attacks can be predicted. The idea is that a notification is sent to the user on their smartphone prior to the attack, alerting them to the production of troponin. They are connected to 111 to get further specialist assistance.

Team leader Reham Badawy, pictured second left, said: “We are delighted to have participated in YES, an amazing opportunity for early career researchers to develop business awareness and an understanding of entrepreneurship. It has been an eye-opening experience, and we’ve gained so many skills in fundraising, management and business planning.

“The competition at The Royal Society was extremely high, and we were blown away by everyone’s business plans. The atmosphere was electric, and the sportsmanship was truly commendable. We are ecstatic to have won YES Engineering and to represent Aston University.”

Professor Sarah Hainsworth, Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, added: “I am absolutely delighted that the team from Aston won the Engineering YES competition in London.  The standard of this national competition is extremely high and it shows that both the research and the business plan of the team was highly novel and exciting.”

The final round of the competition took place at The Royal Society in London on the evening of Tuesday 12 December.


Notes to the editor 

The Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) competition is in its 22 nd year and was set up to raise awareness of the commercialisation of ideas among early career researchers. The competition is organised jointly by The University of Nottingham and Innovation and Skills Group of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

About Aston University: Founded in 1895 and a university since 1966, Aston is a long established research-led university known for its world-class teaching quality and strong links to business and the professions. Aston University is located in Birmingham, at the heart of a vibrant city, and the campus houses all the university’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Alec Cameron is the Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive.

Aston has been a leading university for graduate employment success for over 25 years and our students do extremely well in securing top jobs and careers. Our strong relationships with industry partners mean we understand the needs of employers, which is why we are also ranked in the top 20 for graduate employability.

For more information, call Susi Turner, Press & PR Officer, on 0121 204 4978 or email s.j.turner@aston.ac.uk  

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