CEAS success at the University’s Venture Further Awards

It was a successful evening for our school at the University’s Venture Further Awards earlier this month.

The award winners

Not only did we see success in the research category, with Leopoldo Herrera and Alejendra Mendez taking first place, but Leopoldo also took second place in the social enterprise category alongside colleagues in other areas of the University.

The Venture Further Awards are for start-up companies and are open to students, researchers, and recent alumni from all subject areas in the University. The categories are business, research, social, and digital.

Leopoldo and Alejandra’s company, CryoPhyc ltd, aims to develop new technologies to enable the genetic manipulation of microalgae and therefore encourage its exploitation in industry and research. They work under the supervision of Dr Robin Curtis and Dr Anil Day (Faculty of Life Sciences). Leopolodo says:

“One of the most time consuming activities of any researcher working in microalgae is the preservation and propagation of strains. So far there are no simple and efficient methods to preserve live microalgae in a freezer. Being able to freeze microalgae would save time, money, space, and resources for everyone in the industry and in academia. Freezing living cells results in the formation of ice crystals which can destroy cell membranes irreversibly and kill microalgae. CryoPhyc is in the process of developing a kit that will tackle this problem through creating a barrier, preventing external ice crystals from breaking the cell, and, through a specialised compound that drives water out of the cells, stopping ice crystals from forming inside them.”

The second place prize in the social enterprise category was awarded to The Student Talent Pool, a start-up created by Leopoldo, Eileen Brandenburger (School of Chemistry), and Alex Geddes (Faculty of Life Sciences). The Student Talent Pool is a talent matching platform that will enable other early stage businesses to submit short term projects that students can then apply for. The company will then support the development of the idea and assist with funding applications while also allowing the student working with the entrepreneur to demonstrate their skills in a business environment. Leopoldo discusses the motivation behind the company:

“Through discussions with spinouts and societies, and by observing business development activities at the University, we repeatedly saw that many promising ideas were not followed up, often due to a lack of a key skill set in the student’s individual repertoire. This problem hinders the rate of start-up formation at The University of Manchester, despite the evident potential. We have also observed a desire of the general student population to become involved with spinout activity at the University, in order to support early stage businesses and to add ‘work within a start-up’ to their CV profiles.”

Our new Head of School, Chris Hardacre, attended the event and was very impressed by the contributions from our school and elsewhere. He says:

“On behalf of the School, I would like to congratulate Leopoldo Rodriguez and Alejandra Mendez on winning the research category. I would also like to congratulate Leopoldo and the team for being runner up in the social enterprise category.  CryoPhyc Ltd has developed a new method of microalgae preservation through freezing and fully deserves the £10K first prize they won.  This is great news and we look forward to seeing how it progresses.”

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