ULive aims to float to success on back of university research

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The Independent Online

ULive, a company set up to commercialise research from Liverpool University laboratories, will raise £20m when it floats on the Alternative Investment Market next month. It will have an initial market value of £70m.

The company, which will begin marketing the deal this week, is the latest in a string of public listings of university technology transfer groups in the UK. Imperial Innovations, linked to London's Imperial College, floated last summer. Others include BioFusion, which has commercialisation agreements with Sheffield and Cardiff universities, and IP Group, which has links with Oxford and others.

Led by chief executive Stuart Exell, ULive has exclusive rights to exploit Liverpool University's intellectual property for 15 years. Last year, the university secured £100m in research funding - an amount that the group expects to continue.

ULive has 13 start-up companies focused on pharmaceuticals, medical devices and diagnostics. It plans to use the proceeds from the float to build its portfolio of patents and technologies and accelerate their development and commercialisation.

It will also be able to draw on research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in America, with which the university has a collaboration, and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, a registered charity affiliate. The aim is to capitalise on large drug companies' willingness to pay premium prices for access to new treatments or technology platforms.

There is a precedent for such transfers from university research to successful businesses. NeuTec Pharma and Cambridge Antibody Technology, which were both spun out of universities, were bought by Novartis and AstraZeneca, respectively, last year.

However, the investment case for university incubators is uncertain. BioFusion shares are up just 3 per cent after more than two years on the market, while Imperial Innovations stock has lost 4 per cent since it floated. IP Group, with a broader range of agreements with several universities, has seen its share price double since its 2003 flotation.