Merger makes millions
Genpak shows how to put knowledge into business
Dr Julian Burke, Reader in Biochemistry, saw his dream come true this week when the business he started in a garden shed seven years ago was floated on the London Stock Exchange.
His company, Genpak, is now based at the Sussex Innovation Centre on campus. The firm, which makes equipment and reagents for DNA analysis, was bought by biotechnology PLC Genetix Group for £6.5 million prior to the floatation on 29 November - and the two companies together are now estimated to be worth more than £100 million.
"The flotation is a great achievement, but we worked hard to get there," said Julian, who has been appointed as chief scientific officer for Genetix. The University has given him leave of absence for three years in order for him to take up the post at the Hampshire company.
He added: "It had been a long-term objective of mine to float the company onto the stock market and the ongoing consolidation in the genetics industry meant this is a good time to merge and get an influx of money to develop the business.
"Genetix and Genpak make an ideal business team. Genetix specialise in machinery and engineering, whereas most of our work is on the reagents and chemicals used in those machines. Together we have become one of the stock market's blue-chip companies."
The £6.5 million from the merger, in the form of cash and share options, is to be distributed among Genpak's employees and directors (pictured) - all of whom have studied at Sussex or undertaken post-doctoral work at the University.
"There is a lock-in agreement which means the shares aren't saleable for two years," added Julian. "The expectation from Genetix is that we first raise another £20 million through the stock market to invest in research and development projects."
Julian, who joined the teaching faculty in 1985, started Genpak three years before the Innovation Centre opened its doors to start-up companies. It was also prior to the University developing its 'knowledge into business' strategy. His success has highlighted the possibilities for anyone at Sussex with a good business scheme.
Mark Clark, head of the University's Business Services Unit, said: "We want to encourage more academics to think this way. This just shows how university knowledge and technology can play a large role in supplying the needs of a knowledge-based economy."
Mike Herd, director of the Innovation Centre, said: "Genpak is a fantastic success story and should be a great inspiration. The Innovation Centre is holding more and more lectures and talks with undergraduates, postgraduates and staff to take any ideas forward."
Friday 1st December 2000