Young entrepreneurs bring ideas to market

Young entrepreneurs are getting the chance to use their noodles Keystone Archive

Switzerland's newest entrepreneurs are about to turn their dreams into reality.

This content was published on September 27, 2002 - 17:28

New drugs against prostate cancer, an electronic ask-an-expert information service and a chain of noodle restaurants are just some of the projects which they're bringing to the marketplace over the next few months.

Some 17 scientists from all disciplines have just completed the NETS entrepreneurship development programme 2002.

Now, they're being let loose on an unsuspecting world.

New drugs

The class of 2002 includes Igor Fisch from the University of Lausanne who is president and chief executive of start-up company Selexis.

The aim of Selexis is to discover, as rapidly as possible, new drugs against prostate cancer - one of the most prevalent types of male cancer.

Working along similar lines is Jean-Pierre Paccaud from the University of Geneva Medical School.

Paccaud is CEO and director of Athelas, a company seeking to identify novel drugs to fight bacterial infections.

The company is following a new approach to overcome the worldwide health problem caused by the rapid occurrence of antibiotic resistance.

Athelas is searching for drugs which inhibit bacterial virulence, an essential feature of bacterial pathogens.

"Instead of trying to kill the bacteria, which is the conventional way of dealing with them, let's try to keep their pathogenic ability out of the way," Paccaud told swissinfo.

"If you can transform a bacterium that is pathogenic into an apathogenic organism, then your body will just clear it in the same way it's clearing the billions of bacteria your organism is facing every day. That's the new concept we're bringing to the field."

Noodle soup

Meanwhile Vivien Luong, who studied economics at the University of Applied Sciences in Lucerne, is busy looking for locations for a franchising restaurant concept called Tang Tang.

"What I'm basically selling are Asian noodle soups, which are the core products of this concept, with a fast service in a relaxing atmosphere and with modern and international design," said Luong, who was born in Hanoi, Vietnam to Chinese parents and grew up near Basel

"When I say fast service, the concept has nothing to do with a fast food restaurant. It is quite the opposite.

"Although noodle soups can be served almost instantly and can be eaten very quickly, the Tang Tang restaurant is a place to relax and where customers can escape from the frenzy and noise outside and enjoy their food."

Luong hopes to open the first restaurant in Switzerland next year and then has plans to go international.

Questions meet answers

Peter Kirchschläger from Lucerne University is founder of the spin-off company, Questions meet answers or qmeeta.com

"It's an electronic ask-an-expert service designed to further the public understanding of science," he told swissinfo.

"Anyone can ask questions about research and technology and within 48 hours you can get from qmeeta.com an understandable, scientifically-based answer to the question.

"It offers the public an easy, inexpensive, efficient and quick way to get answers to their questions and also gives scientists the opportunity to explain to the public what they are doing."

qmeeta.com will work on a subscription basis with its specialists paid on a case-by-case basis.

New entrepreneurs

The NETS (new entrepreneurs in technology and science) programme is run by the Gebert Rüf Foundation. It aims to turn scientific knowledge into innovation and business opportunities.

"It's a very good opportunity for would-be entrepreneurs, particularly coming from academia, to be trained in a very efficient fashion while still doing their activities at university," said Paccaud.

Every year, the 19 Swiss institutions of higher learning - ten universities, two federal institutes of technology and seven universities of applied sciences - are invited to nominate their three candidates for the NETS encouragement prize.

Up to 25 young scientists from all disciplines who demonstrate a high entrepreneurship potential are chosen for the programme, which offers learning experience and training.

swissinfo/Vincent Landon

entrepreneurs summary

The NETS programme gives would-be entrepreneurs the chance to turn their ideas into business opportunities.

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