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James Logan | ARCTEC and Vecotech Ltd

Why do mosquitoes bite some and not others?

Professor James Logan is
Head of the Department of Disease Control at the University of London’s School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

James is the UK's leading expert on personal protection against arthropod vectors and leads projects investigating new ways to control vectors of disease such as malaria, dengue and Zika. He sits on the School’s innovation committee and is helping to shape technology transfer at the University.

James Logan | ARCTEC and Vecotech Ltd
“This year we are celebrating the 120th anniversary of LSHTM's foundation and with that, 120 years of innovation at the School. I sit on the School innovation committee and the knowledge that I’m sharing comes from everything I have learned over the years, which started from my experience in the YES competition – I’m glad to be able to pass that on.”

James took part in Biotechnology YES in 2003 during his PhD at Rothamsted Research. The basis of his PhD was looking at why some people get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. By analysing body odour, James was able to identify natural repellents in people who don’t get bitten.

Taking the PhD idea to YES

Attracted by the fact that YES is a competition that also offered the chance to learn new skills, James put together a team of four fellow PhD students. This team was Entessence, and using the backstory of James’s PhD, they put together a business plan licensing a mosquito repellent compound. The hypothetical business also had a social enterprise side, using the plants from which the repellent chemical was extracted to protect communities in sub-Saharan Africa.

The mentoring support at the YES workshop helped James and the team to create a realistic business plan by giving them the idea of licensing the chemical repellent to bring money in to enable the business to grow the plants. Learning business finances kept the team up all night but the effort paid off and Entessence went on to win a place at the YES final, finishing as runners-up with a bonus cash prize awarded on the strength of their pitch.

Top impacts

World leaders
ARCTEC is a world-leading centre in consultancy, evaluation and development of arthropod pest and vector control technologies. Now boasting over 500 clients, the centre has grown year on year and is completely self-sufficient. 

Funding and investment
Vecotech has raised £1m investment so far. 

Job creation
The team at ARCTEC now has 20 members of staff with Vecotech having seven.

IP and licensing
Vecotech licenses three patents filed by the University.


Starting out with a desk but no funding

Since YES, James’s career has gone from strength to strength. James says: “YES both piqued my interest in starting a business and gave me the confidence to act. I realised that as well as following the academic route, this was also something I could do.” He has managed to balance his successful academic career, becoming a Professor by the age of 37, whilst launching and directing two successful spin-out companies.

James put this into action after completing his post-doc and moving to LSHTM where he was given a desk, but no funding. From here, James founded the Arthropod Control Product Test Centre (ARCTEC). “I contacted a pharmaceutical company about providing some consultancy and borrowed £3k funding from my Head of Department to employ a part-time Research Assistant. I used my old YES business plan to write a new plan to present to the Dean of the Faculty and by showing the business would become self-sustaining, secured two years’ underwriting to get it up and running.”

ARCTEC was self-sufficient from the outset. It has 20 members of staff, with a turnover of more than £1m and is now about to spin out from the University and become independent. One of the senior members of the ARCTEC business is Dr Sarah Dewhirst, who was a team member in the YES competition.

Spinning-out again

On the IP side, James decided to start his own spin-out company, along with co-founder Professor Mary Cameron, to take early stage IP from lab discoveries, raise investment and license that tech to third parties. This successful company is called Vecotech Ltd and has been running for three years now. The business has several programmes of development including mosquito repellents, similar to the Entessence idea from the YES competition, a novel bed bug lure, a control method for house dust mites, and other exciting technologies in the pipeline.

James also has a third company in the offing, looking at developing new diagnostics for malaria. He is again looking to raise significant money to launch and spoke recently about the research at TEDxLondon. He covers what makes some bodies more attractive to mosquitoes and talks about a device which is being developed to detect key biomarker chemicals for malaria in sweat, which come through the skin.

More information

Visit ARCTEC, LSHTM and Vecotech

TEDxLondon #BeyondBorders

Young Entrepreneurs Scheme

  • Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Nottingham University Business School
  • Jubilee Campus
  • Nottingham, NG8 1BB