These examples showcase the variety of projects that have arisen over the last two years, from more traditional partnerships between one company and one institution, to pioneering consortia and novel patient biobanks.
While there are over 1,000 links between the pharmaceutical industry and the academic sector in terms of placements and studentships for the individual, there are a number of longer-term, open collaborative projects between companies and institutions. These partnerships allow the exchange of knowledge and expertise, catalysing innovative, leading research in the UK.
Some collaborations have been running for a significant length of time, such as the Division of Signal Transduction Therapy (DSTT) at the University of Dundee which was created in 1998, and has secured renewed funding until 2020. There have been many collaborative projects that have formed in the last two years, and it is encouraging to see that many of the collaborations highlighted in the 2015 survey report are still being supported, such as the Alzheimer’s Research UK Dementia Consortium, which has since welcomed MSD as another collaborator.
Driven by the growing prominence of and need for personalised medicine, the Future Targeted Healthcare Manufacturing Hub endeavours to address the infrastructure and manufacturing challenges surrounding the development of new, targeted biological therapeutics. Led by UCL, the Hub is formed of several universities, governmental associations and over 30 pharmaceutical companies who share the common goal of bringing targeted healthcare into common usage through the development of novel manufacturing, formulation and control technologies.
Francis Crick Institute collaborations
The Francis Crick Institute continues to engage and collaborate with the pharmaceutical industry since its formation in 2015. Building on the original open science collaboration formed between the Crick and GSK in 2015, GSK have contributed significantly towards the development of the Biomedical Imaging lab at the Crick, which adds to the already vast level of facilities available at the institute.
Additionally, a five-year open science agreement between AstraZeneca and the Crick, announced in 2017, enables collaboration on early-stage research which could translate into novel insights and treatments across a range of disease areas, including cancers, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Funds from AstraZeneca, Cancer Research UK and the MRC will allow further innovation and knowledge exchange between these partners, maximising the impact of the scientific advances generated from the initiative.
Arising from a recommendation in the UK renal research strategy report in 2016, NURTuRE brings together the universities of Bristol and Nottingham, medical research charity, Kidney Research UK, NHS trusts and the pharmaceutical companies AbbVie Inc, Evotec AV, Retrophin and UCB Celltech Biopharma with the aim of creating a national Kidney Biobank for chronic kidney disease (CKD) and nephrotic syndrome (NS).
A broad range of biological samples and data from almost 4,000 patients will be available to collaborators, other investigators and pharmaceutical companies, helping to facilitate the identification of new biomarkers of CKD to help patients who will benefit from better, earlier diagnosis and develop person-specific new treatments, increase knowledge and understanding of NS and ultimately to provide better health outcomes for patients.
Antibody-Assisted Structure-Based Drug Discovery Consortium
Combining expertise in small molecular drug design, the Antibody-Assisted Structure-Based Drug Discovery Consortium links together the University of Leicester, UCB and LifeArc through the application of antibodies as tools to identify and characterise novel regulatory sites on therapeutically relevant target proteins. Ultimately, the consortium aims to guide the discovery and design of new small molecular therapeutics, in turn delivering significant benefits to the clinic.
Pfizer – University of Swansea Innovation Hub
Bringing together Pfizer and the University of Swansea, this project aims to set up an Innovation Hub based at the university’s School of Management, catalysing the exchange of skills and expertise with the aim of tackling healthcare challenges across Wales. By helping to develop a health system that links together the NHS, industry and academia, the Innovation Hub will work to bring great benefits to patients in Wales. The first phase of the partnership sees the recruitment of both a Professor of Enhanced Health Innovation, Engagement and Outcomes, and a Digital Technical Consultant, which will drive the project forward into the future.
Apollo Therapeutics Fund
A unique collaboration between AstraZeneca, GSK, Johnson & Johnson Innovation and Imperial College London, UCL and the University of Cambridge, Apollo Therapeutics constitutes a £40 million fund to support the translation of biomedical projects within partner universities into innovative new medicines licensed by industrial partners. Launched in 2016, the venture will run for six to eight years and fund approximately 20 projects with great therapeutic potential, and with expertise in drug discovery, Apollo Therapeutics provides a world-class environment for project growth.