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SCIENCETODAY

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women in science • cardiovascular research • dementia • antibiotic resistance

ISSUE22


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| welcome |

foreword Helen Compson Editor in chief

Editor Helen Compson helen.compson@distinctivegroup.co.uk

Design Distinctive Publishing, 3rd Floor, Tru Knit House, 9-11 Carliol Square, Newcastle, NE1 6UF Tel: 0191 580 5990 www.distinctivepublishing.co.uk

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THE POWER OF DATA IS DRIVING REVOLUTIONARY INSIGHTS AND TREATMENTS A couple of months ago, Prof. Julia Gog was made an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, one of six members of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies to be recognised for their sterling contribution to shaping the Covid-19 response. A mathematician who specialises in modelling the spread of infectious diseases, much of her work has been focused on pandemic influenza. But this year, she and the other members of her research group in Cambridge University’s Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics have been modelling and mapping the spread of coronavirus and COVID-19 instead. “Public health experts have been saying for decades that when it comes to pandemic flu, it wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when,” said Prof. Gog. “And now that this coronavirus pandemic is here and things are changing every day, we’ve got to get information out there quickly, while making sure that it’s useful information that can help inform good policy.”

Distinctive Publishing or BioScience Today cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies that may occur, individual products or services advertised or late entries. No part of this publication may be reproduced or scanned without prior written permission of the publishers and BioScience Today.

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The work of Teesside University’s National Horizons Centre is another prime example of how bioinformatics and data science are now being harnessed in the management of healthcare. Indeed, the continuing development of highthroughput technologies across healthcare, forensics, biotechnology and environmental research puts data at the heart of its work. NHC’s Head of Bioscience Research, Prof. Vikki Rand, said: “Innovative bioinformatics approaches are essential to enable the analysis of large amounts of data to reveal new insights,” she said, “so an important element of our work is designing new tools that enable an enhanced level of management and interpretation.” In this issue, we also take a look at the FERARO study being carried out by a research team at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. Is a new weapon for use in the fight against antibiotic resistance on the horizon? And the British Heart Foundation tells us more about the Nobel prize-winning ‘genetic scissors’ – capable of editing DNA in living cells – revolutionising the treatment of heart defects and disease.


| contents |

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features

Hope on the horizon for alzheimer’s treatment

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20 Professor honoured for her work on pandemic control Heart disease researchers set to work with the nobel prize-winning genetic scissors

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| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

| contents |

contents / www.biosciencetoday.co.uk / issue 22 /

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Foreword

4-5

Contents

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Industry Contributors

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intellectual property Creating a Corona Vaccine

12-14

women in science In the final feature in a three-part series about women making waves, we hear about the work of Prof. Julia Gog, a mathematical biologist at Cambridge University.

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20-23

cardiovascular research We can all agree that 2020 has been a difficult year, but a silver lining was two women winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing the tools to edit DNA in living cells.

24-26

dementia The discovery of ‘genetic scissors’, otherwise known as CRISPRCas9, earned a Nobel Prize. One area of medicine they are revolutionising is the treatment of heart conditions.

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innovation Thriving commercial ecosystems will help universities to keep making an impact beyond Covid-19.

30-32

antibiotic resistance Could faecal transplants be an effective weapon in the fight back against antibiotic resistance? A research team at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust intends to find out, once and for all.

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storage and logistics Expert equips entrepreneurs to survive adversity.

36-37

pharmaceuticals production Industry-academia partnership launches one step manufacturing process for pharmaceutical dosage forms.

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30 Weaponising the fight against antibiotic resistance

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bioprocessing Data science beginning to drive healthcare.


| industry contributors |

Varuni is an IP solicitor with a research background in Biochemistry and experience advising on patent, trade mark, design rights and copyright issues. She has IP experience in a variety of industry sectors including fashion, life sciences, digital media, sports and food & drink. Varuni’s practice also includes non-contentious brands advisory work, enforcement strategy, settlement and co-existence strategy advice as well as advice in relation to commercial transactions. Varuni has had litigation experience in courts in the UK as well as coordinating multi-jurisdictional pharmaceutical disputes across the globe.

Professor Julia Gog Professor of Mathematical Biology, DAMTP, University of Cambridge Professor Julia Gog is a mathematician who specialises in modelling the spread of infectious diseases, particularly pandemic influenza. For months, she and the other members of her research group in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics have been modelling and mapping the spread of coronavirus and COVID-19.

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Varuni Paranavitane IP Solicitor, AA Thornton

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to advertise or contribute to the next edition advertising: tony.stephenson@ distinctivegroup.co.uk editorial: helen.compson@ distinctivegroup.co.uk

Dr Anne Lane CEO, UCL Business

Sonia Houghton CEO Cryoniss

Anne has a PhD in medicine from UCL and an Executive MBA from Molson Business School, Montreal. After research at UCL and Harvard Medical School, Anne worked for RTP Pharma Inc in Montreal, out-licensing and preparing valuations of the company’s portfolio for public listing. Anne joined UCL Ventures in 2000 and acted as consultant for the National Transfer Centre in the US. She is now CEO of UCLB, acts as Director and interim CEO on several of UCLB’s spinout companies and oversees the company’s licensing activity. Anne is also a member of the Licensing Executives Society (LES) and is on the committee for the Intellectual Property Lawyers Organisation (TIPLO).

Sonia is the CEO of Cryoniss, a contract service organisation providing next day delivery of qualified cell lines to global research institutions, pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Cryoniss is able to offer holistic support to customers including the acquisition of quality, ethically and legally sourced reagents, regulatory support, endto-end premium logistics management solutions and coordination of quality control testing of mammalian cell line reagents.

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| news |

Don’t underestimate the logistics challenge as Pfizer vaccine rolls out across the UK The logistics operation in the UK will be bigger than the largest ever global humanitarian effort Demand for delivery of ultra-low freezers will grow 5-7 fold in the UK High potential for costly stockpiling of vaccines leading to slowdown of the immunisation programme if national and regional logistics operations are inefficient Significant last mile challenges to the points of vaccination, such as residents in care homes which are first in line to receive the vaccine Major waiting times predicted for ultra-low freezers due to unprecedented demand “Never before, and perhaps never again, will we have such a mammoth task on our hands as the one which all countries across the world, including the UK, are facing to get the Covid vaccines to their populations as quickly as possible,” says Luc Provost, Chief Executive Officer of Luxembourgbased B Medical Systems (BMS), global specialists in medical cold chain transportation and storage as the Pfizer vaccine starts to roll out across the UK. The company is currently creating a “Readiness Checklist” for the EU to help educate and help national authorities in establishing their logistics operations for Covid vaccines. He adds: “In the UK alone we are talking about a logistics effort that will be bigger than any global humanitarian programme this century. Never before has a product been in demand by practically everyone the world over.” According to Provost, BMS has seen demand for its ultra-low freezers “go off the chart” in recent weeks. The innovative refrigeration technology developed by the company supports their Ultra Low Freezers to operate in the temperature range of -20°C to -86°C, there by enabling the use of these freezers for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine. The company has also developed another innovative product that can operate as a vaccine freezer and also as vaccine refrigerator. This enables the use of the product for the storage of both Moderna vaccine (that requires a -20C storage) and likes of Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine that needs a storage temperature of 2-8°C Good for business at BMS but just one of the logistics challenges the British government and devolved administrations will need to address is waiting times for ultra-low freezing units which will be lengthy. Provost says: “Normally we would be supplying 2,000-3,000 units typically for a country. We expect this to increase 5-7 fold to some 15,000 units at least. In places like India we are seeing orders reach six figures.” He adds: “The challenge is securing an end-to-end unbroken cold chain – from point of manufacture of the vaccine until administration in the arm of the patient. The issue is that the different legs of the supply chain are all integral to the successful distribution of the vast quantities of vaccines, yet they are distinct in terms of who coordinates them.” Provost believes where logistics could fall down, if not thought through and coordinated effectively, is the incountry distribution, including storage and the last mile to the patient. “Get it wrong and the UK could suffer from a stockpile of vaccines that aren’t usable and slowdown the immunisation programme. It’s a very real threat to any country,” he says. “Vaccine wastage happens in two areas – in-country transport and vaccine administration at health facilities.

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Most portable vaccine carriers and cold containers cannot keep cold beyond 12 hours, especially if it is hot outside. Transportation for the last mile to where the immunisation is happening – for example care home residents which will be amongst the first in the UK to get vaccinated – is time consuming and monitoring this journey presents a big problem.” Raja Rao, Director, Cold Chain Strategy & Markets at B Medical Systems, who has led the cold chain programme at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, adds: “All the studies I’ve been involved in with my work for the Foundation indicate that in the developing world about 50-75% of all vaccine wastage happened during in-country transport.” Provost also points to the need for a centralised logistics information management system. He says: “This is crucial in terms of keeping track in real time of vaccine storage, demand and orders to enable a highly efficient supply chain. If this isn’t in place it could lead to costly vaccine wastage and stockpiling due to delays and slowdown in immunisation. “Central government, devolved administrations in the UK and the NHS are going to have to work closely together along with other key stakeholders to ensure a logistics set-up that delivers vaccines on time, whilst preserving the quality and therefore the health of the patients.”


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£45M to advance gene therapy treatment of chronic kidney diseases The University of Bristol has secured a £45million deal to advance its ground-breaking gene therapy technology for chronic kidney diseases. The commitment, made by healthcare company Syncona Ltd to Bristol spin-out Purespring Therapeutics, aims to address a global unmet need for renal conditions in one of the largest single investments made to a new UK university biotech company. Over two million people worldwide currently receive treatment with dialysis or a kidney transplant to stay alive, yet this number may only represent ten per cent of people who need treatment to live. Until now, advances in the treatment of kidney diseases have lagged significantly behind other diseases such as cancer and heart disease. This investment marks a significant step forward in the innovation of long overdue new therapies for kidney diseases, which have historically been disproportionately expensive to treat. Gene therapy – a technique which replaces or alters a faulty gene or adds a new gene to treat or prevent disease instead of using drugs or surgery, offers a potential new type of treatment for renal conditions. Syncona’s £45 million investment in Purespring will be used to progress to the clinic gene therapy research pioneered by Prof. Moin Saleem, Professor of Paediatric Renal Medicine at Bristol Medical School, and Dr Gavin Welsh, Associate Professor of Renal Medicine. Professor Saleem’s work is the only study to date (published) to have successfully demonstrated disease rescue in animal models using this technique for a kidney disorder called nephrotic syndrome.

Purespring will develop gene therapies directly targeting the glomerulus in the kidney, which could see treatment progress from lab to patients in three or four years. The company will also have access to an in-vivo functional screening platform, FunSel, to screen for cell-specific protective factors delivered via gene therapy, that could have applications across several kidney diseases. FunSel has been developed by Professor Mauro Giacca at Kings College London. Professor John Iredale, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Health and Life Sciences at the University of Bristol, said: “Syncona’s expertise in gene therapy and landmark investment in Bristol spin-out Purespring marks an exciting new venture to progress Bristol’s breakthrough discoveries in the treatment of kidney diseases. “Purespring’s gene therapy platform has enormous potential to improve outcomes in patients with kidney diseases and is a major leap forward for renal therapeutics globally.” Professor Moin Saleem said: “This is an incredible opportunity to develop transformational treatments for kidney disease. Gene therapy has come of age in certain areas, but a major challenge in complex solid organs is to precisely target the genetic material to the correct cell type. “Using accumulated expertise in the Bristol Renal research group we have solved this crucial hurdle, putting us in a position to deliver curative gene therapy to patients with chronic and intractable kidney diseases. Syncona have had the foresight to see this potential, and partnering with their world-leading gene therapy experience is the best possible springboard to successfully bring this technology to patients.”

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| Connect 2 Cleanrooms |

Joe Govier of Connect 2 Cleanrooms Ranked Among UK’s Top 50 Most Ambitious Business Leaders Joe Govier, CEO and Founder of Connect 2 Cleanrooms, has been named as one of LDC’s Top 50 Most Ambitious Business Leaders for 2020. Now in its third year, the programme, which is supported by The Telegraph, celebrates the inspiring leaders behind some of the UK’s most successful and fast-growing medium-sized firms. Connect 2 Cleanrooms was founded in 2002. Its turnover grew by 40% over the past year and Joe is now looking to expand his business into new international markets. Joe says: “We crept into this market by doing small projects. Now we build multi-million-pound facilities for pharmaceutical and aerospace giants. “Connect 2 Cleanrooms has grown through two recessions and a pandemic, all the while supporting my family and creating opportunities for the people who come and work here. “We are extremely adaptable so we can flip to focus on sectors when confidence and growth is high. The opportunity is phenomenal.” John Garner of LDC added: “The UK has a long-standing reputation for its entrepreneurial endeavour, but there has never been a more important time to recognise or back ambition in British business. The LDC Top 50 Most Ambitious Business Leaders aims to do just that. All of the inspiring leaders featured in our Top 50 this year have driven their business forward during a period of adversity, whether by expanding internationally, delivering real innovation, showcasing resilience or making a difference in their communities. They all deserve their place and I look forward to seeing their continued success.” LDC is the UK’s leading mid-market private equity firm. Backed by Lloyds Banking Group, LDC is committed to investing £1.2bn over the next three years to support the ambitions of management teams leading mid-market businesses across the UK.

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Joe Govier Connect 2 Cleanrooms is an integrated cleanroom solutions provider. Since 2002, the company has become a trusted partner to over 6000+ clients worldwide. For more information on its services, visit www.connect2cleanrooms.com.


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Alternative to invasive prostate cancer biopsies on the horizon Pioneering research conducted by University of Virginia in collaboration with Manchester UK based APIS Assay Technologies Ltd has discovered Hormone-Upregulated lncRNA within the lymphocyte-specific protein tyrosine kinase (HULLK) is detectable in non-invasive prostate cancer patient samples. The breakthrough data provides a potential new approach to address the unmet medical need of early diagnostics for prostate cancer, in combination with avoiding the invasive cancer tissue sample collection from biopsy. Dr Daniel Gioeli, Associate Professor, Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology at the University of Virginia, has shown that HULLK could be isolated from urine of prostate cancer patients and therefore provides a major advantage compared to current invasive sample collection. The data on the detection of HULLK in urine samples from patients with high grade prostate cancer (PCa) was presented by Dr. Gioeli during the 2020 Annual Meeting of the Society for Basic Urologic Research in November. APIS Assay Technologies and the University of Virginia entered into a Research Agreement in December 2019, after optioning the HULLK technology, which is described in a previous publication from Dr. Gioeli´s Group (Ta et al, Molecular Cancer, 18:113, 2019) demonstrating the potential role of this biomarker in FFPE samples from PCa patients. HULLK an unannotated lncRNA is within exon six and the 3’UTR of the LCK gene, is dramatically upregulated by androgen in a dose-dependent manner, and this hormoneinduced increase is completely blocked by the antiandrogen enzalutamide. Remarkably, there was a significant positive correlation between HULLK expression and high-grade PCa in three independent cohorts: the University of Virginia, the University of Texas Southwestern, and The Cancer Genome Atlas. Dr. Gioeli said: “Virtually all patients with metastatic prostate cancer (PCa) will relapse and develop lethal castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC)”. The new data being presented, continues to support the hypothesis on the potential use of HULLK as a biomarker for PCa. “The latest data, which demonstrates the presence of this biomarker in non-invasive biofluids such as urine, is an exciting step forward,” said Ian Kavanagh, COO, of APIS Assay Technologies. “Our intention at APIS Assay Technologies is to implement HULLK into a clinically relevant signature for early detection of patients with metastatic prostate cancer and provide a guidance for further treatment.” The overall goal of the collaboration between UVA and APIS is to address the unmet medical need associated with PCa and evaluate the level of HULLK in PCa patients in order to establish the parameters necessary for a clinical trial demonstrating the effectiveness of HULLK as a relevant Biomarker. Dr. Schorr, CEO added: “Overall lncRNAs are emerging as critical regulatory elements of many cellular biological processes, that’s why APIS is also working with other lncRNA biomarkers in additional cancer related indications.”

Despite most cancer studies have been focused on proteincoding genes, the evidence that about 97% of human genome consists of non protein-coding sequences led scientists to investigate the untranslated transcripts, called non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs). The un- translated transcripts, called non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) can be classified in short (19–31 nucleo- tides), mid (20–200 nucleotides) and long (> 200 nu- cleotides) based on their length. long-ncRNAs (lncRNAs), which represent the largest class of non- coding transcripts with about 55,000 genes along the human genome. lncRNAs may regulate gene expression through their interaction domains for DNA, mRNAs, miRNAs and proteins. The ncRNAs have cell type, tissue and cancer specificity, thus RNA profiling has become a mean to identify useful biomarkers of tumor development, progression and metastasis. Although miRNAs represent the most widely investigated ncRNAs, lncRNAs are emerging as cancer key regulators (Grillone et al. Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research (2020) 39:11). LncRNA expression profiles can also identify clinically relevant cancer subtypes that predict tumor behavior and disease prognosis, which defines them to very promising diagnostic and therapeutic biomarkers. With nearly one in every five men diagnosed during their lifetime, prostate cancer (PCa) is a world-wide common disease. The implementation of screening and aggressive treatment has led to an improved survival rates, while “overtreatment” and treatment-related side effects can influence the quality of life for survivors and has come under considerable controversy over the last decade. (Mo. Med 2018 Mar-Apr; 115(2): 131.)

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| intellectual property |

Creating a Corona Vaccine As the world faces unprecedented challenges caused by the SARS-Cov-2 virus, we look at the science behind vaccine technology being investigated and how intellectual property rights may play a part in its protection. Varuni Paranavitane

SARS-CoV-2 Virus

IP Solicitor, AA Thornton

WHAT IS A VACCINE? The immune system can be ‘trained’ using a vaccine to recognise and combat new pathogens such as the coronavirus. A vaccine is a modified version of the pathogen which triggers an immune response by the body without causing virulence. SARS-Cov-2 which causes COVID-19, has a ‘spike protein’ on its surface which latches on to certain human cells, invades them, and uses the cells’ ‘machinery’ to replicate itself to invade other cells. In the body ‘antigen presenting cells’ engulf the virus and display parts of it, for example the spike protein, on their surface. This causes immune cells called T-helper cells to enable B-cells to make antibodies which mark the virus for destruction and also prevent it from infecting further cells. In addition, cytotoxic T-cells can identify and destroy infected cells. ‘Memory’ B-cells and T-cells that recognise the virus can guard against future infections by quickly recognising and attacking the virus thus providing immunity for months or even years.

CORONAVIRUS VACCINES Following the publication of the genetic sequence of SARSCov-2 on 10 January 2020, researchers began developing vaccines using various traditional and novel approaches. One approach is to use protein subunits as a vaccine by using fragments of the SARS-Cov-2 proteins to elicit an immune response. Most research teams are focussing on the spike protein, and Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline are collaborating on this protein subunit approach using the spike protein together with an adjuvant, a chemical which stimulates a stronger immune response. Others are investigating viral-vector vaccines using a genetically engineered virus, such as an adenovirus which causes the common cold, but modified such that it cannot cause disease, and manipulated to express SARS-CoV-2 proteins. The Astra Zeneca and Oxford University vaccine uses chimpanzee adenovirus to carry DNA encoding the spike protein. It is expected that this approach would generate robust B-cell and T-cell responses. The Ebola vaccine which was approved last year, 43 years after Ebola’s discovery, is an example of a viral-vector vaccine. Another approach uses genetic material (such as DNA or RNA) to encode a coronavirus protein and promote an immune response. The vaccine being developed by Imperial College uses self-replicating mRNA encoding for the spike protein, while Pfizer is collaborating with BioNTech to produce an mRNA vaccine. Several teams are taking a more traditional approach by using the virus in a weakened or inactivated form, similar to the way in which measles and polio vaccines are made, for example Sinovac Biotech is using inactivated SARS-CoV-2. This type of vaccine will require extensive testing as the risks are higher. Currently there are around 160 Covid-19 vaccine candidates in pre-clinical evaluation, and around 50 vaccines in clinical trials around the globe to assess the safety and efficacy of the candidates. Following trials, companies will need to submit safety and efficacy data to gain regulatory approval.

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spike protein

rna

Earlier this month, the UK’s Department of Health and the MHRA granted authorisation for the temporary supply of the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine for individuals over the age of 16, and the first immunisations have taken place in the UK.

CORONAVIRUS VACCINES AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS Some large pharmaceutical companies have pledged that they do not seek to make a profit from their Covid-19 vaccines “during the pandemic” and they have the budgets to be able to fund development themselves. However, smaller companies which rely on investment may require an incentive to secure that investment. One way of providing that incentive is to obtain patent protection which gives the proprietor a monopoly right allowing them to prevent others using their new technology without permission. Given this humanitarian crisis, there are practical, PR, moral and legal factors to be considered by an entity considering enforcing their patents during the pandemic. The UK Patents Act 1977 has ‘Crown Use’ provisions permitting use of a patented product without the proprietor’s consent when authorised by a government department ‘for services of the Crown’ including the ‘production or supply of specified drugs and medicines’. There are also ‘Compulsory licensing’ provisions ‘where patented invention is a product and demand for that product is not being met on reasonable terms’. It remains to be seen how the UK courts would apply these statutory carve outs. However, if they are used, the proprietor is entitled to reasonable compensation. This means that the commercial and incentive value of patent protection is maintained, even if the usual control over the technology may be temporarily lost. It is therefore sensible to consider patent protection for any commercially important innovation. If you have any queries regarding this topic, or other pharmaceutical or biotechnological matters, please contact Varuni Paranavitane at vxp@aathornton.com or visit aathornton.com


| women in science |

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PROFESSOR HONOURED FOR HER WORK ON PANDEMIC CONTROL A Women in Science event held earlier this year demonstrated that women are certainly coming into their own in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths. In this, the final feature in a three-part series about women making waves, we hear about the work of Prof. Julia Gog, a mathematical biologist at Cambridge University.

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| women in science |

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| women in science |

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| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

ast month, Prof. Julia Gog was made an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, one of six members of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies to be recognised for their sterling contribution to shaping the Covid-19 response.

With many international imports of new cases, eventually the approach of contact tracing is overwhelmed and transmission takes hold within the UK, requiring the introduction of more severe overall social distancing measures to control transmission.

A mathematician who specialises in modelling the spread of infectious diseases, much of her work has been focused on pandemic influenza.

Once cases are rising exponentially, in order to contain the pandemic we must reduce the number of people that each contagious person infects. In disease dynamics, this reproduction ratio is called R.

But this year, she and the other members of her research group in Cambridge University’s Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics have been modelling and mapping the spread of coronavirus and COVID-19 instead. In the midst of the pandemic, she has been providing advice to the Government through SPI-M, the specialist pandemic modelling group that feeds into SAGE, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, as well as through Cambridge’s Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP). In 2018, she and her team were behind the UK’s largest citizen science experiment in collaboration with the BBC, using location data from mobile phones to map how pandemic influenza might spread across the UK. The massive dataset that resulted from the experiment, the largest and most detailed of its kind, has been useful to teams working on the current pandemic. “Public health experts have been saying for decades that when it comes to pandemic flu, it wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when,” Gog said. “And now that this coronavirus pandemic is here and things are changing every day, we’ve got to get information out there quickly, but making sure that it’s useful information that can help inform good policy.” With the earliest cases of COVID-19 in the UK, it was possible to perform contact tracing and shut down early chains of transmission. The data suggests that there wasn’t a single case that began the virus’ spread across the UK, but multiple cases, each with their own transmission chains. It’s likely that cases arrived relatively early in London due to its centrality in the nation and because much of the country’s transport infrastructure is built around getting people in and out of London.

For any epidemic or pandemic to die out, in the absence of a vaccine, the effective R needs to be less than one: that is, if each contagious person infects less than one other person, then the number of new cases will slow and, eventually, stop. Current data suggests that the original reproduction ratio, R0, for coronavirus was between 1.5 and 3.5. For modellers like Gog, knowing how and when people come into contact with other people helps determine R, and in turn helps develop a model of how a pandemic spreads. The data from the BBC Pandemic project provides a highly useful source of data on how we most often come into contact with others. For those of working age, the workplace is the source of much person-to-person contact, so switching to remote working for those who can do so will reduce transmission between workplace colleagues. For those over 65, who are most at risk from severe illness due to COVID-19, most contact occurs outside the home, in places such as shops, restaurants and leisure activities, so shutting down these non-essential activities is also key to reducing R. Earlier in the pandemic, there was criticism of the Government’s initial reluctance to close schools. However, Gog says that all the evidence suggests that school closures will only reduce transmission rates between 10 and 20 percent. Earlier models of the spread of seasonal ‘flu have looked at schoolchildren as key spreaders, but the behaviour of children, in particular teenagers, has changed a great deal in the past decade: teenagers now do much of their socialising online, and don’t so often gather in large groups as much as older generations did, a point that was confirmed by the BBC Pandemic data.

“Public health experts have been saying for decades that when it comes to pandemic flu, it wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when. And now that this coronavirus pandemic is here and things are changing every day, we’ve got to get information out there quickly, but making sure that it’s useful information that can help inform good policy.” 14


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| women in science |

Professor Julia Gog Professor of Mathematical Biology, DAMTP, University of Cambridge

In addition, it is unclear at the moment how much of a role children play in coronavirus transmission, whether they are as susceptible and infectious as adults.

There is also a lag between the number of reported deaths and when those people became infected, further complicating the work of Gog and her colleagues.

“We have to adapt our models to account for the way that people are behaving now,” said Gog. “Four weeks ago, a transmission reduction of ten or twenty percent might not have seemed like a lot.

“There are different ways this all plays out based on the information we have right now, and we have to model for different eventualities,” said Gog. “It’s likely we won’t see very clearly the full effect of the lockdown measures until they have been in place for a few weeks.”

“Additionally, children who were out of school while their parents were continuing to work might have gone to spend the day with their grandparents, putting them at risk. “But right now, we’ll take any reduction you can get. The key thing now is to keep the number of critical cases as low as you can to reduce burden to a point that health systems can manage.” Every model has a degree of uncertainty, and for Gog, the biggest challenge in mapping how COVID-19 might continue to spread is that there has not been wide-scale testing in the UK. There is no ‘one true model’, and so epidemiological modellers have been modelling a range of scenarios and adapting as more data becomes available.

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Looking beyond the next few weeks, Gog says the information she and her colleagues around the country are desperate to have is information about what proportion of the population has been infected, via widescale antibody testing. “Once we have that information, it will help us make better decisions about what to do next,” said Gog. “If only a small proportion of the population has contracted the virus, then we could remain in lockdown for quite some time, whereas if a significant part of the population has already had it, then we can start thinking about how we get back to normal.” www.infectiousdisease.cam.ac.uk


| North-East Technology Park (NETPark) |

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THE NETPARK NETWORK THAT LOOKS TO THE FUTURE

The North-East Technology Park - or NETPark as it is known - in County Durham provides science, technology and engineering companies with the type of world-class laboratory, clean room and office space they require on the journey from start-up to, frequently, global AIM-listed status. Opening in 2004, NETPark is the only science park in the UK with two Catapult Centres and three national innovations centres, it is also home to more than 32 companies which between them employ around 450 highly skilled personnel across a range of incubation and grow-on spaces, including Plexus, Discovery and Explorer.

The infrastructure works on the third phase of NETPark have been made possible by a £5m grant from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Local Growth Fund, part and parcel of the Government’s North East Growth Deal. Richard Kirk, for one, can vouch for the benefits of setting up shop on NETPark.

Now, NETPark is set to expand again, to provide an even greater wealth of opportunities for businesses on route to national and global success. In NETPark Phase Three, 26 acres of serviced land is being opened up providing businesses with an opportunity to secure high-end, bespoke premises, as a natural next step for significant scale-up and/or manufacturing on-site. Janet Todd, NETPark Manager said: “Whether it is laboratory, office or warehouse space or even a combination of all three , our expert team will work closely with companies that are building up to the point where they are ready to commercialise and scale up their operations. We have a team in place that can work with businesses to develop a bespoke solutions of the highest quality, we are ready to take enquiries and start working on these plans with any business interested in locating on NETPark Phase Three ”

Richard Kirk CEO PolyPhotonix wearing the Noctura 400 sleep mask

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| North-East Technology Park (NETPark) |

“There wasn’t a lot of startup space available in County Durham when IBEX began. NETPark was one of the very few places that had office and laboratory space designed specifically for the scientific and technical sector, so it was ideal for our type of business.” Neil Loxley, Chief Executive IBEX Innovations

IBEX CEO Neil Loxley outside of teh Explorer 2 building at their NETPark headquarters Twelve years ago, he founded PolyPhotonix, developer of the Noctura 400 Sleep Mask, a revolutionary treatment for diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular oedema that is exciting interest all over the world.

Neil Loxley, chief executive of another early tenant of NETPark, medical X-ray imaging pioneer IBEX Innovations, also testifies to the benefits of being located on this world-class technology park.

“Originally I was drawn to NETPark, from London, by the fact the National Centre for Printable Electronics had just been built here,” he said.

Developer of the unique IBEX Trueview software that can identify the latent signs of osteoporosis anywhere up to 15 years before onset - thereby providing early warning of a patient’s risk of potentially fatal fragility fractures – the company moved into the Explorer 1 building in 2013 and then the Explorer 2 building in 2018.

“At the time that was my main interest and although we have morphed into something else over the years, it demonstrates the power of having incredible assets such as that on site. “We were based in the National Centre for Print Electronics to begin with and it opened up facilities and the type of research that we just couldn’t have accessed anywhere else.” Because there wasn’t a pool of the particular skills Richard was looking for nationally, he ended up recruiting internationally. However, those that travelled from America and Asia were taking a real risk at the time, said Richard. “Anybody setting up ‘the first’ of anything, in this case a materials research business, finds it difficult to attract staff because if anything goes wrong, they might have nowhere else to go in that area. “Thanks to the complete success of NETPark, we have started to achieve a critical mass whereby would-be employees considering making this huge commitment feel reassured – there is a significant number of similar or related businesses roundabout.” PolyPhotonix has been so well catered for that it is preparing for its third expansion on the technology park. “We’re moving again at the end of this year, because we’re taking on yet more people,” he said. “Each time we have needed more space or particular facilities, such as clean rooms, NETPark has been great - they provide what we need. So, we just keep moving offices!”

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“There wasn’t a lot of start-up space available in County Durham when IBEX began,” said Neil. “NETPark was one of the very few places that had office and laboratory space designed specifically for the scientific and technical sector, so it was ideal for our type of business. “When we moved into Discovery 1, there were just four or five of us and we rented the separate office and laboratory spaces designed to help incubate start-ups. “By 2018, we’d grown to such an extent (we now have 20 employees) that when NETPark began building Explorer 2, we seized the opportunity to have our own bespoke space incorporated. “The flexibility and support of the hard-working NETPark team has made all the difference to us.” Find out more about NETPark at www.northeasttechnologypark.com telephone +44(0)1740 625250 or on Twitter @NETParkUK


| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

| news |

UK’s unique national pancreas tissue bank opens for business The UK’s national tissue bank for pancreatic diseases is open for applications from any UKbased researchers needing samples of blood, urine and saliva to aid their research. The Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund Tissue Bank (PCRF Tissue Bank) was set up in 2016 with £2.4 million from the medical research charity, and is the largest of its kind in the world. Its creation brought together surgeons, pathologists, oncologists, researchers and database experts to coordinate a national – and ultimately international -­resource that will help to drive the development of diagnostic tools and new treatments for pancreatic diseases and bring these to patients much faster. Coordinated from the Barts Cancer Institute at Queen Mary University of London, the PCRF Tissue Bank has been steadily building stocks of biological fluids and pancreas tissue. It now holds some 45,000 unique samples of blood, urine, saliva and tissue as well as matched surrounding healthy tissue, donated from 2,200 consenting patients (collected over 2,800 visits) who underwent biopsies or surgery for a range of pancreatic diseases at one of eight partner hospitals across the UK. The anonymised samples cover a range of diseases, including different types of pancreatic cancer (adenocarcinoma and neuroendocrine), different types of pancreatitis, pancreatic cysts and pre-cancerous lesions plus diseases of the gall bladder and biliary ducts. Each sample comes with some 300 clinical data points. In addition, extensive bio-informatic support and analytics is available through the Pancreas Expression Database. Large numbers of healthy control blood, saliva and urine samples are also available, culminating in what the Tissue Bank’s directors believe is an unparalleled national resource for researchers and clinicians working on pancreatic diseases. Researchers can register their interest for samples by visiting www.thepancreastissuebank.org/ResearcherInfo.html Professor Hemant Kocher, a pancreatic cancer researcher at Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London and consultant pancreas and liver surgeon, has spearheaded the development of the Tissue Bank. He says: “We’re really proud of what’s been achieved so far. It was always a highly ambitious venture, but one that was much needed to speed up research progress - particularly for pancreatic cancer, where prognosis remains devastatingly bleak for most patients.” This ‘Phase 1’ access to biological fluids will be welcomed by all those investigating biomarkers for earlier disease diagnosis. Phase 2 will see the release of fresh cancer and matched healthy tissues, as well as formalin fixed paraffin embedded samples to help progress research into new treatments. “We also hope in due course to be able to respond to researcher requests for prospective samples,” adds Professor Kocher. “The timing of this will depend on the expressions of interest we receive.” Professor Kocher is also keen to offer access to samples to the international research community as soon the team are

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confident that stocks are sufficient to meet the expected level of interest. An additional feature of this resource will see all data generated by research projects using PCRF Tissue Bank samples fed back into a bespoke database and made freely available to the global research community. A built-in Research and Development arm of the Tissue Bank is overseeing development of newer methods of analysis and further derivatives of samples such as cell lines, tissue micro-arrays and DNA extraction to enhance the research capability. For example, the PCRF Tissue Bank has developed a new method for freezing tissue samples. Maggie Blanks, CEO of Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, said: “We knew that to deliver the most meaningful research results, we had to ensure that researchers have access to quality-controlled tissue and fluids that are collected, handled and stored consistently and to strict protocols. We’re excited to open the Tissue Bank and even more excited to see what new knowledge and progress it enables.” The original NHS partner institutes which act as collection centres are: Barts Health NHS Trust; the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust; ABM University Health Board, Swansea; University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust; Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; and University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust. New partners have since joined the collaboration: The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in 2019; and the private hospital, The London Clinic, joined in 2020.


| cardiovascular research |

| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

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| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

| cardiovascular research |

HEART DISEASE RESEARCHERS SET TO WORK WITH THE NOBEL PRIZE-WINNING GENETIC SCISSORS We can all agree that 2020 has been a difficult year, but a silver lining was two women winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing the tools to edit DNA in living cells. Known as CRISPR-Cas9 (often shortened to CRISPR), their discovery of ‘genetic scissors’ has revolutionised science as we know it and holds the promise of being able to treat or even cure diseases – from heart muscle problems to coronary heart disease.

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| cardiovascular research |

By Dr Leanne Grech

Research Engagement Officer at the British Heart Foundation

A CUT ABOVE THE REST There is enormous power in being able to cut out, replace or turn off bad genes whenever we want – especially if that power is used to heal. Take BHF-funded researcher Dr Emily Noël for example. She’s using the genetic scissors to find out why mutations (or faults) in genes can cause babies to be born with heart defects. At the University of Sheffield, Dr Noël and her team are looking at how congenital heart disease develops, in particular studying the role of the cytoskeleton. Like the bricks and walls of a building, the cytoskeleton is the ‘frame’ of the cell, providing support, keeping structures in place, and giving the cell a definite shape. If the cytoskeleton is not organised properly, for example from a faulty gene, heart cells and the heart itself will not form normally, leading to babies born with heart problems. Dr Noël and her team will use CRISPR to change or remove cytoskeleton genes in zebrafish – whose heart develops in a similar way to humans. In doing so, they will work out which heart cells require these genes, what they do in the cells, and what happens when the genes do not work normally – which will ultimately help us to understand more about why people with faults in their cytoskeleton genes can develop heart defects. A PhD student working with Dr Noël will also use CRISPR in zebrafish to study why faults in molecules called Dock6 and Eogt can cause heart problems in people with AdamsOliver syndrome (AOS). AOS is a rare inherited disorder characterised by defects of the scalp and abnormalities of the arms, fingers, legs or toes – with approximately 20% of babies born with the condition also having a heart defect.

| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

IT’S CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY A bit further south, at the University of Keele, we have awarded funding to Dr Vinoj George who will use the power of CRISPR to study an inherited disease of the heart muscle called arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC). In ARVC, faulty genes stop heart muscle cells (or cardiomyocytes) from sticking together correctly. As a result, the cells die and are replaced with fatty scar tissue, preventing the heart from pumping blood properly and causing abnormal heart rhythms. Combining CRISPR with a technology called optogenetics (which uses light to control cell behaviour), a PhD student working with Dr George will create 3D models of ARVC. First, they will introduce a mutation associated with severe ARVC into human stem cells, which have the potential to develop into any type of cell in the body. They will then allow the stem cells to grow into mature heart muscle cells on a 3D frame or scaffold. It might sound like science fiction, but new knowledge obtained from these models could help us to identify genetic differences linked to more severe forms of ARVC and reveal new ways to combat this disease.

A PAIR OF GENES Even further south, at the University of Birmingham, a PhD student working with Dr Neil Morgan is using CRISPR to study thrombocytopenia – a condition where someone has low levels of platelets in their blood. Platelets are cell fragments which can clump together to form a blood clot after an injury and so prevent excessive bleeding. People with thrombocytopenia can be prone to bruising, bleeding gums and nosebleeds as their blood is less able to clot. Dr Morgan and his team discovered that some people with this condition have faults in a gene called SLFN14. Using

It might sound like science fiction, but new knowledge obtained from these models could help us to identify genetic differences linked to more severe forms of ARVC and reveal new ways to combat this disease. 22


| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

| cardiovascular research |

Prof. James Leiper, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, looks at the future of heart and circulatory disease research “There’s a lot of very exciting cardiovascular research going on at the moment which the BHF is heavily investing in – from stem cell therapy and regenerative medicine to identifying genes that could be linked to heart and circulatory diseases. There’s also been great progress in understanding the role that the immune system plays in diseases such as atherosclerosis (the build-up of fatty plaque in your arteries). Atherosclerosis is essentially a disease of chronic inflammation, and we now know so much more about how specific components of your immune system drive the process of chronic inflammation. And if you really want to get excited about cardiovascular research, the four programs that have been shortlisted for the Big Beat Challenge are amazingly ambitious and exciting, and they all have the potential to take basic science through to the therapeutic arena. These are the plans laid out in the four shortlisted projects: 1) A soft robotic heart that replaces the need for heart transplants. It will have artificial muscles and sensors to enable natural movement, and a wireless energy supply.

CRISPR to edit the gene in platelets in mice, the BHFfunded researchers will now study how SLFN14 controls platelet formation and function. Ultimately, the results from this and similar studies will help us to understand more about how to treat bleeding disorders. At Imperial College London, BHF-funded researcher Dr Christopher Rhodes and his team are working on a project looking at pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) – a condition where the pressure in the blood vessels supplying the lungs rises, which can ultimately lead to heart failure. PAH can be hereditary (passed down in families), and unfortunately, there is currently no cure for it except for heart and lung transplants. Dr Rhodes and his team previously identified faults near a gene called SOX17 in people with heritable PAH. Using CRISPR in human blood vessel cells, mice and rats, the researchers will now introduce or remove mutations near the SOX17 gene to see how this influences blood vessel function and the development of PAH. They will also test whether different drugs can correct the effects of the faulty gene – providing hope that in the future this type of treatment could be used to help people with PAH.

WITH SHEAR POWER At the University of Oxford, Prof. Paul Riley and his team are using CRISPR to find out how to repair heart damage after injury, specifically looking at the heart’s ability to regenerate itself – like that of a superhero in a science fiction movie.

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Prof. James Leiper 2) Wearable technology that can be used in daily life to capture more information than ever before, recording everything from symptoms you’re experiencing to how your heart is working, as well as how much exercise you’re doing and even quality of the air you’re breathing. This information could transform diagnosis and treatment of heart diseases. 3) Building a detailed map and understanding of the fatty deposits that develop in arteries. This may lead to a new wave of medicines and vaccines that can prevent heart attacks and strokes. 4) A treatment that stops the action of the faulty genes that cause cardiomyopathies, the diseases of the heart muscle that can lead to sudden death or heart failure at an early age.”

For many years, this team has been studying cells in the epicardium – the outer layer of the heart known to be important for heart development. Their thinking is that if these epicardium cells could be switched on in adults who have sustained a heart injury, it may be possible to encourage the heart to repair itself. Studying adult zebrafish and new born mice – both of which can regenerate their hearts – the team aim to identify molecules in the epicardium that are important for ensuring heart repair in both species. If a molecule is identified as important in both zebrafish and mice, then it’s more likely to have a potential role in humans too. One way they will do this is by using CRISPR to remove selected genes in epicardium cells. Ultimately, their aim is to pinpoint molecules that, if targeted with drugs, could promote natural heart repair in people who have had a heart attack – a medical emergency at the root of around 200,000 hospital visits each year in the UK. Yes, we can all agree that 2020 has been a year like no other, but the fact that there are researchers out there using a Nobel Prize-winning discovery to help us beat heartbreak forever – to help us live in a world free from the fear of heart and circulatory diseases – is exactly what we all needed to know right now. www.bhf.org.uk


| dementia |

| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

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| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

| dementia |

HOPE ON THE HORIZON FOR ALZHEIMER’S TREATMENT People with dementia have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, according to the ONS, a quarter of people who have died from COVID-19 also had dementia. Changes to the world have brought new challenges for people living with dementia and some of our scientists are exploring how social isolation has impacted mental health, wellbeing, physical health, and the use of social care. Latest figures also show a worrying increase in prescription rates of antipsychotic medications for people with dementia. Typically, these are used for dealing with challenging behavioural symptoms that some people with dementia experience, but these drugs can have a powerful sedative effect and should only be used for these people where there is no alternative. It is possible that some of the increase in prescription is related to delirium management, but it is also possible that the increase was in response to worsened agitation and psychosis in relation to COVID-19 restrictions. The pandemic has also had huge implications for medical research, with labs forced to close earlier in the year. Even now, many labs conducting vital dementia research are not open at 100% capacity. Social distancing in specialised lab environments is difficult and getting clinical trials up and running again with volunteers at high risk of COVID-19 is challenging. Fixed-term contracts, all too common in biomedical research, mean that vital research staff do not have job security, and those in the early stages in their careers are at greatest risk of job losses. In fact, our recent survey revealed that one in three dementia researchers are considering leaving research because of COVID-19. At the same time, funders across the UK are struggling to make funding available for new research, meaning the challenge is compounded. As the UK’s leading dementia research charity, we are facing up to a 45% shortfall in income because of COVID-19. The pandemic is not only affecting our ability to fund new research this year but has the potential to alter the landscape of dementia research for years to come. What has not changed is our vision of a world without the fear, harm, and heartbreak of dementia. And we are committed to redoubling our efforts. Dementia is a progressive condition research for which we do not yet have a cure.

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Dr Susan Kohlhaas Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK However, there is hope. We have seen a great deal of progress in research over the last 10 years and there are new treatments in our sights. We expect to see the outcomes of an FDA priority review of the potential Alzheimer’s drug, aducanumab in 2021. This will determine whether is the drug licensed in the US. For the UK we will have to wait longer to learn whether there is sufficient evidence that aducanumab is safe and clinically effective to receive regulatory approval. While this would be a positive step forward, aducanumab is unlikely to be a silver bullet. Any new licensed drug still needs to be judged to be cost effective. As many of the experimental drugs in late stage clinical trials are thought to be most effective for people at the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s, a new diagnostic pathway would need to be developed. This would enable beneficiaries to be identified and treated to delay the progression of this devastating disease.


| dementia |

| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

Therefore, it’s still imperative we fast-track the development of a wide range of new treatment options.

chance of treating or preventing these diseases before the symptoms start to get in the way of life.

With the biology underpinning the diseases that cause dementia complex there is much to be done. The immune system, which is the body’s defence mechanism, safeguarding against damage and attack is one area that’s previously received less attention. It’s also an area where new treatments may arise. New start-up companies like AstronauTx, a spinout from Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Drug Discovery Alliance, will start to look to develop new medicines designed to reset the behaviour of crucial support cells in the brain.

Key support from the likes of philanthropist Bill Gates has allowed this project to ramp up even during the pandemic and researchers have been recruited to key positions.

It is likely that any new treatments in the pipeline will need to be given as early as possible to have the greatest effect. The diseases that cause dementia start in the brain decades before symptoms begin to show. Currently we can only diagnose these diseases once symptoms are apparent, which means treatments have a much harder job to do at this later stage. Technology advances are providing huge opportunities to intervene decades earlier, when these diseases first start to take hold. That’s where Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Early Detection of Neurodegenerative diseases (EDoN) initiative comes in. The project is pulling together a wealth of information from a huge number of studies that will ultimately allow us to develop and test a digital device designed to pick up subtle effects of diseases like Alzheimer’s in people who don’t yet have any obvious symptoms.

In COVID-stricken world, research is at risk, but there is hope. This year a new report has estimated that the number of dementia cases worldwide could be reduced by 40% if 12 risk factors for the condition could be eliminated. More research needs to be done to fully understand dementia risk, and to unpick why some of these factors may impact the number of people living with dementia. But this report points to a number of actions we can take now, both as individuals and as a society, that could reduce the number of people developing the condition in the future. The best advice for individuals is that what’s good for your heart is good for your head: that means eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, staying mentally and physically active, and keeping blood pressure, weight and cholesterol in check. Although it’s been a difficult year, progress in dementia research is still being made and there’s hope for what 2021 will bring. www.alzheimersresearchuk.org

Identifying the very earliest changes in these diseases would transform research efforts today, giving us the best

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Alzheimers Research - London Labs


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| innovation |

| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

Thriving commercial ecosystems will help universities to keep making an impact beyond Covid-19 Throughout 2020, the life sciences sector has been in the limelight. In the effort to overcome COVID-19, the sector has put into action an unprecedented global application of expertise. The deployment of great minds, public and private investment and advanced research, development, testing and manufacturing resources has seen one of the world’s most advanced, complex and safety conscious sectors moving at a pace that would be unheard of just several years ago. The same sector that has delivered at pace to tackle COVID-19 will continue to do so for other challenges and difficulties in healthcare, like cardiovascular medicine and repairing the nervous system. The approaches that have helped to respond to COVID-19 apply just as well to other complex life sciences challenges.

combining world-leading research, real-world health partnerships, entrepreneurial expertise, funding and specialist support.

As with potential COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, many of the most promising and impactful means of addressing other major challenges in healthcare are likely to emerge from leading research-intensive universities. As with COVID-19, that’s because those challenges require active ecosystems that nurture interdisciplinary, innovative solutions.

The research environment and community at UCL is regularly recognised as one of the world’s best for multidisciplinary research. That research environment also benefits from a range of partnerships with hospitals and health institutes that are focused on delivering patient care in the heart of a busy, global city, including Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.

Universities like (UCL) are ideally situated to foster those ecosystems for major health challenges. They do this by

For some researchers, that enables them to split their time between the clinic and their research,

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| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

image © James Tye, UCL.

| innovation |

helping to inspire new ideas and new innovations, and put technology into action. Researchers with innovative ideas can tap into a supportive funding environment that helps them to explore the commercial potential of their innovation, and the impact it could potentially make at scale. At UCL, for example, multiple routes exist for funding early stage innovation, such as the UCL Technology Fund and Apollo Therapeutics, a fund dedicated to supporting the translation of new therapies into impactful products. Dr Anne Lane, CEO of UCL Business (UCLB) the commercialisation company at UCL, sees a connection between the skillsets and approaches that delivered rapid innovation in 2020 to tackle COVID-19, and the ability to tackle other global challenges: “One of the reasons that it was possible to deliver COVID-19 interventions like the UCL-Ventura breathing aid so rapidly was because of the ability to combine the talent of UCL’s researchers with a wider ecosystem that helps support proof of concept early stage innovation. “Researchers can use insight from their own experiences with patients to put their research into action and begin making a real impact, and then seek funding for its development into a commercial solution. It also enables innovation to be trialled and improved more quickly. “The same certainly goes for other therapeutic priorities too, including some of the universal and incredibly complex health challenges like neurodegenerative diseases and cardiovascular medicine. What we add at UCLB is the experience to help researchers understand their innovation and IP, to protect it and to identify the right routes to take in order to make the biggest possible impact.” Echopoint is a UCLB spinout that is developing new technologies to address unmet needs in the precision diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease. It utilises breakthrough fibre optic technologies, demonstrating how innovative researchers can take technologies originally developed for one sector – in this case, telecommunications – and use it to tackle medical challenges too. The scale of the market for Echopoint’s technology is enormous. WHO identifies cardiovascular diseases as the number one cause of deaths globally, with around 17.9 million lives lost each year. Glialign, another UCLB spinout, is developing a pioneering ‘off-the-shelf’ nerve replacement to help repair damaged nervous systems.

THE SCALE OF THE MARKET FOR ECHOPOINT’S TECHNOLOGY IS ENORMOUS. THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION IDENTIFIES CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASES AS THE NUMBER ONE CAUSE OF DEATHS GLOBALLY, WITH AROUND 17.9 MILLION LIVES LOST EACH YEAR.

Nerves connect the body’s muscles, organs and spinal cord to provide sensation and movement. When nerves are cut, if they do not sufficiently regenerate to close the gap where they were cut, it can result in a poorer recovery that can result in muscle loss, control and feeling, with the potential for severe pain and lifelong pain. Glialign’s EngNT solution helps regenerating nerves to bridge those gaps by providing columns of living growth guides, using therapeutic cells and a natural gel material. While tackling very different therapeutic areas, Glialign and Echopoint have both been supported by UCL’s ecosystem to progress from research to early stage ventures with the ability to make a big impact on the lives of patients. Dr Anne Lane sees this type of ecosystem, as crucial to generating impactful life sciences innovation: “The importance of stimulating multidisciplinary research environments and thriving commercialisation ecosystems cannot be understated. It’s been incredibly important for

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Dr Anne Lane

“One of the reasons that it was possible to deliver COVID-19 interventions like the UCL-Ventura breathing aid so rapidly was because of the ability to combine the talent of UCL’s researchers with a wider ecosystem that helps support proof of concept early stage innovation.” spinouts like Echopoint and Glialign, who are tackling some of the most pressing challenges in health, but also across UCLB’s portfolio. “We were all proud at UCLB to celebrate our fourth NASDAQ listed spinout this year, all in the field of gene therapies. “Something they each have in common is that key team members are innovative, problem solving researchers working in a world-leading university closely connected with hospitals that are delivering patient care, embedded in ecosystems that help to support, fund and drive forward great innovation. “The ingenuity, invention and resilience that this period has demanded of all of us working in this sector will see further invention, ingenuity and then investment in new approaches to tackling other global health challenges too.” www.uclb.com


| antibiotic resistance |

| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

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| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

| antibiotic resistance |

WEAPONISING THE FIGHT AGAINST ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE Could faecal transplants be an effective weapon in the fight back against antibiotic resistance? A research team at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust intends to find out, once and for all. By HELEN COMPSON While faecal transplants have been used in medical settings since the 1940s to treat the stubborn infection that is Clostridium difficile, it wasn’t until the early noughties that the first clinical trials took place to establish whether the anecdotal evidence that spoke for their efficacy held water. Good, randomised control evidence did indeed begin to emerge, indicating a patient in the grip of C.diff. – a potentially fatal infection characterised by inflammation of the colon and severe diarrhoea - could be rescued with an infusion of good bacteria donated by a healthy individual. But an even more exciting possibility began to open up when it was realised that many of those same C.diff. patients also had antibiotic resistant bacteria in their gut too. Dr Blair Merrick, Clinical Research Fellow and trial co-ordinator at Guy’s and St Thomas’s, said: “That in itself isn’t much of a surprise, because if someone has been given a lot of antibiotics, they are at greater risk of developing C.diff. in the first place - antibiotics kill bacteria good and bad, allowing bad bacteria to then become the dominant species.

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“What was interesting though was the finding that where people had both C.diff. and antibiotic resistant organisms in their gut and were successfully treated for the former with faecal transplant, the latter seemed to disappear as well.” Was that a coincidence … or not? In October, the team’s FERARO study – into the feasibility of Faecal microbiota transplant to ERadicate gastrointestinal carriage of Antibiotic Resistant Organisms – finally got under way after having been on hold since March, along with most other non-Covid-19 essential research, In this 18-month-long, randomised controlled trial, half of the 80 participants will be given faecal transplants, the other half a placebo, and their progress charted during the following six months. The results will determine the likely success of a larger, substantive trial. “We are looking at people with antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) in their gut who have also had an invasive infection in the preceding six months,” said Dr Merrick.


| antibiotic resistance |

| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

“Some people do just have ARB in their gut, but it doesn’t cause a problem. It can be there transiently too, if someone has travelled to parts of the world where it is prevalent, such as the Asian sub-continent. “But we want to work out how to treat people where it has gone on to cause a problem, perhaps an infection in the urine or bloodstream or biliary system, and then because of the antibiotic resistance, the treatment options are more limited.” Such patients commonly get locked into a cycle of increasingly unsuccessful treatments until there are no options left. Dr Merrick said: “There is a cohort that gets stuck in hospital, or keeps coming back with infections that recur because of resistant organisms. It has a massive effect on their lives. “It is also much more expensive to treat people with ARB. They stay in hospital longer and their outcomes are worse. “So if we are able to treat the condition and the effects are long-lasting, it will be an important step.” Currently there aren’t any specific treatments for eradicating ARB, but the hope of the FERARO team is that re-establishing a healthy environment in the gut by repopulating it with bacteria from another individual, will prove to be a viable strategy. “The big caveat is the availability of the supply of donations from healthy individuals,” he said. “That’s something we are struggling with.” More altruistic donors who are both willing to go through full health screening and who live within two hours of the hospital are needed. Time is of the essence before the bacteria in the donations, begin to die, while formulating the subsequent treatment is time-consuming. Saline solution is added to the stool sample, which is then turned into slurry. Undigested food is filtered out and then bacteria are pelleted by centrifugation. A cryoprotectant is added and the solution is then freeze-dried and divided up into capsules. He said: “Faecal transplants have traditionally been delivered either in a liquid solution through a nasal gastric tube or via a tube pushed up the back passage and around to the start of the colon, neither of which is particularly pleasant for the patient. “And if you have to do that several times over, it’s a big undertaking for the individual concerned and the medical staff. “You can see the benefits of making a capsule the treatment!”

“But we want to work out how to treat people where it has gone on to cause a problem, perhaps an infection in the urine or bloodstream or biliary system, and then because of the antibiotic resistance, the treatment options are more limited.”

Dr Blair Merrick Clinical Research Fellow at Guy’s and St Thomas’s

Ultimately, the team hopes patients “won’t think twice” about what they are taking, although as Dr Merrick says, that remains to be seen. In the long term, relying on human donations is unlikely to be sustainable. There is too great an input for too little output. “I think we need to look towards the laboratory manufacture of solutions by trying to mimic what the good things are in the stool donations,” he said. “That entails identifying exactly what the ‘good things’ are and then what a good, healthy balance of bacteria looks like.” One anomaly the team is already aware of is the differing patient responses to the donated material. “We know from when faecal transplant has been used to treat inflammatory bowel diseases that, for some reason, certain donations seemed to be more efficacious than others,” said Dr Merrick. “What we don’t know is why. “It is likely there is a dependence on the reason for which the transplant was given, because with C.diff. it would appear it doesn’t matter who gives the donation, while with IBD it seems that some donors may be better than others. “I’m not sure we will be able to find out why with the number of people we have in this study, but ultimately it will be a really important question to answer.” Anyone interested in talking to the FERARO team about the trial can contact them via email ppi@gstt.nhs.uk.

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| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

| news |

Biofriendly protocells pump up blood vessels An international team comprising researchers from the University of Bristol, and Hunan and Central South Universities in China, have prepared biocompatible protocells that generate nitric oxide gas – a known reagent for blood vessel dilation - that when placed inside blood vessels expand the biological tissue. In a new study published in Nature Chemistry, Professor Stephen Mann and Dr Mei Li from Bristol’s School of Chemistry, together with Associate Professor Jianbo Liu and colleagues at Hunan University and Central South University in China, prepared synthetic protocells coated in red blood cell fragments for use as nitric oxide generating bio-bots within blood vessels. Coating the protocells led to increased levels of biocompatibility and longer blood circulation times. Critically, the team trapped an enzyme inside the protocells which, in the presence of glucose, produced hydrogen peroxide. This was then used by haemoglobin in the protocell membrane to degrade the drug molecule hydroxyurea into nitric oxide gas. When placed inside small pieces of blood vessels, or injected into a carotid artery, the protocells produced sufficient amounts of nitric oxide to initiate the biochemical pathways responsible for blood vessel vasodilation.

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Although at a very early stage of development, the new approach could have significant benefits in biomedicine, cellular diagnostics and bioengineering. Professor Stephen Mann, Co-Director of the Max Planck Bristol Centre for Minimal Biology at Bristol, said: “This work could open up a new horizon in protocell research because it highlights the opportunities for creating therapeutic, cell-like objects that can directly interface with living biological tissues.” Associate Professor Jianbo Liu at Hunan University added: “We are all really excited about our proof-of-concept studies but there is a lot of work still to be done before protocells can be used effectively as biobots in therapeutic applications. But the potential looks enormous.” ‘Enzyme-mediated nitric oxide production in vasoactive erythrocyte membraneenclosed coacervate protocells’ by Liu S, Zhang Y, Li M, Xiong L, Yang X, He X, Wang K, Liu J and Mann S. in Nature Chemistry.


| storage and logistics |

| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

EXPERT EQUIPS ENTREPRENEURS TO SURVIVE ADVERSITY Expert in the field of biological sample storage and logistics management, CRYONISS is also adept at evaluating business continuity plans and identifying the holes that might well prove to be their pitfall.

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| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

| storage and logistics |

Cheshire-based Cryoniss offers a comprehensive storage service at ambient, +4°C, -20°C and -80°C, as well as vapour phase liquid nitrogen at -196°C. Those temperatures cannot be allowed to falter; there is no leeway. As such, Cryoniss has a business continuity management system that is second to none. Following a risk-based approach, Cryoniss has in place extensive risk assessments, business impact analyses and several business continuity plans covering not only the safety and integrity of the samples it holds, but also its service provision to their customers. What’s more, these plans are stress-tested on a frequent and regular basis, keeping pace with new developments. But there’s many a company that can’t say the same. For some, the discovery that their safety net has frayed due to lack of maintenance comes too late. “It has been interesting to see how Covid-19 has changed the appreciation of risk in our industry,” said chief executive Sonia Houghton. Risk isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Quite the opposite; it can pave the way for many a great innovation. But understanding what risks can impact the survival of a business and implementing plans to mitigate these are crucial to surviving adversity. “As Dr Kath Mackay, at Alderley Park, said in a recent issue of Forbes magazine, as we head out of the EU transition period, our Government and investors need to accept risk and invest in what might well be small companies with new ideas, because that will ensure we will continue to lead the world in terms of innovation,” said Sonia. “There is a time and a place however, to accept risk, but in doing that, you need to put in place the contingency plan that will protect your core business, minimise disruption and keep it on track whatever problem arises.” Far from being solely about disaster recovery – although that element does indeed equip staff to deal effectively with worst case scenarios – business continuity plans should embrace the breadth and depth of any enterprise. Used properly, they can act as a routine health-check that identifies and allows the causes of potential business interruptions to be remedied before they cause untold harm.

Sonia said: “With business continuity plans, you don’t plan for what might happen, rather you identify the elements that are critical to the survival of your business, whether that is crucial staff, high-speed Wifi or, in our case, electricity.” The Cryoniss team has a wealth of experience in supporting drug discovery projects, from early-stage target identification through to clinical trials and life cycle management. What the company prides itself on most is enabling its clients to carry out exceptional science by ensuring samples remain of the highest quality - and every single last detail of its live and continually improving business continuity management system is tailored to that end. For example, two different power supplies feed the company’s laboratory freezers and there is a back-up generator too. Should either of the feeds fail, the system automatically switches to the next one available. The bimonthly testing schedule confirms there is no downtime. Uninterrupted power supplies ensure that the monitoring of temperature probes in the freezers, reporting and alarms cover the seconds for the changeover of electricity supply, and again should the worst happen, staff are automatically notified of an issue. The 2-tonne generator itself is tested routinely, serviced annually and has been validated to run for 4 days with existing load. Following this, validated refuelling procedures are in place for 24/7/365 use. But should the unthinkable actually happen, Cryoniss has yet more layers of protection in place. Being aware of time frames – how quickly you would need to respond, what critical requirements (staff and resources) are required to deliver each step of a plan and how long it would take you to do so - is key to business continuity planning, alongside frequent stress testing and assessing opportunities to improve the plan further. Sonia said: “We are living in unprecedented times and people do need to take a step back to reassess the situation and the many possible impacts on their business, particularly during the pandemic and while we are approaching the end of the EU transition period. “Hopefully, with a little forethought and planning, 2021 will be a lot easier for everyone.” www.cryoniss.com

“Risk isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Quite the opposite; it can pave the way for many a great innovation. But understanding what risks can impact the survival of a business and implementing plans to mitigate these are crucial to surviving adversity.” Sonia Houghton, Cryoniss chief Executive 35


| pharmaceuticals production |

| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

INDUSTRY-ACADEMIA PARTNERSHIP LAUNCHES ONE STEP MANUFACTURING PROCESS FOR PHARMACEUTICAL DOSAGE FORMS Cubi-Tech Extrusion Limited, a Cubic Pharmaceuticals Ltd company, puts an end to some of the problems inherent in pharmaceuticals production. Process efficiency and continuous manufacturing are certainly hot topics in the pharmaceutical industry right now, and with good reason.

the University of Greenwich in conjunction with Cubic Pharmaceuticals Ltd, is the solution the industry has been crying out for.

Global population growth and the escalating nature of current health crises are driving the corresponding demand for new technology capable of producing medicines faster, while yet maintaining full quality and compliance.

A continuous manufacturing system that can handle the most challenging active pharmaceutical ingredients, for example those with poor water solubility or weak physical properties, SiSTME uses solid-state extrusion granulation to produce tablets and capsules that dissolve up to 20 times faster than those produced traditionally.

SiSTME, a single-step thermo mechanical engineering process for pharmaceutical manufacturing invented by

“The global medicine market was worth $1tn in 2014 and that is expected to be double in the next two or three years. That presents very positive opportunities for pharmaceutical industries in the UK, which had £24bn in exports that year.” Dr Mo Maniruzzaman, co-inventor of SiSTME and a field expert in pharmaceutical formulations and technology

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| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

| pharmaceuticals production |

SiSTME process

Dr Mo Maniruzzaman, co-inventor of SiSTME and a field expert in pharmaceutical formulations and technology, described the manufacturing platform - the result of superlative collaboration between academia and industry – as a “first in class” approach to solving a number of pervasive production problems that pharmaceutical industry is currently facing. “The global pharmaceutical market is going through a period of dramatic change in which emerging markets, easier to manufacture medicines and novel manufacturing platforms will increase sector growth,” he said. “The global medicine market was worth $1tn in 2014 and that is expected to be double in the next two or three years. That presents very positive opportunities for pharmaceutical industries in the UK, which had £24bn in exports that year.

MORE THAN 40% OF CANDIDATES CURRENTLY IN THE DRUG DISCOVERY PIPELINE SUFFER FROM EITHER POOR SOLUBILITY OR POOR ABSORPTION INTO THE HUMAN BODY.

“However, there are issues to be addressed to achieve the level of output required.”

“In order to action that, we need alternative technologies that can make medicine available quickly, efficiently and at reduced cost, but without compromising its quality. “SiSTME is one of the very few technologies that can actually meet all those challenges.” Saumil Bhatt is chief executive of Cubic Pharmaceuticals Ltd, which currently has three patents approved in the UK, including SiSTME, the latter being granted both in the UK and USA. Together they cover the pharmaceutical manufacturing process from beginning to end – from prototype development through production and regulatory approval to subsequent scale-up. The single-step production process brings with it a wealth of benefits, not least the fact it ends the ‘segmented’ approach that can allow deviations in formula and human error to creep in.

For starters, more than 40% of candidates currently in the drug discovery pipeline suffer from either poor solubility or poor absorption into the human body.

Mr Bhatt said: “At the Good Manufacturing and Distribution Practice Symposium held (online) at the beginning of December, the MHRA really pressed home the case for continuous manufacturing processes.

“So, we need a product that has very good water solubility,” Dr Mo Maniruzzaman said. “And even if a drug does have some type of solubility advantage, we then need to ensure it does not suffer from poor flow or poor stability.

“One reason, as far as the regulator is concerned, is the otherwise inability of some companies to produce demonstrably genuine data during R&D and/or manufacturing.

“Luckily SiSTME ticks both boxes by not only improving the solubility, but making the resultant products more process friendly, in other words with good flow properties.”

“With SiSTME, milling, extrusion, and pressing to form dosage forms such as tablets all happen in one process, guided by the data inputted into a computer, so there are no recipe deviations, no human mistakes and nothing but a true record of all that took place.

SiSTME produces salts in a solid-state through an acid-base reaction and as such, it supports the largely weakly acidic or basic proclivity of the drugs in the discovery pipeline. And because water is not used to facilitate a reaction, nor any solvent added during the reactive mixing in the continuous twin-screw extruder barrel, the perennial problem of recrystallisation and resultant regulatory concerns are avoided. “The number of new products coming on the market is forcing manufacturers to embrace new processes that reduce both time and waste,” he said.

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“Integrity, transparency and consistency, that is what you get – quality by design!” SiSTME is available for potential partnership to address challenges likes solubility, poor physical properties, and manufacturing. Further information on SiSTME and the complementary services can be found on https://cubi-tech.co.uk/patents/#SiSTME or www. cubicpharmacy.co.uk


| news |

| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

University of Exeter and Medicines Discovery Catapult combine The University of Exeter and Medicines Discovery Catapult (MDC) have announced their strategic partnership to accelerate medicines Research & Development (R&D), creating value for the sector and enhancing translational skills. MDC is the national centre for technology, innovation and adoption for medicines R&D and, in collaboration with the University of Exeter and its ground-breaking researchers, will maximise the impact and value of basic medical research, to the ultimate benefit of patients. Importantly, this partnership also produces a post-COVID blueprint for academic-Catapult collaboration to drive UK productivity. To discover new medicines, high quality research must be translated into new drug candidates or technologies through an industrial process of refinement and structured experimentation. This combination of academic endeavour with industrial rigour is critical to produce assets that can be adopted by industry or funded by venture capital. Sharing skills and experience across these two disciplines is also key to how translation can be dramatically improved across UK institutions at this time of exceptional challenge. Coupling the world-class research at Exeter with MDC’s industry skills, cutting-edge discovery platforms, data technologies and access to its national networks ensures promising innovations are identified, independently validated and packaged so that industry and funders are able to adopt them, with clear benefits to the entire community.

Activities of focus for the partners can be broadly categorised as follows: Identifying research that can be supported at its earliest stages Developing identified innovation into an independently validated proposition, allowing investors and pharmaceutical partners to join projects with confidence Embedding industry standard drug discovery thinking and knowledge at the point of ideation, creating better medicines of the future Identifying and developing new mechanisms to sustain the development of these medicines, through novel funding mechanisms and partnerships Collaboration between the two organisations was initiated and facilitated by Dr. Jehangir Cama, David Whitehouse and Prof. Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova, members of the Wellcome Trust funded ‘Translational Research Exchange @ Exeter’ (TREE). Joint events were hosted pre-COVID-19 at Exeter’s flagship Living Systems Institute to identify early stage innovation, which subsequently initialised several projects involving University of Exeter academic staff, pre-spin out companies and industry specialists at MDC to create independently validated propositions and thus accelerate their development to clinic. The announced formal agreement of a strategic partnership between the University and MDC will now further strengthen and develop the collaboration, delivering a new paradigm for University-Catapult cooperation and translational science in the UK.

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The National Horizons Centre (NHC) is a new ÂŁ22.3m purpose-built research, education and training facility for the biosciences sector, located in Central Park, Darlington. Collaborating with industry partners, the NHC is playing a pivotal role in tackling sector challenges, delivering outstanding technical, leadership and digital skills, world-class research and innovation, and excellence in teaching.

CONTACT US

E: T:

business@tees.ac.uk 01642 384068

CAG 11584

W: www.nationalhorizonscentre.org.uk


| bioprocessing |

| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

DATA SCIENCE BEGINNING TO DRIVE HEALTHCARE Teesside University’s £22m National Horizons Centre opened in September 2019 with two objectives, to drive research into bioprocessing, digital and health, and to plug the yawning skills gap. Research, teaching and enterprise are its watchwords. The work of the National Horizons Centre is a prime example of how bioinformatics and data science are being harnessed to manage patient care today. The practice of modelling diseases with a view to producing the means of early diagnoses has come into its own during Covid-19, when research institutes such as the NHC have certainly stepped up to the plate. Its Head of Bioscience Research, Prof. Vikki Rand, said: “We are part of a study working with clinicians from local NHS Trusts to understand the clinical course of COVID-19 cases in the region and in other countries. “This study uses clinical data collected from COVID-19 patients, which we are analysing to identify risk factors associated with patient survival that could guide future treatment strategies.” In parallel, the team is investigating underlying aspects such as respiratory disease and the cytokine storm that can prove a disastrous turning point not just in Covid-19, but other diseases too. The multidisciplinary team within works in partnership with industry, academia and the NHS, translating research into effective strategy in four key areas: Health and Disease

prof. vikki rand Head of Bioscience Research

Bioinformatics and Data Science Biotechnology and Analytics Sustainable Planet Prof. Rand said: “The four themes encapsulate our fundamental and applied research, which is aimed at exploring the characterisation, understanding and modelling of complex interactions within biological systems. “This includes the study of cancer and other diseases, food technology, development of medical diagnostic devices, ecology and environment, forensic archaeology and biotechnology enhancement.”

The results of its research are published in prestigious journals and regularly showcased at national and international conferences. In terms of ‘Health and Disease’, the team’s overarching aim is to help improve the lives of people both in the UK and beyond, ironing out as many North/South and rich country/ poor country disparities in healthcare provision as it can. She said: “Working in partnership with healthcare providers, we identify the current medical needs across a range of diseases, using cutting-edge genomics, next-generation sequencing and proteomic approaches, we aim to improve the lives of people in the UK and worldwide.

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| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

| bioprocessing |

Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and asthma are among the range of diseases on the NHC’s radar. Besides reinforcing the pathway to early diagnosis, it is determined to help fine-tune risk stratification and make personalised medicine a reality. The continuing development of high-throughput technologies across healthcare, forensics, biotechnology and environmental research puts data at the heart of its work. As such, the ‘Bioinformatics and Data Science’ heading embraces the disciplines of genomics, machine-

“Working in partnership with healthcare providers, we identify the current medical needs across a range of diseases, using cutting-edge genomics, next-generation sequencing and proteomic approaches, we aim to improve the lives of people in the UK and worldwide.”

learning, proteomics, survival analysis and forensic and environmental imaging. “Innovative bioinformatics approaches are essential to enable the analysis of large amounts of data to reveal new insights,” she said, “so an important element of our work is designing new tools that enable an enhanced level of management and interpretation.” Equally, the team is intent on identifying the biomarkers of pathogens and disease whilst developing the related diagnostic tools, and validating cutting-edge 3D imaging technologies that could be used in the analysis, visualisation and courtroom presentation of forensic evidence. Meanwhile, the research that comes under the heading of ‘Biotechnology and Analytics’ tackles drug manufacturing, bioprocessing, pharmaceuticals proteomics and mass spectrometry, including the study of metabolism and drug interaction and protein structure and function. Sustainable planet’ is, by definition, the biggest subject heading of all. Embracing pressing global environmental issues, it draw engineers, geographers, environmental geochemists, ecologists, biologists, food scientists and forensic scientists into the orbit of the National Horizons Centre. Prof. Rand said: “Here, the common goal is to deliver state-of-the-art research drawing on our expertise across the four themes. The multi-disciplinary approach at the NHC will enable us to translate our research into realworld impact.” www.tees.ac.uk/nhc

prof. vikki rand

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| news |

| BIOSCIENCE TODAY |

Company Launches to Develop New Innovative Technologies and Products Headquartered in West Lothian, Scotland, Bluestream Research & Development specialise in health sciences, engineering and technology sector projects and innovations. Founded by Kenneth Redmond, Bluestream Research & Development was launched to offer innovation project support and the company is keen for other firms, including higher education institutions and those involved in Coronavirus (COVID-19) treatment and prevention, to consider business to university collaborations.

The initial project that Bluestream revealed they are exploring is to investigate altering cancer in the laboratory. They state that their aim is to investigate the initial signs and symptoms of cancer and approach applications to similar laboratory ideas such as the USA chip for finding one cancer cell in a million. Their second project in consideration is to investigate whether dementia can be altered or prevented with different intervention.

Delivering a dedicated research and development service with primary inclusion of three months initial design, Bluestream offers expert innovation and patent support, ensuring all projects and developments remain fully confidential.

Commenting on the project, Redmond added: “Dementia alteration can be based on initial genes before they deteriorate and a lot of dementia conditions are covered under a similar umbrella – including frontal lobe dementia which is related to ten years previously suffering depression and others which are related to protein developments in the brain.”

Kenneth Redmond, Founder of Bluestream Research & Development, has also announced that they are in the process of researching and developing their own innovations across their specialised sectors.

Bluestream’s full list of development projects was revealed on their website in October 2020, with projects in cancer collapsing, embankment support and dementia alteration and prevention due to begin in August 2021.

Redmond commented: “We have a few patents to consider based on our engineering and health sciences experience and we are currently looking at developing a few projects, similar to our innovations, and deciding if they can be patented too.”

For more information on Bluestream Research & Development, visit www.bluestreamresearch.org or contact kennyr@bluestreamresearch.org.

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BioScience Today 22  

The magazine connecting all those who work in the UK BioScience sector

BioScience Today 22  

The magazine connecting all those who work in the UK BioScience sector