University College London Flexible Talent Mobility Account

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Cell and Developmental Biology


Abstracts are not currently available in GtR for all funded research. This is normally because the abstract was not required at the time of proposal submission, but may be because it included sensitive information such as personal details.


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Description The FTMA2 award was projected to fund up to twelve (12) Innovation Placement secondments to the industry or commercial sectors. Three (3) were completed before a delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a further eight (8) were completed during the disruption and before the end of the award. One placement could not be executed because of severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic disruption on the operations of the host, partner company for the placement. The impacts associated with the award include the further development of new commercialisable technical products, the training of early career scientists for commercial awareness and knowledge transfer impact in three different organisations.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Education,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology
Impact Types Economic

Description Innovation Placement - Dr Catherine Walker with Neil's Dairy Farm Ltd (Neil's Yard) 
Organisation Neals Yard
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Dr Walker spent her Innovation Placement working with Bronwen Percival, Cheese Buyer at Neal's Yard Dairy (NYD). She studied traditional cheesemaking techniques while investigating how microbial diversity affects the qualities and flavours of cheese. She visited small-scale, commercially successful artisan cheesemakers in the UK and engaged with producers of raw and pasteurised cheeses to gain insights into some untested assumptions on the effects of heat treatment on cheese quality. She also investigated farms using robotic, self-milking herd technologies in artisan cheese production. These interactions provided opportunities to formulate new hypotheses and novel approaches to assess variation in microbial communities and its effects in cheesemaking. Dr Walker conducted a pilot study with NYD investigating the microbial diversity in raw milk, starter culture and mature cheese of one producer. Building on this work, she aimed to better understand current artisan production practices and record 'hands-on' microbial knowledge from cheesemakers. Some producers choose to ripen their cheeses at NYD, London, which may leave an identifiable 'microbial fingerprint' on these cheeses. Other artisan cheesemakers believe heat pasteurisation has an undesirable effect on cheese taste and texture by reducing microbial diversity. Collecting samples on farm visits, she designed future studies using 16S rRNA gene sequencing to assess the effect of heat treatment on microbial diversity. Some dairies working with NYD have frozen starter culture libraries, dating back to the 1930's, affording her a unique opportunity to identify and quantify microbial diversity through time. As an early career researcher, Dr Wlaker's professional intent was to establish productive routes to collaboration with traditional cheesemakers for the explorations of the role of microbial diversity in cheesemaking from a research perspective. Artisan cheesemakers lack the resources and experience to identify microbial diversity in their production using gene sequencing. Analysing the data obtained would address whether traditional techniques have quantifiable traits differentiating them from large-scale commercial cheeses. The initial investigation during the Innovation Placement would allow the design of future genetic investigations to address why certain traditional practises succeed and/or fail. While large-scale cheesemakers analyse their production techniques, no one has investigated artisan producers. This Placement would therefore directly addresses a gap in research within a growing market sector. This work provided new insights into the efficacies and benefits of traditional dairying practises for the purposes of adding value.
Collaborator Contribution Neil's Dairy Farm Ltd (Neil's Yard) hosted Dr Walkers Innovation placement for 3 months from 16th March to 20th June 2021.
Impact A successful Innovation placement
Start Year 2021
Description Innovation Placement - Dr Conor Lanphere with Sixfold Biosciences Ltd 
Organisation Sixfold Bioscience
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Dr Lanphere spent his Innovation Placement at Sixfold Bioscience, a biotechnology SME based at the Translation and Innovation Hub at Imperial College London. Sixfold is focused on preclinical research and development of its patented Programmable Oligonucleotide Delivery System (PODS) for systemic delivery of Cell & Gene therapeutics. Oligonucleotide-based therapeutics such as siRNA or mRNA are a promising area of development, but challenges posed by delivery and cytoplasmic availability limit their clinical application. Therefore, the overarching goal of Dr Lanphere's placement was to address these challenges. To achieve this, he augmented the research and innovation capabilities at Sixfold by implementing biophysical testing as an integral component. The insight into the biophysical properties of PODS candidates provided a crucial level of data to better optimize each candidate's activity. Properties of particular interest were membrane interactions, cytoplasmic availability and the influence of any modifications on activity, availability and delivery. Dr Lanphere and Sixfold reasoned that effectively addressing these needs would lead directly to the development of more effective therapeutic candidates. Dr. Lanphere's personal professional goal was to gain experience of working in a fast-paced SME biotech company as part of a fully integrated multi-disciplinary innovation team as well as understanding how this fits into a small company framework. The small size of the company also provided valuable exposure to the business side of science in industry which Dr Lanphere hoped would be good for his career development. Dr Lanphere also aimed to broaden his skillset and apply new skills to new translational fields in nanotechnology and biotechnology and also gain insights into the state of the biotech field outside of academia and what types of problems companies need to address.
Collaborator Contribution Sixfold Bioscience Ltd hosted Dr Lanphere's innovation placement for three three months between 1st April and 30th June 2021.
Impact Successful 3 month innovation placement.
Start Year 2021
Description Innovation Placement - Dr Jonna Petzold with Cerata Ltd 
Organisation Certara
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Dr Petzold spent her Innovation Placement at Certara, a research-based company which provides modelling and simulation solutions to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry to aid drug development programmes. Her Innovation Placement allowed her to immerse herself in a environment in which cutting-edge research, consultancy and modelling is conducted for a diverse client base. Throughout this placement, she interacted with scientists from various backgrounds and institutions and this aided greatly in her professional development. Here specific goals and projects were to: 1) Provide biological support to the QSP team and assist in the development, review and implementation of new and existing computational tools to aid drug discovery - this developed her understanding of computational methodology in drug discovery, and her own computational skills 2) Produce scientific materials related to QSP models - here she applied her scientific background in a commercial setting. 3) Attend internal scientific meetings and participate in the discussions with QSP scientists for the development of new tools and models - here she learnt how to communicate and work collaboratively with different industries, whilst also greatly expanding her network of contacts. 4) Help with the development of the Certara QSP model database, getting information from QSP scientists, mining the literature and populating the database with relevant quantitative information and parameter values. 5) Interact with QSP consultants (in the UK and abroad) and help them to improve the biological description of models and materials to be shared with clients Dr Petzold believes that most of her technical and personal professional objectives were fully met or exceeded.
Collaborator Contribution Certara hosted Dr Petzold's Innovation Placement for 3 months between 8th March and 13th June 2021.
Impact A successful 3-month Innovation Placement.
Start Year 2021
Description Innovation Placement - Dr Karkaria Behzad with Hummingbird Diagnostics Ltd 
Organisation Hummingbird Diagnostics
Country Germany 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Dr Behzad spent his Innovation Placement with Hummingbird Diagnostics, a biotech company developing liquid biopsy diagnostics based on miRNA biomarkers in blood. Hummingbird are developing pipelines for the early detection of diseases including non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC), Alzheimer's and breast cancer. Dr Behzad's goals were to gain experience of working with nucleic acid sequencing data and other clinically relevant data types. He developed his technical and computational skills in applied machine learning techniques and their effective use with clinical datasets. The experience of working in a biotech company and start-up environment gave Dr Behzad valuable exposure for the future. In contributing to the Hummingbird Diagnostics enterprise with the analytical skills developed during his PhD Dr Behzad hoped to contribute to improving the existing diagnostic pipeline and the development of the value of new datasets. Specifically, his projects encompassed: The investigation and comparison of batch effect normalisation methods for clinical data collected in different locations; Investigation of methods to improve diagnostic accuracy using machine learning; database development and exploration of ways of combining data from different sources for use in machine learning approaches.
Collaborator Contribution Hummingbird Diagnostics hosted Dr Behzad's innovation placement for three months between 30th March and 30th June 2021.
Impact A successful 3-month Innovation Placement
Start Year 2021
Description Innovation Placement - Dr Luca Rosa with CC Biotech Ltd 
Organisation CC Biotech
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Dr Rosa spent his Innovation Placement at CC Biotech. In the last decades, a growing range of evidence has linked the human microbiome to human health. CC Biotech is a fast paced start-up tackling microbiome-associated diseases using both systems and synthetic biology approaches. CC Biotech's goal is to be able to precisely edit the microbiome to prevent disease progression using genetically engineered bacteria as biotherapeutics. These bacteria would first "sense" the presence of dysbiosis (microbial imbalance causing ill-health or disease) in the microbiome, and deploy protein therapeutics to remove harmful bacteria in this microbiome (pathobionts), restoring a healthy bacterial environment. As part of their technology development they have developed a drug discovery platform, called Zeus, which mines for different classes of proteins. Essentially, the goal of Dr Rosa's placement was to expand this platform for the discovery of transcription factors and transporters, which are essential components of the "sensing" element of the CC Biotech therapeutic bacteria. More specifically his goals were to: 1) Develop Hidden Markov Models for protein domains unique to transcription factors and transporters. This involved building the model and annotation of the genes within a domain of interest. 2) Build a domain-architecture library representing all transcription factors and transporters. This would then be used to constrain the output of the previous objective to identify false positives. 3) Predict transcription factor function from the genomic context. This would allow identification of potential transcription factors that bind analytes of interest for the development of the biosensors. The goal is to then screen this library in the lab. Dr Rosa's intention was to bring to bear on CC Biotech's challenges the deep experience that he developed during his PhD in synthetic biology and biosensors development and to provide CC Bio with key technical expertise on the experimental design/feasibility in the wet-lab. He also aimed to get clear sight of how a discovery platform pipeline is developed in a commercial setting. Throughout the placement he also gained valuable exposure to a vibrant start-up environment in order to allow him to learn how an idea is developed into a business strategy.
Collaborator Contribution CC Biosciences hosted Dr Rosa's Innovation Placement for 3-months between 1st April and 30th June 2021.
Impact A successful 3-month Innovation Placement.
Start Year 2021
Description Innovation Placement - Dr Marios Paulas with Innovation Momentum 
Organisation Neapolis University
Country Cyprus 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We placed Dr Marios Poullas on a 3-month knowledge exchange placement with Innovation Momentum based at Neapolis University in Cyprus. Innovation Momentum is an organisation aiming to promote innovation at the wider EMEA region. more details can be found at: As Innovation momentum is a start-up, the placement aimed to help establish the organisation. Marios primarily assisted with activities associated with business development and also with coordinating and expanding the community of volunteers which delivers the organisations events. The main outcomes for the placement can be summarised as: 1) Expansion of the list with potential sponsors 2) Initiatiion of discussions with potential sponsors 3) Creation of awareness for positions available within the organisation to postgraduate students 4) Expansion of the community of volunteers 5) Coordination of the team deliver a large event within the time of placement The innovation placement volunteer community is mainly comprised of postgraduate students and aims to engage the knowledge and transferable skills of scientists with problems requiring innovation and enterprise. Innovation Momentum exposes scientists with limited knowledge and experience in the industry and commercial sectors to the industry/corporate/entrepreneurial world, helping them expand their skills beyond academia and in exchange, it utilises their knowledge and skillset to deliver events to the public supporting and promoting innovation in a variety of fields. Innovation momentum is considering future collaborations with the UKRI-BBSRC LIDo DTP , such as hosting DTP students for their Professional Internships for PhD Students (PIPS), or otherwise. This placement can also be viewed as a field test for LIDo DTP to discover if it can work with Innovation Momentum in the future to reach the EMEA innovation arena.
Collaborator Contribution Innovation Momentum provide all accommodation and communication facilities for the project as well as day-to-day collaboration and support.
Impact Marios is now CEO of Innovation Momentum
Start Year 2019
Description Innovation Placement - Dr Silvia Peripolli with AstraZeneca PLC 
Organisation AstraZeneca
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Dr Peripolli's aim in her innovation placement was to apply her expertise in replication stress to help guide cancer treatment development. During her PhD she studied replication stress, one of several mechanisms that are at the basis of cancer initiation. Replication stress, which is defective DNA replication, is present in many cancers. Cancer is initiated by DNA mutations that allow cells to continuously divide. Cell division involves the duplication of the genetic material, the DNA, and the subsequent segregation of the duplicated genome to two identical cells. Continuous cell divisions induce replication stress. This causes additional mutations in the DNA allowing cancer development. An important consequence of this is that cancer cells become increasingly dependent on mechanisms that allow them to tolerate replication stress and repair damaged DNA. Dr Peripolli had made extensive studies of the molecular mechanisms that cause replication stress sufficient to understand how cancer associated mutations cause replication stress and how cancer cells can tolerate this. Her long-term goal is to use her expertise to help guide the use of existing cancer treatments and identify novel cancer drug targets for cancers experiencing high levels of replication stress. A short innovation placement at Astra Zeneca (AZ) gave her the opportunity to study and understand the transition from fundamental research to translational research within industry. It also allowed me to contribute to exploring the potential use of existing drugs that inhibit the DNA damage response to kill cancer cells with various levels of replication stress using both standard drug testing techniques, such as IC50, proliferation and clonogenic assay, and more cutting-edge techniques such as DNA combing, high-content immunofluorescence imaging and CRISPR/Cas9 screening. The placement also allowed her to develop professional and technical skills crucial for the progression of her career from academia into industry.
Collaborator Contribution AstraZeneca hosted Dr Peripolli for a 1-month innovation placement. The original plan was for a 3-month visit but unfortunately this was badly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for the company to prioritise the use of space and other resources for core business rather than new collaborations.
Impact Industry research experience.
Start Year 2021
Description Title: Innovation Placement - Dr Heather Fitzke with Motilent Ltd 
Organisation Motilent Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution This Innovation Placement enabled Heather to extract value from technical skills gained as a 'super- user' of GIQuant and Motilent's prototype products during her PhD. Motilent was at an important stage where they needed key opinion leaders (KOLs) on board to understand and use their products. Building these relationships and trust in the product requires knowledge of how it works and of the competing technologies and priorities in the sector. Major aims were to identify and meet potential clients to understand their needs and demonstrate how they can be met by Motilent's products. Heather's goals were: 1) Gain a deeper and more nuanced understanding of users and payer needs and the institutional, regulatory and economic contexts in which they operate. 2) Expand her understanding of the principles of agile working to develop medical imaging technologies within ISO 13485:2016 compliant Quality Management System (QMS). 3) Develop specific opportunities for two-way knowledge exchange to including embedding practical knowledge of Motilent's prototype products into the sales cycle 4) Develop relationships with key opinion leaders in field of digestive diseases across the UK and Europe 5) Set-up and deliver pilot projects with early-adopter institutions.
Collaborator Contribution Heather worked closely with the Motilent CEO to map the sales pathway and to support key installations KOLs. In collaboration they focused on project collaborators in Leuven, Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and Queen Mary University London (QMUL).
Impact A major part of Heather's role was to support the establishment of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) or other funded collaboration between UCL and Motilent. Heather was successful and she us now a Doctoral Research Associate at the UCL Centre for Medical Imaging, working on a project funded by Innovate UK in collaboration with Motilent Ltd, Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, Nottingham University and IBDrelief. Specific included: 1) Demonstrable progress towards executing clinical sales at the target institutions 2) A sales roadmap for less 'expert' salesforce e.g. distributors 3) A list of Tier II sites that are receptive to engaging with the new technology
Start Year 2019