From Targeted Therapeutics to Next-Generation Medicines

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Pharmacy


The need for innovation in healthcare is a key EPSRC priority, recognising that improvements to the health of UK citizens require step changes in the science and technology underlying diagnosis and treatment. Collaborative research, linking the engineering, physical and life sciences across academy and industry, and supported by the research councils, has been a crucial factor in establishing the UK pharmaceuticals sector as second only to the US in the discovery of new medicines. In this proposal we set out an extension and enhancement to the UK's first pharmaceutical sciences Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) joint-funded by industry, the EPSRC/AstraZeneca Doctoral Training Centre in Targeted Therapeutics. The first four years of the Targeted Therapeutics DTC have seen the successful establishment of 20 new collaborative PhD programs with AstraZeneca, 27 papers, patents or conference contributions, 35 new training projects and a vibrant community of highly talented multidisciplinary research students. A total of 15.1 million in grants related to Targeted Therapeutics has been awarded to DTC project leaders since 2006 and 43 principal researchers are now working together across the University of Nottingham and four AstraZeneca sites. To build on the successes of this unique centre we now seek to extend the DTC further into exciting new science and training programs that address the emerging needs of the pharmaceuticals sector in predictive science, complex formulations and biotherapeutics. As a School we are already investing strongly in the 'Next Generation Medicines' area, with new staff positions and studentships. We now request funds from the EPSRC initially to train a further cohort of 5 PhD students over 4 years, with a view to establishing connecting scientific projects prior to a bid for 2 extra cohorts in 2011. The timing for this two-stage bid is crucial owing to recent changes in AstraZeneca and the closure of their Loughborough site, as it will bridge a funding gap as the company consolidates its core science areas. The extension of the Targeted Therapeutics DTC into a new Centre for Doctoral Training will prepare UK scientists to be in the forefront of the international industry as it introduces the sophisticated therapies forming the 'next-generation' family of targeted and personalised medicines.

Planned Impact

The proposed CDT will deliver leading postgraduate research scientists, highly-trained in strategically important interdisciplinary research areas whilst at the same time generating high impact research data and exploitable results. These outputs will be directly relevant to the Pharmaceutical sector, both 'big pharma' and SMEs, as well as the wider science sector. In addition, other industries will use the outputs of the CDT as it is likely that the graduates will be attractive to the healthcare, chemicals, and materials sectors. In turn, benefits to industry lead to wider societal gain in the UK. AstraZeneca, as a major international business leader, brings investment and creates wealth and employment in the UK. For example, in 2004 (the last year for which full validated figures are available) data indicated that AstraZeneca supported 37,800 UK jobs, created 2.5 billion total Gross Valued Added (GVA) and invested 749 million in R&D expenditure. This in turn produced 440 million of UK manufacturing output and generated 3 billion in direct exports. The pharmaceutical industry needs scientists who are trained in a manner appropriate to the emerging classes of medicines. These are the ultra-refined small molecule drugs, biopharmaceuticals and cell-based therapies - the 'next-generation' family of personalised medicines. The formulation requirements of these types of materials are different to the current classes of drug compounds, as they exhibit very different solubility and stability properties. In addition, the biological activities of the new drugs are unlike their predecessors in terms of specificity, in vivo distribution and on-target/off-target effects. The CDT will uniquely provide the trained personnel able to accelerate development of these new classes of drugs towards medicines. Direct scientific benefits will arise through specific research outputs in the area of predictive science and technologies, and innovative controlled release technologies. Impact for both the University of Nottingham and AstraZeneca will be though generation of IP-protected product opportunities. We anticipate a number of new patent application filings to cover inventions in high throughput formulation materials, polymeric drug carriers, engineered in vitro models of diseased tissue, and new properties and therapeutic outcomes of specifically-formulated biotherapeutics. Transfer of knowledge and technology will ultimately penetrate into the Health sector, leading to wider treatment options and improvements in patient treatment. Impact beyond the industry sector is expected via science outreach activities and engagement of CDT students and staff, in for example, After-Schools clubs and media activities. The subject base for the proposed Centre for Doctoral Training. i.e. Next Generation Medicines, and the link between academic and industry partners, offers many opportunities for positive public engagement because it is easy to show how pharmaceutical science can make a vital contribution to the development of new and important medical breakthroughs. In addition, our prior experience at EPSRC DTC Showcase events has indicated that the highly motivated and enthusiastic DTC/CDT students are powerful ambassadors for The School of Pharmacy, AstraZeneca and EPSRC. Collaboration is a central feature of the proposed CDT, ensuring the University of Nottingham-AstraZeneca link is structurally embedded throughout recruitment, training, project generation, selection and execution. A CDT Steering Group will be tasked with managing and implementing operations within the CDT while a CDT Advisory Board will monitor progress and act as experienced advocates to enhance impact. Full details of the mechanisms by which we will operate the CDT to maximise benefits and outputs are given in the Pathways to Impact document .


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