EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Therapeutics & Nanomedicines

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

Abstract

At the forefront of global pharmaceutical research is the development of "intelligent" medicines which are effective,
affordable and safe, for diseases that are poorly treated (for example, cancer, infections, cardiovascular disease and
neurodegeneration). The ideal medicine could be taken by a variety of means (pill, injection or inhaler), but should only act
on diseased tissue at a 'specific' site in the body. However, the ability to direct a drug to particular desired locations in the
body is still a major scientific challenge. Drugs can easily be degraded en route to their target leading to quickly decreasing
drug levels. Higher levels of medication do not circumvent this problem due to potentially increased side effects or toxicity.
Some drugs can simply not be delivered to their target due to barriers within the body: the ability to reach specific disease
sites while leaving healthy cells intact would mean not only better therapeutic outcomes, but better qualities of life for
patients and carers. Benefits through better formulation and targeting will be very apparent for those diseases that are
increasing in ageing populations, such as cancer, which is predicted to affect (directly or indirectly) 1 in 3 in the European
population by 2020. For these and other devastating diseases new therapeutic regimens are urgently needed.
Research into Advanced Therapeutics requires not just scientific innovation but also a changed training paradigm for the
scientists involved. Many advanced therapeutic formulations are inherently in the 'nano' size range i.e. larger than
conventional drugs such as ibuprofen and paracetamol, but smaller than human cells, and thus spanning the traditional
domains of chemistry, biology and medicine. Developing the science of these emergent nanomedicines towards clinical
products requires a new generation of researchers trained across multiple scientific disciplines. The Centre for Doctoral
Training we propose builds on our existing close partnerships with leading industry and academic institutions world-wide to
offer training in the diverse and challenging disciplines underlying pharmaceutical science. The proposed Centre will
combine expertise in analytical and medicinal chemistry, with materials science, engineering, biology and industrial
pharmaceutics, to equip researchers with the skills they need to develop the next generation of pharmaceutical products.
Accordingly, the CDT offers wider benefits to society as researchers trained in the Centre will be attractive to the
chemicals, engineering and materials sectors as well as healthcare and medicine. Within the proposed CDT we aim to
continue our broad-based training approach, such that researchers will have innovation and entrepreneurial skills, so vital
for the developing industry sector. This focus on translational and business skills helped a team from Nottingham in the
existing CDT to be winners of the NanoCom business competition in 2012.
Ultimately, improvements in the industry and practice of therapeutics combined with enhanced academy / industry
pathways to translation offer many future advantages, not just to the science, industry and medical base, but to patients,
carers and society as a whole.

Planned Impact

Society needs better medicines and requires scientists trained in new ways to develop these therapies towards the clinic. The pharmaceutical industry demands a culture change in research training to equip the next generation of leaders with the breadth of skills to translate the most innovative scientific concepts. The proposed CDT will deliver these leading scientists, highly-trained in interdisciplinary areas central to the EPSRC Healthcare Technologies priority whilst at the same time generating high impact research data and exploitable results. These outputs will benefit the Pharmaceutical sector, both 'big pharma' and SMEs, as well as underpinning key advances central to EPSRC Themes in Healthcare Technologies such as Diagnostics, Therapeutics and Medicines. Partners in the proposed CDT, including three of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies, have helped to shape this proposal to ensure maximum relevance in a time of rapid change in the industry.
The CDT will specifically address a key need, highlighted by the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries' (APBI) to reverse 'the decline in skills among young people training for careers in science (which) has a serious effect on the development of a knowledge-based industry'. Impact for university and industry partners also includes generation of IP-protected product opportunities. We anticipate a number of new patent application filings to cover inventions in high throughput material selection, self-assembled drug carriers, engineered in vitro models of diseased tissue, and new properties and therapeutic outcomes of specifically formulated biotherapeutics.
By building multisite, multidisciplinary teams through translation-focused collaborative projects, the CDT will further advance mutual benefits to industry and UK society. In 2007, the Gross Value Added (GVA) contribution per employee within the pharmaceutical industry (£233,000) was ~ 3.5 times than the GVA of other high-tech sectors in the UK. cientists and engineers comprise 42 % of the pharma workforce, indicating clear economic impacts of high-level PhD training in this area. Transfer of knowledge and technology into the Healthcare sector, enhances treatment options and quality of life for patients and carers. Improvements in pharmaceutical science and enhanced academy / industry pathways to translation are important across many other industry sectors: the UK market for formulated products is worth around £180bn a year, with a potential in emerging overseas markets of around £1,000bn (Chemistry Innovation KTN Strategy Report 2010).
Impact beyond the industry sector is expected via 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 i.e. Nanomedicines, and the link between academic and industry partners, offers many opportunities for positive public engagement. The applicants have a track record, (e.g. in the award-winning 'Test-Tube' web videos), of showing how pharmaceutical science is pivotal to the development of new medical breakthroughs. Highly motivated and enthusiastic CDT students have demonstrated, (e.g. at EPSRC Showcase events) that their training enables them to be powerful ambassadors for their universities, industry partners and EPSRC.
Impact activities will be embedded throughout the CDT via continual training, monitored via IP and Knowledge Transfer Review meetings of the CDT Steering Group and Advisory Boards, and further encouraged through consultation with Outreach and Impact Champions appointed in Nottingham and UCL as part of EPSRC Impact Acceleration Accounts (IAA). Prof Alexander is Academic Lead for the IAA in Nottingham and so is well-placed to encourage impact activities in the CDT.
The longer-term impact of the CDT will be a sustainable future for the the UK pharmaceutical science base, leading in turn to wider healthcare and societal gains.

Publications

10 25 50