EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Bioprocess Engineering Leadership (Complex Biological Products Manufacture)

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Biochemical Engineering

Abstract

The UK government's support for the Life Sciences Industry Strategy (Bell Report, 2017) recognises the importance of developing new medicines to facilitate UK economic growth. Examples include new antibody therapies for the treatment of cancer, new vaccines to control the spread of infectious diseases and the emergence of cell and gene therapies to cure previously untreatable conditions such as blindness and dementia. Bioprocessing skills underpin the safe, cost-effective and environmentally friendly manufacture of this next generation of complex biological products. They facilitate the rapid translation of life science discoveries into the new medicines that will benefit the patients that need them.

Recent reports, however, highlight specific skills shortages that constrain the UK's capacity to capitalise on opportunities for wealth and job creation in these areas. They emphasise the need for 'more individuals trained in advanced manufacturing' and for individuals with bioprocessing skills who can address the 'challenges with scaling-up production using biological materials'.

The UCL EPSRC CDT in Bioprocess Engineering Leadership has a successful track record of equipping graduate scientists and engineers with the bioprocessing skills needed by industry. It will deliver a 'whole bioprocess' training theme based around the core fermentation and downstream processing skills underpinning medicines manufacture. The programme is designed to accelerate graduates into doctoral research and to build a multidisciplinary research cohort; this will be enhanced through a partnership with the Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre (SSPC) and the National Institute for Bioprocess Research and Training (NIBRT) in Ireland. Research projects will be carried out in partnership with leading UK and international companies. The continued need for the CDT is evidenced by the fact that 96% of previous graduates have progressed to relevant bioindustry careers and many are now in senior leadership positions.

The next generation of molecular or cellular medicines will be increasingly complex and hence difficult to characterise. This means they will be considerably more difficult to manufacture at large scale making it harder to ensure they are not only safe but also cost-effective. This proposal will enable the CDT to train future bioindustry leaders who possess the theoretical knowledge and practical and commercial skills necessary to manufacture this next generation of complex biological medicines. This will be achieved by aligning each researcher with internationally leading research teams and developing individual training and career development programmes. In this way the CDT will contribute to the future success of the UK's bioprocess-using industries.

Planned Impact

The CDT has a proven track record of delivering impact from its research and training activities and this will continue in the new Centre. The main types of impact relate to: (i) provision of highly skilled EngD and sPhD graduates; (ii) generation of intellectual property (IP) in support of collaborating companies or for spin-out company creation; (iii) knowledge exchange to the wider bioprocess-using industries; (iv) benefits to patients in terms of new and more cost effective medicines, and (v) benefits to the wider society via involvement in public engagement activities and impacts on policy.

With regard to training, provision of future bioindustry leaders is the primary output of the CDT and some 96% of previous EngD graduates have progressed to relevant bioindustry careers. These highly skilled individuals help catalyse private sector innovation and biomanufacturing activity. This is of enormous importance to capitalise on emerging markets, such as Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products (ATMPs), and to create new jobs and a skilled labour force to underpin economic growth. The CDT will deliver new, flexible on-line training modules on complex biological products manufacture that will be made available to the wider bioprocessing community. It will also provide researchers with opportunities for international company placements and cross-cohort training between UCL and SSPC via a new annual Summer School and Conference.

In terms of IP generation, each industry-collaborative EngD project will have direct impact on the industry sponsor in terms of new technology generation and improvements to existing processes or procedures. Where substantial IP is generated in EngD or sPhD programmes, this has the potential to lead to spin-out company creation and job creation with wider economic benefit. CDT research has already led to creation of a number of successful spin-out companies and licensing agreements. Once arising IP is protected the existing UCL and NIBRT post-experience training programmes provide opportunities for wider industrial dissemination and impact of CDT research and training materials.

CDT projects will address production of new ATMPs or improvements to the manufacture of the next generation of complex biological products that will directly benefit healthcare providers and patients. Examples arising from previous EngD projects have included engineered enzymes for greener pharmaceutical synthesis, novel bioprocess operations to reduce biopharmaceutical manufacturing costs and the translation of early stem cell therapies into clinical trials. In each case the individual researchers have been important champions of knowledge exchange to their collaborating companies.

Finally, in terms of wider public engagement and society, the CDT has achieved substantial impact via involvement of staff and researchers in activities with schools (e.g. STEMnet), presentations at science fairs (Big Bang, Cheltenham), delivery of high profile public lectures (Wellcome Trust, Royal Institution) as well as TV and radio presentations. The next generation of CDT researchers will receive new training on the principles of Responsible Innovation (RI) that will be embedded in their research and help inform their public engagement activities and impact on policy.

Organisations

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S021868/1 01/10/2019 31/03/2028
2247004 Studentship EP/S021868/1 23/09/2019 30/09/2023 Annabel Jemima Lyle
2246810 Studentship EP/S021868/1 23/09/2019 30/09/2023 Jordan Nicholas Delbridge
2247014 Studentship EP/S021868/1 23/09/2019 30/09/2023 Thomas Benjamin Fanthom
2246819 Studentship EP/S021868/1 23/09/2019 30/09/2023 Carme Ripoll Fiol
2266993 Studentship EP/S021868/1 23/09/2019 30/09/2023 Patricia Santos Beato
2247011 Studentship EP/S021868/1 23/09/2019 30/09/2023 Haneen Alosert