P2D: From Technologies to Therapies 2

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford


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.

Technical Summary

The MRC Proximity to Discovery scheme awards universities funds to help develop new collaborations, and ways of exchanging knowledge and skills. The awards can be used to support activities that promote the value of academic-industry partnership, and enhance academic and industry researchers’ understanding of each other’s needs and capabilities. This may be through people exchanges, creation of technology demonstrators, showcase events, commercialisation workshops and ‘entrepreneurs in residence’ schemes. Such exchanges of knowledge and skills will boost the most fruitful collaborations between UK universities and life science companies.


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Title Exploiting VLPs for inducing antibodies to self-antigens without harmful adjuvants 
Description Antibody discovery of self-antigens in experimental models is frequently hampered by poor responses (due to several confounding factors including self-tolerance). Use of strong adjuvants is often required and used to try to induce antibodies. However, the magnitude and quality of antibody responses are typically unsatisfactory. Display of putative self-antigens on VLPs has proven useful to help improve antibody responses and holds promise for use in antibody discovery workflows. 
Type Of Material Technology assay or reagent 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Use of VLPs for inducing robust antibodies to self-antigens without the use of strong adjuvants (e.g. multiple regular immunisations with complete/ incomplete Freund's adjuvant formulations). This avoids adjuvant related adverse effects and potential harms to experimental animals in immunisation protocols. Therefore, VLP based immunogens represent a potential refinement in such circumstances. 
Title Oxford BioEscalator visit to Cambridge, Massachusetts 
Description The Business Manager for the newly opened Oxford BioEscalator made a visit to key incubators in Cambridge and Boston, Massachusetts. These included the Blavatnik Biomedical Accelerator, Lab Central, Ipsen Biolabs and Harvard LifeLabs. The aim was to investigate best practice in incubators and to bring back ideas that could be implemented in the BioEscalator and across Oxford University. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The main discussion points on return have been: philanthropic funding, marketing and branding, support of tenants, design/layout of facilities to maximise interaction, use of consultants, interaction with pharma companies and different business models for success. 
URL http://www.bioescalator.ox.ac.uk
Description The DNA Damage Response and Immunity 
Organisation Merck
Country Germany 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution On-site secondment of two DPhil students from my lab with MERCK.
Collaborator Contribution During this collaboration, Merck provides theoretical training at the critical transition from basic research to clinical research. The aim is to acquire expertise on how to translate this class of drugs into therapeutics will provide insights into how to progress into the clinic with
Impact The students experienced a research environment distinct from academia and presented published data to Merck staff.
Start Year 2019
Description Industry Insights Seminar Series 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Supported costs involved to host a newly launched Industry Insights Seminar Series. This series is a monthly seminar given by leading industry experts on a scientific talk of their choice. These seminars were designed to serve three main purposes i) to provide scientific talks from industry experts to improve the perception of industry by academics by providing networking around a scientific topic ii) provide a platform for our strategic partners to showcase their collaborative activities with Oxford and iii) as a mechanism for finding academic-industry connections across the university in a hope to further collaborative activities.

Presentations have been given by a mix of large pharma and SMEs, both local to Oxford and further afield in the UK. Attendees have ranged from PhD students to professors and clinicians, with attends from Oxford university, Oxford Brooks University, local SMEs and global pharma and an ever increasing number of attendees from across the UK travelling for these events.

These seminars have been a great way for our industry partners, or potential partners to engage with scientists across the whole university and have resulted in many follow up calls and meetings and an increase in relationship with local SMEs previously with little involvement with the university. Company to company relationships have also been made and there is a long list of queries for speaker opportunities.

These seminars have been cosponsored by the Universities new BioEscalator and by hosting the seminars they have raised the profile of their activities and opportunities, with one start up company even visiting for a seminar who are now located in the BioEscalator!
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020
URL https://www.medsci.ox.ac.uk/divisional-services/support-services-1/business-development/networking-e...
Description Internal industry seminar to develop interest in potential future research collaboration 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Invited to deliver an internal seminar to research staff and group/ departmental leaders at a leading pharma company. The purpose was to introduce VLP-technologies as potential research tools for drug discovery. Stimulated further internal group meetings with heads of departments, group leaders and key researchers to discuss potential projects. This lead to eventual conceptualisation and agreement on a collaborative project (a feasibility study completed in early 2020). Further interactions are being planned and discussions are ongoing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Oxford Stem Cell Institute Symposium 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The MRC Proximity to Discovery Award made it possible for the Oxford Stem Cell Institute (OSCI; www.stemcells.ox.ac.uk) to successfully hold a two-day international stem cell symposium at St Hugh's College in Oxford in November 2018. The theme "Stem cells: from mechanism to therapy" showcased the research from world-leading experts, new independent researchers and early stage researchers in stem cell research with trajectories towards treatments of diseases including retinopathies, metabolic and genetic skin disorders, neurodegeneration, musculoskeletal disease, heart failure and cancer. Speakers/chairs were selected from organisations in the US, across the UK and Europe; a 50:50 gender balance ratio of men and women (14 men : 13 women) was achieved thus also ensuring the spirit of the Athena Swan Charter promoting equality and excellence in STEMM. There were over 200 registrations (industry, academics and students) who were able to listen to presentations, network and engage with other researchers in the field. Overwhelming positive verbal feedback has inspired the team to plan another event of the same scale in September 2019.

We met our target (15%) for industry involvement; of the 200 registrations, 33 represented industry via biotech SMEs (eg Jellagen, OxStem), pharma (eg Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Boehringer Ingelheim) and sponsors (including Thermo Fisher Scientific). Invitations were sent to the MRC and other research funding bodies including the Medicines Discovery Catapult and the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult allowing direct networking with researchers across Oxford and the UK to promote new projects. Five of the speakers highlighted the research resulting from the successful partnership between OxStem Ltd and collaborators at the University of Oxford in departments in MSD and MPLS.

As written in our grant application, the overarching aim of the event was to promote new collaborations and relationships between academics in the field, particularly with attendees from industry. Directly as a consequence of the event, there have been follow-on meetings and presentations with potential industrial partners. One such connection at the OSCI symposium has resulted in an invitation for Prof Angela Russell to profile her research at UCB and OxStem, Boehringer Ingelheim and Novo Nordisk have connected in view of new collaborative opportunities with the university/university researchers.

Made possible through the MRC Proximity to Discovery fund the OSCI symposium was held for the first time over two-days profiling and highlighting the important field of stem cells for research, therapeutics and regenerative medicine. The positive feedback received from attendees, speakers and sponsors has resulted in planning a two-day format in September 2019, and over the coming years - a legacy resulting from the success of the symposium in 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018