P2D: From Technologies to Therapies 2

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford

Abstract

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.

Publications

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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 New methods for metabolomics involving ion mobility LC-MS/MS 
Description A new method for the analysis of metabolites in complex biological samples, including cells,tissues and biofluids, which uses ion-mobility mass spectrometry to add confidence to identifications and annotation of data as well as simultaneously provide greater depth of metabolite coverage. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact too early 
 
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 Co-design with Sitekit industry partners 
Organisation Sitekit Group
Department Sitekit Applications Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution As part of our collaboration with the technology company Site-Kit we carried out co-design workshops for the development of a platform for remote consultations with groups of patients instead of one-to-one consultations, a new model of care being used in the context of Covid-19 restrictions. We contributed expertise in the design and implementation of technology-supported services in primary care, including findings from an evaluation of patient and staff experiences with video group clinics.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners contributed technical expertise and delivered online sessions where we worked with patients and staff to elicit requirements and co-design technologies that would support group-based care.
Impact Specification for the development of a platform for video group consultations, with a paper currently in preparation.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Potential for auto-antigen presentation on virus-like particles (VLPs) for antibody discovery 
Organisation UCB Pharma
Department UCB Celltech
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Provision of auto-antigen and VLP-vaccine as test materials (immunogens) for in vivo feasibility study. Advice on experimental design and assistance with interpretation of preliminary data.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of staff, experimental animals and facilities for immunogenicity studies. Experimental activities and evaluation of samples.
Impact Internal seminar presentation to pharma researchers to introduce concept and opportunities for potential future projects. Experimental design, completion and analyses. Successful demonstration of the technology and approach in a feasibility study.
Start Year 2019
 
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 ThermoFisher Technology development collaboration - developing mass spectromtry for metabolomics 
Organisation Thermo Fisher Scientific
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Provide untargeted metabolomics analysis by mass spectrometry and method development
Collaborator Contribution provide tissue sample and cell models for analysis
Impact yes multidisciplinary,
Start Year 2019
 
Description ThermoFisher Technology development collaboration - developing mass spectromtry for metabolomics 
Organisation University of Oxford
Department Jenner Institute
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provide untargeted metabolomics analysis by mass spectrometry and method development
Collaborator Contribution provide tissue sample and cell models for analysis
Impact yes multidisciplinary,
Start Year 2019
 
Title Define COVID-19 Nafamostat Clinical Trial 
Description Pharmacokinetics analysis as part of Nafamostat clinical trial (DEFINE) for COVID-19 
Type Therapeutic Intervention - Drug
Current Stage Of Development Early clinical assessment
Year Development Stage Completed 2021
Development Status On hold
Clinical Trial? Yes
Impact still in clinical trail 
URL https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04473053
 
Title The use of spermidine to improve vaccination in the elderly. 
Description Since 2012 we have been working on a food supplement that improves vaccination in the elderly, called spermidine. We have first shown this in old mice in T cells, then in B cells, and then we discovered the pathway downstream of spermidine (EIF5A and TFEB and autophagy) and then showed it works in human lymphocytes, using the same pathway. We have now started a CRISPR genome wide KO and Drug screen with TFEB as a read-out. In 2019 I went for a short visit to Calico with the P2D award to promote this work, learn about ageing research at the molecular level and see if they would fund some of the future work (they were not interested at the time). Recently Calico has contacted me for a consultancy on the spermidine work. I obtained several grants from industry (Elysium Health) for this work and recently one from SpermidineLife to fund two clinical trials to test if (1) spermidine improves flu vaccination and (2) maintenance of memory responses to COVID19 vaccination in adults> 65. We are about to submit the application to the ethical committee. We are also engaged with an Austrian clinical trial lab who will check whether vaccination with COVID19 AZ-Oxford is improved while given Spermidine during vaccination. This trial could no longer be done in the UK as most adults >65yrs are now vaccinated. Spermidine has been given to humans before in clinical trials (and can be bought from Amazon as a food supplement) but not in the context of vaccination. Unfortunately our patent lapsed in 2016. 
Type Therapeutic Intervention - Vaccines
Current Stage Of Development Early clinical assessment
Year Development Stage Completed 2020
Development Status Under active development/distribution
Impact These trials are small exploratory clinical trials where we will measure immune responses and effect of spermidine on signalling downstream and ageing parameters. This will also give us an idea about the power of a follow-up study, If we can improve vaccination efficacy in the adults >65 this would diminish the number of flu and COVID 19 patients with severe disease. It would also help us to understand if the EiF5A-TFEB-autophagy axis is turned on during vaccination and with spermidine in humans and whether they should be become drug targets in their own right. 
 
Description Academic Industry Meeting Days (AIMdays) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The P2D fund has allowed us to run Academic Industry Meeting Days (AIMdays), which support effective academic-industry networking and, in particular, engagement with small and medium sized companies (SMEs). AIMdays provide companies with a platform to host roundtable discussions with a group of academics with common interests. Each discussion is focused around a "challenge" that the company submits and this allows industry to set the agenda for the day. Academics and clinicians from across the University of Oxford then sign up to participate in multidisciplinary discussions centred around these questions, with academics attending from a wide range of different departments.

For our academics, AIMdays provide them with a chance to find out how their knowledge could be used to solve industry challenges. It is also a great way for them to widen their network and to meet potential industrial collaborators and employers. The majority of academics attending the AIMdays are at postdoc level (59%), followed by professors or principal investigators (22%) and finally DPhil students (15%), making it a great opportunity for early-career researchers to get exposure to industry in an informal setting.
Participating companies also benefit by accessing a group of self-selecting researchers with whom there may be potential collaborative opportunities. In particular, the AIMday format provides a low barrier route for SMEs to engage with a wide range of academics and clinicians at the University. There is no cost to participants, apart from their time. This, together with the assurance that companies will be meeting academics with common interests, is a great incentive for SMEs, who often have limited time and flexibility.

For larger companies, it allows them to expand their existing networks and meet academics in disciplines with whom they may not usually interact. 58% of the companies that participate in AIMdays are SMEs. Additionally, at our most recent AIMday, in Healthy Ageing, 50% of the companies that responded to our post-event survey said that the event facilitated their first interaction with Oxford academics.

Outcomes from AIMdays include several follow up meetings, many of which are still at an early-stage. Some more concrete outcomes are already apparent, such as consulting services being provided by one of our academics to a company that attended the Antimicrobial Resistance AIMday.

We have recently started to bring in funders to the AIMdays, e.g. Wellcome Trust, Innovate UK. There has been at least one funder present at each AIMday from 2019 onwards. Academics from the AMR AIMday have co-applied for a grant to MRC/Wellcome with one of the companies that attended the event. The presence of the Wellcome Trust at the AIMday was instrumental.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
URL https://www.medsci.ox.ac.uk/divisional-services/support-services-1/business-development/networking-e...
 
Description Data Analysis Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Held a data analysis workshop - in part involving the analysis of data generated from the collaborative work we have been doing as part of our TFS research partnership
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://massspec.web.ox.ac.uk/files/omhmetabolomicsworkshop2020flierpdf
 
Description Industry Fellows and Postdocs Network 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Bringing together fellows and postdoctoral researchers who are working collaboratively with industry, this network provides opportunities for interacting with colleagues from across medical sciences through workshops and networking dinners. The network can also help researchers to focus on career development and gain insights from our industrial collaborators. With over 70 researchers this is an ideal place for researchers to expand their network at Oxford, a network of highly talented individuals who will be leading PIs, clinicians and industrialist in the years to come. Researchers in the network are collaborating on projects with the following companies: Bristol-Myers Squibb, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Elysium, GSK, Vertex, Cannbiorex, 180Therapeutics, Continuum, Roche and Janssen. Workshops take place three times per year and feature a variety of speakers and facilitators. The content is tailored to meet the needs of the network and feedback from each workshop shapes the content for the next.

Number of events: 5 x ½ day workshops and dinners (June 2018, Dec 2018, Jun 2019, Oct 2019, Dec 2019)
Attendees: 120 attendees across those events
Size of the network is now: 76 fellows/postdocs working with 13 different companies
Website here: https://www.medsci.ox.ac.uk/divisional-services/support-services-1/business-development/industry-fellows-network
Website is attraction attention from global pharma recruiters e.g. Astra Zeneca Global Talent
We are looking at potential expansion of the network to include postdocs who are not yet working with Industry but interested to - and linking the network to other offerings in the Oxford ecosystem.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019,2020,2021,2022
URL https://www.medsci.ox.ac.uk/divisional-services/support-services-1/business-development/industry-fel...
 
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
 
Description TFS internal workshop on IC-MS development 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact TFS workshop engagement - provided a talk and discussion around the development of technologies related to our metabolomics collaboration
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021