Cobra Biologics and The University of Manchester Announce Collaboration to Improve Industrial Scale-up

It has been announced that a two year collaboration between The University of Manchester and Cobra Biologics is to take place.

The partnership is focused on improving understanding of cellular bio-processing which is required for the scaled production of therapeutic proteins. The collaboration is supported via the FLexible Interchange Programme (FLIP) Scheme from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

The partnership aims to produce better predictability in the production of bio-pharmaceuticals which can be used in treatments for diseases like cancer and inflammation.

The agreement will enable the exchange of knowledge, technology and skills and will allow Cobra access to the University’s internationally renowned academic and associated research group. Professor Dickson will benefit from Cobra’s production data and significant operational knowledge of industrial manufacturing processes.

Dr Daniel Smith, CSO Cobra Biologics, said:

This is an exciting and unique opportunity for Cobra Biologics to gain scientific and technological insights from one of the senior UK academics working in the bioprocessing area.
“In addition, Professor Dickson has links and collaborations with UK and international academics, addressing all aspects of production of biopharmaceuticals.
“The insights of Professor Dickson into the various processes and tools used, combined with historical data case studies undertaken by Cobra Biologics, will allow better definition and enhancement of our current manufacturing processes and to build towards the idealised platforms and processes for future manufacture of innovator and biosimilar molecules.

Professor Alan Dickson, The University of Manchester, commented:

For an academic, FLIP support offers a tremendous opportunity to place the intellectual driver of research in the context of commercial perspectives.

In working with colleagues at Cobra Biologics over the next two years, we hope to develop predictive visions for choice, manipulation and decision-making in manufacturing processes. The collaboration will offer long-term benefits for the University of Manchester, Cobra Biologics and, consequently, for the biopharmaceuticals sector in the North West of England.

This is a true exchange of vision across the industrial/academic interface, in which both partners will learn from each other’s perspectives, with learnings that will be translated to subsequent research projects and commercial activities.

Million pound success for Manchester body clock researchers

Almost £1.3 million has been awarded from Arthritis Research UK to scientists at the University of Manchester.

Faculty scientist Dr Qing-Jun Meng and his colleague, Dr Julie Gibbs from the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, have been awarded the fellowships (worth £845,918 and £434,767 respectively) in order to study the effects the body clock has on two common types of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It is well known that the symptoms of arthritis fluctuate during the day and it is thought that this is linked to our internal body clocks.

Meng and GibbsDr Meng is an expert in cartilage and joint damage linked to the 24 hour body clock of the human body. He’s now looking to use the fellowship to get a better understanding of how disruptions in the natural body clock could lead to an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis. He says:

“I am very pleased to receive this fantastic award, which will enable me to continue in this potentially very fruitful area of biomedical research. I believe this research will provide novel and medically relevant insights into one of the most common joint diseases that affect most elderly.”

Dr Gibbs’ research specialises in body clocks and inflammation. In particular, her research has shown that the body clock is a key regulator in inflammation. Arthritis is an inflammatory disease of the joints and so a better understanding of how the body clock helps to control inflammation may give us a greater insight into the role body clocks play in arthritis.

The duo are part of a larger team based here at The University of Manchester which collectively makes up one of the largest and most productive clock research communities in the world. Having successfully collaborated on previous projects, both researchers are looking to use their complementary research skills to tackle one of the biggest research problems in the arthritis field.

Professor Ian Roberts, Associate Dean for Research of the University’s Faculty of Life Sciences, said: “We are delighted by the two recent prestigious fellowship awards to these two excellent young researchers. They reflect the quality of research on body clocks ongoing in both faculties and offer a real opportunity to answer important questions on body clocks and human disease.”

Dr Stephen Simpson, Director of Research and Programmes at Arthritis Research UK commented: “…we’re  hopeful that these two fellowships will take us closer to much-needed, more effective treatments for people with these painful, debilitating conditions.”

£3 million grant for cutting-edge biotechnology

MIB BuildingProfessor Nigel Scrutton and his team at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB) have been awarded nearly £3million to create sustainable ways of manufacturing chemicals used in everyday products. They are one of five long-term research projects benefiting from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s (BBSRC) Strategic Longer and Larger Grants (sLoLaS) scheme.

The team will design and assemble bespoke biological parts to be used in a synthetic, engineered microbial factory. They hope these biological compounds will replace those currently taken from fossil fuels. Professor Scrutton says:

“Our vision is to harness the power of Synthetic Biology to propel chemicals and natural products production towards ’green’ and sustainable manufacturing processes. More broadly, the programme will provide the general tools, technology platforms, and SynBio ‘know-how’ that will impact widely in the sustainable manufacture of chemicals and natural products for development by the industrial sector.”

£15.8 million is being awarded to five projects in the UK. They were chosen based on the basis of their scientific excellence, long timescales, extensive resources, multidisciplinary approaches, and internationally leading research teams. Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC Chief Executive, said:

“BBSRC’s sLoLaS scheme gives world-leading scientists long-term funding to work on critical research challenges. In this round those challenges include producing clean energy, new ways to produce medicines and other valuable chemicals, and protecting livestock from disease. Not only will these funded projects help the UK and the world to address these challenges, but it will build vital research capacity here in the UK and provide opportunities for economic and social benefits.”

Manchester researchers share in £18million industry-academia networks

University researchers have been chosen to lead new networks linking industry and academia which will sunflower (1)improve energy and food security and develop new drugs. Four of the 13 networks, announced by the BBSRC, will be led by experts from Manchester. One of these is the Bioprocessing Network, led by Faculty researcher Professor Alan Dickson and Professor Christopher Smales from The University of Kent. Professor Dickson said:

“Biologics are complex products made by cells with immense commercial and social potential. Antibody proteins, for example, are revolutionary medicines for treatment of previously incurable diseases. The bioprocessing network (BioProNET) will integrate academic and industrial strengths to improve current practice and establish step-changing and innovative solutions for the manufacture of the next generation of biologics. By enhancing cost effectiveness of bioprocessing, the sector will move towards more affordable biologics for sustainable and healthier lifestyles.”

All of the networks will receive funds to support proof of concept research projects which will demonstrate benefits for industry. The networks will then work with industries to investigate the concepts further. Many of the ideas will build into the Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst, funded by the BBSRC, the Technology Strategy Board, and the EPSRC, which will be launched in early 2014. The Catalyst has benefited from recent cash injections and will soon support the development of ideas from concept to commercialisation.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said:

“To get ahead in the global race we need to turn our world-beating science and research into world-beating products and services, as set out in our Industrial Strategy. These networks will unlock the huge potential of biotechnology and bioenergy, such as finding innovative ways to use leftover food, and creating chemicals from plant cells.”

£2.8million funding boost to track development from embryo to adult

fruitfly (1)Faculty scientists have been awarded £2.8million to further understanding of how cells develop and form particular types of body tissue. The award is part of a £17.7million cash injection from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) which aims to harness the power of bioscience to make significant impacts in healthcare and agriculture. The Manchester team will collaborate with the University of Cambridge and University College London.

Using fruit flies as a model system, researchers will answer important questions regarding how much of each gene product is expressed at one time, which version of each gene is expressed, and which protein partners interact with the gene. Faculty scientist Professor Simon Hubbard explained:

“This could help explain how gene defects lead to abnormal development. Our simonhubbarddevelopment is governed by the complex interplay between the proteins encoded by our genes. Careful control of these proteins at a specific time during development dictates the fate of cells and the tissues they will form. While some of this information is contained within the genome sequence, we currently lack the full picture of what happens during development in the embryo. This project will close the gap in knowledge using both experimental and computational science. ”

The research is funded through the BBSRC’s Strategic Longer and Larger Awards (sLoLas,) which give world-leading research teams the time and resources they require. Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC’s Chief Executive, said:

“This public funding offers long-term support to address major research challenges, while building research capacity in important areas and maximising economic and social benefits for the UK.”

University receives doctoral training award in regenerative medicine

The University has been chosen to host four new national Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT) in science and cdtengineering. Universities and Science Minister David Willetts revealed details of how the £350m fund will be used to train more than 3,500 postgraduate students. It is the UK’s largest investment in postgraduate training in engineering and physical sciences and will fund more than 70 new centres.

The funding, allocated by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, will target areas vital to economic growth. The four CDTs awarded to Manchester are in ‘Power Networks,’ ‘Next Generation Nuclear,’ ‘Science and Applications of Graphene and Related Nanomaterials,’ and ‘Regenerative Medicine.’

The Regenerative Medicine CDT, led by Professor Cay Kielty of FLS, with support from the faculties of Medicine and Human Sciences and Engineering and Physical Sciences, will tackle the growing need for therapeutic solutions to the ageing, degenerative, and injury-related pathologies faced by our society and address the shortage in skilled scientists equipped to meet these needs. The team will deliver multidisciplinary training in a variety of related areas and provide clinical translational training supported by the Manchester Academic Health Science Centre. This is the only CDT in regenerative medicine to be funded under the new scheme. Professor Kielty said:

“This CDT award enables us to exploit Manchester’s unique biomedical strengths to train future regenerative medicine experts and enhance the health and wealth of the UK.”