The University of Edinburgh is partnering with FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies UK (FDB) on a five-year research project to develop cost-effective antibody-based medicines.
The collaboration won Prosperity Partnership funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), both of which are part of UK Research and Innovation.
State-of-the-art analytical tools and engineering biology approaches will be used to enable cost-effective manufacturing of biological drugs. Biological drugs based on recombinant DNA technology, which brings together genetic material from different sources, have transformed the treatment of life-limiting diseases including cancer, haemophilia and rheumatoid arthritis.
Commenting on the partnership, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Tapping into the expertise of some our finest scientists and researchers, including at Teesside’s FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies and the University of Edinburgh, this state-of-the-art collaboration will seek to accelerate the development of biological drugs to help treat those with life-limiting diseases such as cancer.
“This is part of our efforts to put the funding and structures in place to ensure we build back better through innovation, drive local economic growth and cement the UK’s status as a science superpower.”
The University of Edinburgh has led a three-university partnership with FDB since 2018. That partnership and its successful application for Prosperity Partnership funding have been supported by Edinburgh Innovations, the university’s commercialisation service.
Susan Rosser, Professor of Synthetic Biology at the University of Edinburgh and Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Technologies, who is leading the academic team in the collaboration, said: “The award of this grant unlocks the power of new technologies we have developed and applies them to this key industry challenge.
“The aim is to better understand and improve one of the key cell-based manufacturing platforms of biopharmaceuticals. Ultimately it will mean that treatments and vaccines used by many millions of people worldwide will be easier and cheaper to manufacture.”
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As well as the major impact the research could have in terms of new drugs to treat various conditions, it represents a major economic opportunity with an increasing portion of all medicines, currently estimated at 20%, being biopharmaceuticals and the global biologics market predicted to reach a value of $319 billion this year.
Andy Topping, Chief Scientific Officer at FDB, said: “We are delighted with the partnership we have with the University of Edinburgh and it is aligned with our core purpose to advance tomorrow’s medicines.
“We are a supporter of great science in the United Kingdom. This is an exciting project that will allow us to understand, model and ultimately design CHO cells to be more efficient.”
Dr George Baxter, CEO of Edinburgh Innovations, said: “This major funding award shows the leading position of Edinburgh and our partners Manchester and York as successful collaborators with businesses and other organisations.
“Only by working together can academic researchers and commercial businesses both maximise the impact of their work, for mutual benefit and common goals.”