Major milestone for drug discovery in Nottingham
WORKING together is the key to unlocking the drugs of tomorrow Sometimes the companies we help to foster and grow at BioCity do something that is truly remarkable and game-changing.
Last week saw a major milestone for one such company.
The knock-on effects for Nottingham and its life sciences sector could be truly amazing. In the search for tomorrow's drugs, we are set to play a role beyond anything we have experienced yet.
I have to admit that we surprised ourselves by securing the contract for BioCity Scotland to become a major partner in a new project called the European Lead Factory (ELF). The contract, awarded by the European Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), was won against strong Europe-wide competition. BioCity Scotland is a company formed just one year ago in a partnership between BioCity Nottingham and one of the UKs leading life sciences institutes, Roslin BioCentre, near Edinburgh.
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ELF is a significant new pharmaceutical drug discovery initiative, a major part of which will be centred at BioCity Scotland in Lanarkshire, in partnership with the University of Dundee. The project will bring at least £16.3 million of research funding for the Scottish-based part of the project, plus additional grants of £3.5 million from the Scottish Funding Council and the Scottish Government.
The ELF project has potential to speed up the development of a new generation of drugs by harnessing the expertise, and resources of an international consortium of 30 partners.
Yes, it is truly remarkable – but should we really be so surprised? The IMI panel was looking for a particular set of shared values, as well as obvious industry expertise, in its chosen consortium. Those values, hard to quantify but clear in practice, include a willingness to work together. Partnership is something BioCity Nottingham has excelled at.
We have considerable experience of building successful partnerships since we set up BioCity in Nottingham just over 10 years ago, with the support of Nottingham Trent University and the University of Nottingham. In that period, we have consistently grown revenues year on year, another remarkable achievement. More importantly, we have enabled the growth in the number of employees in our 70-plus companies to over 650, and we plan to continue doing so. BioCity-based Sygnature Discovery, one of the most innovative chemistry companies in the ELF consortium, now has 80 staff, from a standing start just seven years ago.
I expect to see a number of Nottingham-based drug discovery companies starting to find ways of collaborating not only with our Scottish colleagues but with partners across Europe.
This is great news for the city, more so because it links BioCity even more closely with the University of Nottingham and, in particular, with the work of Dr Robert Stockman, associate professor and reader in organic chemistry. The future looks promising if we draw on the highly technical expertise from the region's other academic bodies, and feed this into the pipeline for new drug discovery.
It is truly amazing what can be done when partnerships work well; the whole is undoubtedly greater than the sum of the parts