A quality core interface
Imperial College London embodies and delivers world-class scholarship, education and research in science, engineering, management and medicine, with particular regard to their application in industry, commerce and healthcare. We foster interdisciplinary working within the College and collaborate widely externally.
Dominique Kleyn head of BioPharma Business Development, Imperial College London, responsible for developing industry partnerships and international collaborations with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.
Harnessing new technologies to improve health
Imperial College continues to be rated as one of the top UK university institutions for the quality of both its teaching and research. Interdisciplinary research is central to the College mission. Imperial?s Business Development team forms the core interface between Imperial and its industrial partners, driving the creation of strategic research collaborations.
Business can gain a sustainable competitive advantage by working with Imperial to solve individual research and development needs. The team can provide access not only to Imperial?s research but also to its international partners and their expertise, from the US to Singapore. A recent successful collaboration with an international partner in the biotech field is the agreement between Imperial and America?s number one cancer centre: MD Anderson at the University of Texas.
|Imperial has consistently attracted more funding from industry than any UK university|
This partnership will help advance the scientific discovery and development of novel cancer care therapies. By taking advantage of complementary strengths in basic science research and clinical programmes we aim to accelerate the speed of scientific discoveries and make more rapid progress in cancer diagnosis and treatment. By taking a proactive approach to business development, Imperial has consistently attracted more funding from industry than any UK university.
Businesses can gain competitive advantage by working with Imperial College because we provide critical mass and excellence in terms of breadth and depth of research. We have academic partners in UK and abroad and our researchers are very well connected. Universities are now more experienced at working with business and are becoming increasingly aware of the mutual benefit of such relationships.
The business development team forms a core interface between Imperial and industry. Our role is the creation of strategic research collaborations. We identify business contacts, understand business requirements and create opportunities for business and Imperial to interact. Our teams have the expertise and experience to ensure that we can structure the collaborations appropriately. You can find some of these success stories on our website www.imperial.ac.uk/businessdevelopment.
Imperial offers a breadth of research in terms of science, engineering, management and medicine and we encourage interdisciplinary working so that engineers are working with scientists, medics with biologists, and so on. We are seeking to increase our international profile in line with industrial spend on research and development. As well as research collaborations we offer our industrial partners consulting services, licensing opportunities and spin-out companies. We see ourselves competing on a global stage and are responding to the international nature of the Pharma and biotech markets. Our current ranking is in the top 20 universities world-wide. Around 40 per cent of students at Imperial are from non-EU countries and the staff population is similarly diverse.
We?ve been able to create over 60 spin-out companies since 1997 because Imperial has a strong research base and a dynamic enterprise culture. A major factor in our success has been the support provided by Imperial Innovations, Imperial?s technology commercialisation group. Innovations has developed a strong team of industry-experienced personnel to provide guidance during the early stages of company formation, ensure IP is suitably protected and help link the spin-outs with potential investors and management teams.
Spin-out companies often provide a vehicle for knowledge transfer in themselves, training people to leave the laboratory and move into specialist roles ? helping research scientists become development scientists, for example. They also help to attract inward investment, as funding and industry links for spin-out companies come from all around the world. Imperial Innovations has so far generated over £30 million from spin-outs and licences.
The stem cell licensing laws in the UK are among the most liberal in the world. They allow researchers to undertake a broad research programme but at the same time maintain rigorous ethical standards. The UK authorities have set the boundaries and we allow researchers to work within those boundaries. The scientific challenge now is not so much to develop stem cells, it is more to look at applications for these stem cells ? the regenerative medicines or the wound/tissue-care treatments.
Once you?ve got to the stage where you can make a product, you need to be able to make it safely and you need the regulatory bodies to approve your method of production. Imperial is wellplaced to contribute to this area because its research activities span the range of basic science to engineering to clinical development and testing, and London is also Europe?s centre for medical evaluations and the regulatory groups of big Pharma.
The key benefit to BioPharma of working with a university like Imperial is to gain access to state-ofthe- art research and to harness new technologies to improve health. If we want to help realise the true potential of today?s innovations we also need an understanding of demographic shifts in society and changing social expectations, and the excellent industry/university dialogue in the UK helps to achieve this.
By bringing together an understanding of the technological research base and the business needs of industry we can help companies identify where research capabilities and new technologies will have their optimal effects. In areas such as stem cell research, for example, research regulations allow experienced teams to work with authorised materials in the laboratory, thus creating the potential for new scientific discoveries.
Scientists at Imperial have discovered that obese people have lower than average levels of the hunger-regulating gut hormone known as PYY, and we?ve formed a spin-out company (Thiakis)to help market this. Thiakis will enter into development contracts to turn the science into products and are already working with a major pharmaceutical company and another specialist drugdevelopment biotech company.
We also have a regenerative medicine spin-out, NovaThera, to help commercialise some of the enormous range of research into tissue engineering and regenerative medicine that spans the different faculties at Imperial. Here we have cell and developmental biologists working with surgeons, materials scientists and bioengineers, creating many opportunities for innovative research. NovaThera has secured a large Bioprocessing research grant and will use this £3.4 million funding to take stem cells to the stage where you can make enough cells to put into a product that can be submitted for clinical regulatory approval. Another area of success for Imperial is that researchers at its prestigious National Heart and Lung Institute have recently identified and now understand the mechanism of lung infl ammation.
This basically points the way towards developing new treatments for chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders. Yet another area to highlight is the discovery of the TNF alpha cycle by scientists at the Kennedy Institute (which merged with Imperial in 2000) and has since led to the development of a $4 billion drug that treats rheumatoid arthritis and is currently being marketed by Wyeth Laboratories. Imperial College and Imperial Innovations have also enjoyed success in a private placement of the technology commercialisation company earlier this year, raising over £20 million from institutional investors. This was a first for a UK universityowned technology transfer business and will allow Imperial Innovations to invest £10 million into the spin-out companies that it helps to create, speeding up the process of formation, development and growth.
The key aims of the new Bionanotechnology Centre at Imperial are to develop strong platforms of research and then look at how to innovate this research into ?gamechanging? applications where UK universities have a tradition of success. University research is driving a new wave of innovation in nanotechnology, affecting many industries and also our lifestyle. The market estimates are huge ? trillions of dollars ? and the good thing is that people are no longer just debating the definition of nanotechnology, they are talking about translating this into research programmes. For example, how do you apply nanotechnology into each of the technology-dependent industries? We think of these as electronics, energy and environment, medical devices and even pharmaceuticals, automotive, aerospace and so on.
Nanotechnology is fundamental to all these different industries. It has a very strong dependence on universitybased research and by its very nature it is a platform technology ? a tool for innovation rather than necessarily the product itself. Most nanotechnology research is still funded by the public sector. The Department of Trade and Industry launched a micro and nanotechnology initiative (MNT) last year that has encouraged industrial partners to join in. We now have a bionanotechnology centre at Imperial, which is a collaboration between Imperial, University College London and the National Physics Laboratory. This theme has become a core area of research, particularly in healthcare, and the centre is part of the new Institute of Biomedical Engineering based in South Kensington, London.
The IBE is driving the research agenda for this centre and attracting international investors such as Advance Nanotech from US, which has committed over $5 million of funding for projects at the centre. It is planning a range of nano projects looking at everything from retinal implants, information interfaces and totally biodegradable composites to nanoparticle composite drug delivery systems and engineered nanoparticles for proteomics. We have supplemented this research funding with a range of specialised business models that will help to realise value from, and hopefully accelerate the transformation of, this university research into industry innovation both in the UK and overseas.
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