A ground-breaking collaboration between academia and over 20 user organisations has received a £1.2 million investment from EPSRC, BBSRC and MRC to aid research and knowledge-sharing at the chemical biology interface.
In addition to the research councils’ investment, over 20 user organisations, including AstraZeneca, Bayer, Cancer Research UK, GlaxoSmithKline, the NHS, Pfizer, Syngenta and UCB are investing significant resource in seven separate networks.
The networks will collaborate on a range of activities to enable knowledge-sharing and innovative discipline-hopping between academia and users across the breadth of chemical biology research and development. They should also lead to research projects arising from discussion within the networks.
Chemical biology – defined as the use of chemistry and chemical tools to understand and solve biological problems – is an area of great economic value as it is an essential component of innovative research in areas such as drug discovery, biocatalysis and agri-chemicals.
Dr Tony Wood, head of worldwide chemistry at Pfizer and EPSRC Council member, says: “I’m delighted to see research councils’ support for this important area of chemical science, which is helping to provide a functional bridge between genetics and cell biology through the design of new small molecule tools and the application of novel biophysical measurement techniques.”
EPSRC’s Dr Nico Guernion says: “Collaborations between academia, industry, charities and healthcare providers are becoming increasingly important to building successful drug discovery programmes, and the UK has a strong track record in this field. Other sectors, such as agri-food, are also seeking new multidisciplinary alliances in chemical biology to solve challenges in agri-sciences.
“We’re delighted to be sponsoring such eminent academics in partnership with key user organisations on research that’s becoming increasingly important to global health and wellbeing.”
MRC’s head of molecular and cellular medicine, Nathan Richardson, comments: “Chemical biology, particularly at the interface with pharmacology, medicinal chemistry and structure-based drug design, is a priority area for the MRC. Through this pump-priming investment and follow-on research activities we are eager to capitalise on the UK’s strengths in drug discovery and, through multidisciplinary working, exploit innovative chemical biology to tackle important biomedical questions and develop novel therapeutics approaches.”
Dr Celia Caulcott, director of innovation and skills, BBSRC, adds: “These networks will strengthen the research community and enable new partnerships to form across disciplines.
“The three research councils involved have a strong history of funding research at the chemistry-biology interface, including protein structure and chemistry; biological catalysis; novel chemical synthesis methods; and the application of engineering principles to biological materials. Research within these topics can support a variety of technological developments in industry that will underpin social and economic impact from high-quality science.”
The success of the joint efforts of EPSRC, BBSRC and MRC to encourage and facilitate engagement between academics and industrialists in this research area can be seen from the list of academic collaborators taking part in the seven networks, listed here:
- Dr Laura Barter (Imperial College London): Agri-Science Chemical Biology Network;
- Professor Weng Chan (University of Nottingham): Cell Control in a Petri Dish (CCPD) Collaborative Network;
- Professor Beining Chen (University of Sheffield): Stem Cells, Prion Proteins and Alzheimer’s Diseases: A Prion Chemical Biology Network (PCBNet);
- Professor David Klug (Imperial College London) and Professor Andrew Wilson (University of Leeds): Protein-Protein Interaction Inhibitors: From Design and Synthesis, Through Biophysics to Cell Permeable Inhibitors;
- Professor Jason Micklefield (University of Manchester): Manchester Chemical Biology Network;
- Professor Nick Tomkinson (Cardiff University): Alignment of Synthesis, Medicinal Chemistry and Structural Genomics to Accelerate UK Drug Discovery: Network SMS-Drug;
- Professors Paul Wyatt and Ian Gilbert (University of Dundee): 3D Libraries Consortium.
For more information about the networks please contact the relevant academic researchers directly, via their university web pages, or e-mail Chembio@epsrc.ac.uk.