Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst

Cambridge was the first university to establish a programme of translational research projects at the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, in order to advance drug discovery and the development of new medicines.

The Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst is the first open innovation campus in the country and encourages collaboration between tenants including GlaxoSmithKline GSK, GE Healthcare, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, University of Cambridge UCL and over 40 bioscience companies who are all part of the SBC campus. MRC Technology’s drug discovery group will be moving in soon. Cambridge Enterprise is managing the University’s relationship with SBC and between three and five University research projects will be located at SBC at any one time.

The exchange of scientific ideas and overall atmosphere of collaboration at SBC helps us as researchers, as well as our industrial colleagues, become more efficient in developing new ideas which will lead to better drugs and improved clinical treatments.

 Professor Peter McNaughton

First announced in 2012, the programme gives University researchers access to the drug development expertise of GSK and other pharmaceutical and biotech companies, while giving industry access to Cambridge research and know how in order to accelerate the development of new medicines. SBC brings together academia and industry with the goal of developing new innovations in the life sciences through collaboration. A key element of the open innovation environment fostered through SBC is enabling scientific exchange to flourish without the need for exclusive research collaboration agreements between partners. The open innovation model allows Cambridge scientists to freely interact with other pharmaceutical, biotech and contract research organisations, SBC tenants and academic institutions.

There are now three University research projects in place at SBC and Cambridge Enterprise is seeking a fourth. Professor Peter McNaughton is working on a novel approach to alleviating neuropathic pain and the pain associated with hypersensitivity to heat for both of which there is currently inadequate pain relief treatments.

Professor Robin Franklin of the Wellcome Trust-Medical Research Council Cambridge Stem Cell Institute is developing a new regenerative therapy for MS. MS affects almost 100,000 people in the UK, 400,000 in the US, and several million worldwide.

The research of Professor Clare Bryant of the Department of Veterinary Medicine has identified how the most common cause of severe allergic reactions to cats, the Fel d 1 protein, triggers an allergic response. At the SBC, Bryant and her team are building on this research to develop new therapies for allergic asthma.

“This is a ground-breaking approach to early stage drug discovery, which is typically enormously time consuming and expensive,” said Professor McNaughton. “The exchange of scientific ideas and overall atmosphere of collaboration at SBC helps us as researchers, as well as our industrial colleagues, become more efficient in developing new ideas which will lead to better drugs and improved clinical treatments.”

One of the projects has already attracted significant follow-on funds for further industrial medicinal chemistry to be performed, highlighting the success of the Cambridge laboratories at the SBC.

Cambridge is the first university to establish this type of arrangement. In a recent bid led by University College London, the University was awarded £800k in funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to enable the two universities to work together at the SBC. As well as backing projects at the SBC, the funding is also being used to support the establishment of a range of collaborative training programmes to develop the next generation of entrepreneurial bioscience researchers.

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