Cambridge researchers and pharma industry form new consortium to develop and study early stage drugs

Will act as a 'match-making' service between industry and academics

A new Cambridge 'match-making service' will aim to unite researchers and pharmaceutical firms, in a bid to develop new life-saving drugs.

The UK-based Therapeutics Consortium will bring together Cambridge University scientists and the region's biggest pharma firms, in a brand new building at the city's biomedical campus.

It will connect researchers from the university, the Babraham Institute and Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, with Cambridge-based firms including Astex Pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline.

It will provide researchers with the potential to access novel therapeutic agents (including small molecules and antibodies) across the entire portfolio of drugs being developed by each of the companies, in order to investigate their mechanism, efficacy and potential.

From 2018 the Therapeutics Consortium will form a major part of the Milner Therapeutics Institute, which will be located in a new building at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, the centrepiece of the largest biotech cluster outside the US.

Each industry partner within the consortium has committed funding to spend on collaborative projects and will collectively fund an executive manager to oversee the academic/industry interactions. Collaborative projects are expected to lead to joint publications, supporting a culture of more open innovation.

Each industry partner within the consortium has committed funding to spend on collaborative projects

Professor Tony Kouzarides from the University of Cambridge, who will head the Therapeutics Consortium and the Milner Institute, is currently Deputy Director at the Gurdon Institute. He says: 'The Milner Institute will act as a ‘match-making’ service through the Therapeutics Consortium, connecting the world-leading research potential of the University of Cambridge and partner institutions with the drug development expertise and resources of the pharmaceutical industry. We hope many more pharmaceutical companies will join our consortium and believe this form of partnership is a model for how academic institutions and industry can work together to deliver better medicines.'

It is envisaged that the Milner Institute will be equipped with core facilities, such as high-throughput screening of small molecules against cell lines, organoids (‘mini organs’) and tumour biopsies, as well as bioinformatics support to help scientists deal with large datasets. Its facilities will be available to researchers working on collaborative projects within the Therapeutics Consortium and, capacity permitting, to other scientists and clinicians within the Cambridge community.

In addition, the Milner Institute will have space for scientists to set up independent research groups. There will also be associated faculty positions, which will be taken up by scientists in different departments, whose research and expertise will benefit from a close association with the Milner Institute.

The Milner Institute will be housed within the new Capella building, alongside the relocated Wellcome Trust/MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, a new Centre for Blood & Leukaemia Research, and a new Centre for Immunology & Immunotherapeutics.

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