University of Exeter and MDC in strategic partnership

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Today, the University of Exeter and Medicines Discovery Catapult (MDC) announce their strategic partnership to accelerate medicines Research & Development (R&D), creating value for the sector and enhancing translational skills.

MDC is the national centre for technology, innovation and adoption for medicines R&D and, in collaboration with the University of Exeter and its ground-breaking researchers, will maximise the impact and value of basic medical research, to the ultimate benefit of patients. Importantly, this partnership also produces a post-COVID blueprint for academic-Catapult collaboration to drive UK productivity.

To discover new medicines, high quality research must be translated into new drug candidates or technologies through an industrial process of refinement and structured experimentation. This combination of academic endeavour with industrial rigour is critical to produce assets that can be adopted by industry or funded by venture capital. Sharing skills and experience across these two disciplines is also key to how translation can be dramatically improved across UK institutions at this time of exceptional challenge.

Coupling the world-class research at Exeter with MDC’s industry skills, cutting-edge discovery platforms, data technologies and access to its national networks ensures promising innovations are identified, independently validated and packaged so that industry and funders are able to adopt them, with clear benefits to the entire community.

Activities of focus for the partners can be broadly categorised as follows:

  • Identifying research that can be supported at its earliest stages
  • Developing identified innovation into an independently validated proposition, allowing investors and pharmaceutical partners to join projects with confidence
  • Embedding industry standard drug discovery thinking and knowledge at the point of ideation, creating better medicines of the future
  • Identifying and developing new mechanisms to sustain the development of these medicines, through novel funding mechanisms and partnerships

Prof. Neil Gow FRS, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Impact) of the University of Exeter, says:

“This exciting partnership offers much for both parties.  It will enable our researchers to take their novel ideas beyond the stage where academic inspiration transitions into translational applications. For Medicines Discovery Catapult, we hope this will deepen the well of creative ideas that their expertise can support.

“I look forward to seeing both partners achieve their goals – making a difference and enabling us to translate research well beyond the lab, into real-world impact. This pioneering partnership will create a blueprint for accelerating innovation, enabling our research to have meaningful benefits on people’s health and wellbeing.”

Professor Chris Molloy, Chief Executive Officer at Medicines Discovery Catapult says:

“This partnership is the realisation of a faster route for innovative research to reach the clinic. It is also a paradigm for how universities and industrial translators can each do what they are best at, and maximise national impact – now and into the future.

“This shared-skills, co-operative approach tackles a deep structural issue head on and ensures the best ideas see the light of day at pace and scale for the benefit of patients and the UK economy.

“Access to our skills, technology and networks at a critical stage of medicines discovery means we and the University of Exeter can develop future medicines as well as future wealth creating academic translators.”

Dr. Tony Soteriou, Director for Commercialisation of Research, UKRI says:

“UK Research and Innovation works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish.

“The partnership between the University of Exeter and Medicines Discovery Catapult exemplifies this spirit, unblocking one of the major bottlenecks in translation and commercialisation. It capitalises on the excellent work performed by leading academics and ensures it reaches industry in a format that is ready to attract onwards funding and investment.”

Collaboration between the two organisations was initiated and facilitated by Dr. Jehangir Cama, David Whitehouse and Prof. Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova, members of the Wellcome Trust funded ‘Translational Research Exchange @ Exeter’ (TREE).

Joint events were hosted pre-COVID-19 at Exeter’s flagship Living Systems Institute to identify early stage innovation, which subsequently  initialised several projects involving University of Exeter academic staff, pre-spin out companies and industry specialists at MDC to create independently validated propositions and thus accelerate their development to clinic.

The announced formal agreement of a strategic partnership between the University and MDC will now further strengthen and develop the collaboration, delivering a new paradigm for University-Catapult cooperation and translational science in the UK.