UCL translational research incubator at Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst reaches capacity with addition of two new projects

25 March 2015

UCL’s bioscience incubator at the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst (SBC) has now reached capacity following the migration of two further research projects to the facility from the university’s central London campus.

The new research projects have been strategically chosen by UCL’s Translational Research Office in the UCL School of Life and Medical Sciences and by UCL Business PLC (UCLB) – the university’s technology transfer company – because of their commercialisation potential and the benefits that the SBC open innovation campus will offer.

The project lead by Professor Rachel Chambers (UCL Centre for Inflammation and Tissue Repair within the Division of Medicine) will focus on the validation of a novel signaling axis as a therapeutic target for fibrotic lung disease. This project will be under the day-to-day project management of Dr Paul Mercer and is closely linked to the GSK Fibrosis Discovery Performance unit in Stevenage.

The group led by Dr Richard Day (Applied Biomedical Engineering Group, UCL Division of Medicine) will focus on developing manufacturing processes for TIPS particles. These are porous, bespoke structures produced through a process called thermally induced phase separation (TIPS). TIPS particles can be produced from a range of degradable or non-degradable materials and offer unique features, such as tuneable size, surface topography and internal porosity, allowing the particles to be tailored to meet specific requirements for treating a range of clinical conditions. TIPS particles offer significant advantages over existing particle technologies by allowing high encapsulation efficiencies of active ingredients, rapid cell attachment in vitro, fast tissue integration in vivo, and predictable degradation rates.

The UCL activities in the SBC are co-funded by the Higher Education Funding Council England (HEFCE) catalyst fund and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre and industry partners. The new projects will be based within the UCL biology lab and joining the existing portfolio of UCL’s projects in Biology, Chemistry and clean manufacturing facilities. These five projects, together with Puridify, a spin-out company from the UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering create a vibrant UCL presence within the SBC.

The initiative is part of UCL’s drive to engage more closely with the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries for translating its frontier research into meaningful innovations for improving patient health and quality of life.

Commenting on these projects, Professor David Lomas, Dean of Faculty of Medical Sciences at UCL said: “Following UCL’s strategic decision to take lab space in the SBC, this is the next step in our commitment for accelerating the translation of UCL’s world leading biomedical research to the therapeutic solutions that impact on patient care.

“The current UCL footprint in SBC is well placed to benefit from the Open Innovation ecosystem and seizing opportunities for collaboration and partnership between academia and biotech industry that is key to impactful innovation.

Professor Gary Lye, Director of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Bioprocess Engineering Leadership and principal investigator on the HEFCE Catalyst Fund award said: “This is another important step in delivering the objectives of our HEFCE Catalyst Fund award. The SBC provides a focus for UCL translational research and spin-out company formation. We are now looking at how we can support the training needs of the researchers and companies at the SBC and opportunities for student placements to enhance their employability.

Dr Martino Picardo, CEO of the Stevenage Biosciences Catalyst, said: “We are very pleased with these latest UCL projects which add to the growing portfolio of exciting academic activities at SBC; our UCL colleagues have fully embraced the Open Innovation ethos and are participating in a whole range of tenancy related activities, as well as engaging with the local bio/pharma community we have created”.

Professor Bryan Williams, Director of the NIHR University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre, added: “It is exciting to see this initiative take off and flourish as a means for UCL discovery science to access drug development expertise and facilities. We see this as fundamental to fast track the development of much-needed new treatments for patients in the NHS and beyond.

About The Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst
The Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst is the UK’s first open innovation bioscience campus, pioneering a unique culture to drive early stage bioscience technology and company development, and building a thriving entrepreneurial community. It is backed by £38m of funding from its founding partners – GlaxoSmithKline, the Wellcome Trust, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Technology Strategy Board and the former East of England Development Agency. Consisting of an Incubator, an Accelerator and a Hub, covering 60,000 sq ft of laboratory, office and networking space, the independent facility houses a range of companies, from virtual and start-up firms to those which are more established, as well as other organisations. Located on the GlaxoSmithKline Stevenage site, Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst is in the unique position of operating in proximity to the expertise and resources of a major pharmaceutical company, close to both London and Cambridge.

For more information, please go to: www.stevenagecatalyst.com

About Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst’s stakeholders
Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst’s stakeholders are GlaxoSmithKline (www.gsk.com), the Wellcome Trust (www.wellcome.ac.uk), the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (www.bis.gov.uk), the Technology Strategy Board (www.innovateuk.org) and the former East of England Development Agency (www.eeda.org.uk)

About UCL (University College London)
Founded in 1826, UCL was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. We are among the world’s top universities, as reflected by performance in a range of international rankings and tables. UCL currently has 27,000 students from almost 140 countries, and around 11,000 employees. Our annual turnover is nearly £1 billion.

www.ucl.ac.uk or follow us on Twitter @uclnews

About UCL Enterprise
UCL Enterprise provides UCL’s structures for engaging with business for commercial and societal benefit. In includes three units: UCL Advances, UCL Business and UCL Consultants, along with corporate and industrial partnerships. Together, they provide access to the capabilities and resources of the UCL community to help businesses start, grow and develop.

About UCL Business PLC
UCL Business PLC (UCLB) is a leading technology transfer company that supports and commercialises research and innovations arising from UCL, one of the UK’s top research-led universities. UCLB has a successful track record and a strong reputation for identifying and protecting promising new technologies and innovations from UCL academics. It invests directly in development projects to maximise the potential of the research and manages the commercialisation process of technologies from laboratory to market.  UCLB supports UCL’s Grand Challenges of increasing UCL’s positive impact on and contribution to Global Health, Sustainable Cities, Intercultural Interaction and Human Wellbeing.

For further information, please visit: www.uclb.com or follow us on Twitter @UCL_Business

About Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE)
The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) distributes public money for teaching, research, knowledge exchange and related activities. In 2013-14 HEFCE will distribute around £4.5 billion to 129 universities and higher education colleges and 203 further education colleges.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre
The centre is a partnership between University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and UCL, and is funded by the NIHR. The centre, set up in 2007, is at the forefront of research into major causes of illness and disease-related death and has already invested over £100m in research projects and infrastructure. Awarded a further £100m in government funding from the NIHR in 2011, the centre helps take innovations in basic science and turn them into therapies that directly benefit patients. In particular the centre supports experimental medicine research which tends to be ‘first in man’ studies such as research into new therapies and devices or the mechanisms of disease.