The projects aim to improve techniques for faster and more efficient development and manufacture of biological medicines.
BRIC is a BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council)-led partnership with EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) and the UK biopharmaceutical industry, with support from bioProcessUK, and was established in 2005 to fund the very best UK academics to carry out research to underpin the rapidly growing field of biological medicines. The aim is to both understand the bioscience underpinning bioprocessing and also to improve the tools for bioprocessing and accelerate development in this field. Funding has been awarded to university scientists to investigate three main areas:
1) Alternative Processes for the Recovery and Purification of Biopharmaceutical Products
2) Bioprocess Integration and Intensification for Biopharmaceutical Manufacture
3) Quantification and Characterisation of Products and Impurities in Biopharmaceutical Manufacture
The nine projects announced today are the third round of grants awarded by BRIC since it was launched and take the total value of research funded by the club to over £13M. The projects funded from the first round of grants have now been running for two years and will shortly be evaluated.
Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Director for Innovation and Skills, said: "These projects will help UK science contribute to the important social and economic outcomes of research in the area of biological medicines. BRIC is an open and transparent collaboration between publicly funded science and the biopharmaceutical industry and is very well placed to ensure that new and existing biopharmaceutical treatments are underpinned by excellent science.
“The projects funded under the first rounds of BRIC are now well advanced. We will be evaluating how well they have done and the difference the projects will make and this will help us to determine the future direction of all BBSRC’s public-private research clubs.”
Dr John Birch, Chairman of the BRIC steering group and Chief Scientific Officer at Lonza Biologics, said: “The UK is a leader in bioprocessing and we must ensure that we stimulate innovative research in our universities that is applicable to manufacture of biopharmaceuticals. BRIC’s funding of these nine projects will ensure that our academic capabilities are translated into real benefits for patients in the long run.”
Catherine Coates, EPSRC Director of the Business Innovation Directorate, said: “Bioprocessing is a crucial area that can benefit from a multidisciplinary approach, encompassing engineering and the biosciences. By working together with industry to fund this club BBSRC and EPSRC can ensure that the best proposals from both our communities are successful, and can encourage scientists to work together in multidisciplinary teams.”
A full list of projects funded by the BRIC third round can be found below. Amongst the highlights are:
- Large scale standardised manufacturing of stem cells – Researchers at Loughborough University and the University of Nottingham are developing scalable and standardised manufacturing methods for human therapeutic stem cells. The work will ultimately enable production of stem cells on a commercial scale.
- Producing complete therapeutic proteins using bacteria – Recent research into a protein export system in bacteria called the ‘Tat’ system will be utilised by researchers at the University of Warwick and University College London. They aim to develop an entirely novel platform that will produce complete fully folded therapeutic proteins, thus bypassing major technical problems experienced with previous bacterial synthesis systems that can only produce unfolded protein.
- Better freeze drying protocols – A team at Oxford University will improve protocols to minimise damage to, and potential deactivation of, therapeutic proteins by identifying and characterising changes in structure of proteins undergoing freeze drying. This will also help to identify the best carrier materials for therapeutic proteins going into e.g. pill or powder form.