Babraham Bioscience Technologies (BBT), the commercial arm of the Babraham Institute, hosted an inaugural Cambridge BioAcademic Showcase – established to bring leading academic research institutions together with industry to explore research synergy and opportunities for future collaboration.
The event showcased the research of 15 scientists from The Babraham Institute, The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, The MRC’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology, The University of Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin University and attracted over 100 delegates from the life sciences community.
Representatives from local and international companies including MedImmune, GSK, Abcam, Cellzome, Pfizer, Merck and biotech companies from the Babraham Campus gathered to hear the highlights from local researchers. These ranged from antibody therapies, novel biotherapeutics, genomic approaches to personalise cancer treatments and innovative approaches using stem cells for genetic screening. A number of investors also attended from Imperial Innovations and Corporate Venture groups.
The event was conceived to bring together potential partners from the different realms of the discovery process and increase early-stage collaboration between industry and academia.
Rob Pinnock, Director Scientific Liaison at Merck – sponsor of the event – gave the keynote lecture outlining new approaches to enable Pharma to engage effectively with the academic research base.
He explained: “At Merck/MSD we recognise the critical role of academic and biotech scientists in biomedical discovery. Events such as the BioAcademic Showcase provide an important forum to enable dialogue and cultivate scientific exchange as we seek to identify collaborators with whom we can combine our strengths and share our successes.”
Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of External Relations at ideaSpace in Cambridge, added: “We are seeing relationships forged earlier and earlier in the development life cycle between industry and academia and the BioAcademic Showcase provided an ideal forum for bringing the key players together.
“I am optimistic this event will make a valuable contribution to catalysing such relationships with the ultimate vision of creating some new and innovative early-stage ventures in the biomedical sector.”
David Davison, Director of Corporate Services at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute said the institute was delighted to be part of the first Bio-Academic Showcase.
“It was an ideal opportunity to meet with fellow researchers and colleagues from the pharmaceutical and biotech industry to discuss the latest discoveries from human and pathogen genomes,” he said.
“We hope this will help drive forward the translation of our innovative research and technologies into resources that will have the greatest impact in improving human health.”
Dr Klaus Okkenhaug is one of Babraham’s group leaders whose research has identified potential non-immunosuppressive cancer therapies. He commented: “The event succeeded in showcasing some of the most exciting and innovative biomedical research going on the Cambridge area and provided opportunities to meet with company executives in an informal environment.”
As a leading hub of life sciences innovation in the UK, the Babraham Research Campus plays a key role supporting the region’s early-stage biomedical enterprises and helping to attract inward investment.
While known for its Biotechnology Investment Forum, aimed at early-stage companies seeking investment, BBT’s latest pioneering event was designed to bring early-stage academic research with commercialisation potential to the attention of industry to foster knowledge exchange between academia and industry as well as within academia.
Derek Jones, BBT’s CEO said: “The BioAcademic Showcase was an ideal forum to bring together academia and industry to better understand each others’ needs and to help identify research areas that are of greatest interest and present an opportunity for commercialisation.
“Feedback from delegates demonstrates that this first Showcase was successful in its aims so we will be planning further ‘show and tell’ opportunities with our partner organisations.”
A unique aspect of the Babraham Campus is the proximity of a world-leading academic institute with commercial ventures, potentially facilitating the translation of ideas emanating from basic bioscience research into industry.
“This event is part of the campus’ wider communications strategy to strengthen links between academia and industry, to explore research synergy and foster knowledge exchange,” explained Dr Claire Cockcroft, Head of External Relations at the Babraham Institute, which receives strategic support from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
“This event follows the launch last month of our Knowledge Exchange Forum, aimed specifically at bringing our institute scientists together with campus-based companies to explore potential collaborative avenues.
“These events have catalysed many new conversations and an application by a Babraham scientist and campus company to BBSRC’s Industry Interchange Scheme, which supports short-term exchanges between the UK science base and industry.”
• Photograph shows: BBT CEO, Derek Jones