4 June, 2020 - 19:45 By News Desk

New paradigm beckons for life science sector

Having recently returned from a year’s sabbatical to spearhead Mogrify’s mission to transform the development of lifesaving cell therapies I recently took time to reflect on my near-30 year involvement in the Cambridge Life Science scene since arriving in 1991 to read for a PhD in Biotechnology under one of the pioneers of UK life science and entrepreneurship, Professor Christopher R Lowe, writes Dr Darrin Disley, CEO of Mogrify.

It has struck me just how fast the life science sector is moving towards an R & D paradigm built on the integration of computer, natural and physical sciences and a commercial paradigm increasingly played out within a more open innovation framework across academia and industry.

Furthermore, the sector is developing within an entrepreneurial ecosystem capable of exploiting the current favourable R & D, tax, regulatory and investment framework and attractive to the efficient recycling of scientific, commercial and leadership talent.

Over the past 30 years Cambridge University has led the way via the invention of numerous enabling techniques such as DNA sequencing (Klennerman & Balasubramanian), X-ray crystallography (Aaron Klug), gene editing (Martin Evans), cell reprogramming (Gurdon), cell apoptosis (Sulston), GFP tagging (Tsien) and monoclonal antibody development (Winter) that have been pivotal in both advancing global academic investigation and (via the effective transfer of innovations into industry) driving of economic productivity. 

Shining lights in the Cambridge/UK life science scene such as Abcam, Astex, Bicycle Therapeutics, CAT, KuDOS, Kymab, Horizon Discovery, Healx, Mogrify, Owlstone Medical and Solexa have commercialised many of these innovations, going on to shine on the national and international stage and contributing greatly to what is now known as the Cambridge Phenomenon.

There is no doubt we live in a golden age of biology and this places the sector at the centre of addressing the need for scalable and sustainable solutions to the biggest challenges facing human kind over the next 50 years – namely how we feed, fuel and heal a population that is critically ageing in developed nations but most rapidly ageing in developing countries.

The biggest of these issues is undoubtedly healthcare – its composition, delivery and affordability. The issue is magnified with each advance we make in the feed and fuel aspects of the paradigm and with improved sustainability of the human condition. 

It is well known that the economics of producing medicines designed to treat critical and chronic diseases of ageing has been unsustainable due to high development costs and low efficacy. 

Fortunately, a convergence of technology–hardware, wetware and software–is allowing both the elucidation of the fundamental genetic, epigenetic and regulatory basis of disease and the implementation of a more personalised approach to medicine.

This approach combines early diagnosis, targeted molecular therapies and companion diagnostic tests to match the right drug(s) to the right patient as well as the recent arrival of gene and cell therapies capable of curing an individual patient’s disease.

In order to develop personalised treatment regimens that deliver better clinical outcomes and healthcare economic models for developers, providers and consumers, patient data is needed. 

This must combine real-time health and wellness telemetry consented to by an informed and engaged citizenship, with early screening and diagnostic data predicting predisposition, onset, prognosis and theranostics.

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