A match made on campus
The Babraham Research Campus is a melting pot for industrial-academic collaboration. It’s really exciting for scientists at the Babraham Institute to see the basic research findings we make in the laboratory used as a basis for the development of new therapies.
In 2015, the Babraham Institute launched a Babraham Research Campus Collaboration Fund (BRCCF) as part of its Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation strategy. Its aims were to foster links between BI and campus companies. My lab submitted an application to work on a proof of concept project with Cancer Research UK Therapeutic Discovery Laboratories (CRUK-TDL) to identify new small molecule immunostimlatory approaches for cancer. CRUK-TDL, part of CRUK’s research and innovation directorate is the in house drug discovery arm of Cancer Research UK and has fully enabled drug discovery capabilities that are used to translate cutting edge science into innovative new therapies for cancer patients. The aim of the work was to determine whether we had the potential to develop new drugs that work by stimulating immune function in cancer. The drugs would work by preventing the function of regulatory T-cells within tumours.
The application was successful and based on data generated through this initial collaboration, the Institute was awarded a Cancer Research UK Small Molecule Drug Discovery Project for three years to perform high-throughput screening of new small molecule immune-stimulatory drugs for immune-based therapy of cancer. This project is a collaboration between the Roychoudhuri lab and Drs Stuart Farrow and Laura Rosenberg at CRUK-TDL. By designing new cell-based functional reporter assays for the function of immunosuppressive molecular pathways in Treg cells, Institute scientists hope to leverage the expertise and resources of CRUK-TDL to identify new small molecules that can suppress such pathways. This approach will utilise high-throughput small molecule screens using compound libraries held by the CRUK drug discovery community.
The proximity of the Babraham Institute to companies on the Babraham Research Campus has in many cases provided the opportunity for fundamental bioscience conducted at the Institute to be developed further. Our relationship with CRUK’s therapeutic discovery laboratories is really important for the lab – being so very close, members of TDL and my lab frequently make the short walk across campus to exchange reagents, attend each other’s lab meetings and swap ideas and data. I feel this kind of close collaboration is essential for productive collaborations – and will hopefully be the game-changer that will enable us to develop new candidates for treatment of patients with cancer together with CR-UK.