Knowledge Exchange & Commercialisation (KEC) Prize
The KEC Prize recognises an individual or team who have contributed to the Institute's KEC activities, demonstrating their passion for generating impact and transferring their knowledge.
Dr James Dooley, Senior Staff Scientist from the Immunology research programme won the 2022 KEC Prize. James was awarded the KEC Prize for his spearheading of the efforts to develop Aila Biotech Limited as CEO-elect. A promising spin-out opportunity from the Liston lab, Aila will develop a patented gene delivery technology to drive the production of immune-regulating biologics at the site of disease. Over the last year, the business case for the company has been greatly improved through James’s focus not just on the translational science, sourcing of CROs and work with clinical collaborators, but also in building and communicating the business proposition. As a direct result of the work put in by James and the rest of the Aila Biotech support team, an offer of seed investment into Aila Biotech has been received which will enable the company to be properly established, and seek further funding for the next stages of development.
The 2020 Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation Prize was awarded to Dr Stefan Schoenfelder, a senior scientist at the Institute's Epigenetic Programme and one of one of three scientific founders of the Institute’s most recent spin-out company, Enhanc3D Genomics. Enhanc3D Genomics’ mission is to apply functional genomics to link non-coding DNA sequence variants to their target genes in order to identify novel therapeutic targets.
The KEC award recognises Dr Schoenfelder's key role in developing the founding research central to the company's activity, establishing the spin-out team, and successfully raising seed funding from the Start Codon Cambridge Healthcare Accelerator. In judging, the KEC Committee members highlighted that the formation of Enhanc3D Genomics has shown how well Institute-supported translational activities can lead to the establishment of an innovative spin-out, with Dr Schoenfelder demonstrating “impressive drive to turn the techniques and protocols he developed at the bench into such a successful commercial proposal".
The Bioinformatics Core Facility team; Dr Hanneke Okkenhaug, Imaging Core Facility team; Mr Diljeet Gill, Epigenetics Programme; Dr Aled Parry, Epigenetics Programme; Dr Stefan Schoenfelder, Epigenetics Programme; Dr Kirsty Hooper, Signalling Programme.
The 2019 Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation Prize was awarded to the Flow Cytometry Facility team: Rachael Walker (Head), Rebecca Roberts, Attila Bebes, Arthur Davis, Aleksandra Lazowska and Isobel Darlington. The award recognised the impact of the team’s extensive work over the past twelve months to raise the profile of both the facility and the Institute as a whole. They have trained over 50 external scientists, established new collaborations leading to innovative protocols and streamlined data analysis for commercial companies using the facility. In addition, the award recognised the team’s dedication and in-depth knowledge and understanding of not only their own facility but also the underpinning biology of the projects utilising the facility.
This year's winner is Luke Mercer from the Biological Support Unit. He has recently invented an elegantly simple cardboard and fabric device to enrich the environment of laboratory mice. The invention has been developed by Datesand Ltd. and will soon be helping to enrich the lives of mice in facilities worldwide. The judges noted the high-level of innovation and initiative shown by Luke in addressing a widespread problem in his area.
As part of ensuring good animal welfare, facilities worldwide provide enrichment for their animals, which are typically things that the animals find interesting, entertaining and useful in their daily lives. Luke’s device is entirely biodegradable and is designed to be slowly shredded by the mice, allowing them to use their teeth and claws while providing themselves with new bedding material. The innovative design makes the device adaptable to different facilities and by suspending it from the top of the cages ensures that it remains clean and can be easily replaced. Its compact size and shape, as well as its light weight, make it easy, cheap and environmentally friendly to transport and store.
You can see the device in use in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IaOSrQjGpw
Rebecca Roberts from the Flow Cytometry Facility was nominated for her outstanding commitment to KEC in the Facility while providing maternity cover for the Facility Head. She has provided high-quality flow cytometry training to numerous users both within and outside the Institute, organised regular meetings around the Facility’s research, communicated on Flow Cytometry to non-specialist audience. Rebecca's extensive work with external partners enabled continuity and improvements to the world-class service the Facility offers, with the Facility additionally benefiting from an increased income resulting from the enhanced interactions with third parties.
This year's winner is Becky Gilley from the Cook lab for her leadership of a Campus Collaboration Fund with Phoremost, which has been instrumental in priming a subsequent successful application to Innovate UK/TSB by PhoreMost and the Babraham Institute.
Comments from the committee and external judges stated that Becky demonstrated a strong understanding of Babraham Institute science and its potential industrial application, was involved in the planning of commercial work and driving it forward and established a strong collaboration with Phoremost to develop a Proof of Concept project.
Lina Dobnikar, Natasha Morgan, Michiel Thiecke and Rachael Huntly, who won the national Biotechnology YES competition by developing a commercial proposal to overcome a parasite that has been identified as a major cause of bee colony collapse disorder.
Laetititia Chauve has been responsible for organising the Cambridge Area Worm Meeting since 2014, which has led to funding for the European Genie network conference. She was also part of the organising committee for the Ageing Cell Conference and played a major part in the smooth running of the talks.
Clara Novo, Danika Hill and Claire Senner who successfully conceived and coordinated a joint postdoc retreat with another EU Life Institute, the Gulbenkian Institute in Portugal (IGC) in October 2017. They have also organised funding that fully covers the costs of registration, accommodation and travel of 30 BI postdocs.
Joint Winners in 2016
Since joining the Babraham Institute as a new tenure track Group Leader in 2015 Rahul Roychoudhuri has proactively set up a number of commercial collaborations. As well as developing new contacts himself, he has been an enthusiastic participant and speaker at industry networking events arranged by the KEC team, including the Immunology Showcase for Industry, and science events with GSK and Cancer Research UK Ltd.
This work has resulted in: 2 CASE studentships; working with three Babraham Research Campus Companies, including hosting a member of CRUK Ltd staff in his lab (funded by a BRC Collaboration Fund award); and a successful collaborative application for a CRUK Small Molecule Drug Discovery Project.
Peter Rugg-Gunn has been a strong supporter of the KEC programme at Babraham since becoming the KEC Committee Rep for the Epigenetics ISP. He has worked to encourage KEC activities within the ISP including submissions for KEC funding.
Peter has taken an active role in providing evidence for policy-makers around the topic of Gene Editing through activities such as a workshop on ‘Stem Cells and Society: Planning for the Future of Gene Editing’, which resulted in a published report. He is also involved in workshops looking at developing scientific leaders in government through the Cambridge Centre for Science and Policy.
Since Matt Humphries started at the Institute in 2014, he has taken the Institute’s seminar programme from strength to strength, resulting in a packed schedule of both national and international speakers. Matt’s initiative and ambition has ensured BI leads the way in EU-LIFE seminars, with other Institutes now following suit. Additionally, Matt has worked hard to develop Institute-campus interactions by developing and supporting company-hosted seminars, improving communication and encouraging networking.
Melanie and Ferdinand recognised the need for a robust assay to assess the quality of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) quality, both for use as a research tool and clinically. Working in the Reik group, they successfully applied for a Babraham Institute Commercialisation Grant from the Institute’s Translational Advisory Group (TAG). Whilst working on this project they have arranged mentoring sessions with TAG member Dr Cathy Prescott, who has extensive experience in the commercialisation of stem cell technologies, enabling them to develop an understanding of the market around their technology.
Nicolas Le Novère organised a one-day EMBO special interest symposium on the topic of ‘Systems Biology of Epigenetics and Cell Fate’, obtaining funding both from the KEC Committee and commercial sponsors. The symposium attracted speakers/delegates from across the EU, resulting in the development of new relationships. Nicolas also started a special interest group ‘SysMod’ which aims to bridge the gap between bioinformatics and systems modelling – bringing together a variety of researchers.
The winner in 2015 was Nelly Olova, a Post-Doc in the Institute’s Epigenetics research programme. Having secured KEC funding in 2013 and 2014, Nelly is developing two antibodies with a novel specificity to epigenetic targets, as well as a method with potential for very wide usage and high socioeconomic impact. She has engaged with a number of other organisations to develop the project, and has secured a place on the University of Cambridge Judge Business School’s Accelerate Cambridge programme.
Speaking about her award, Nelly said “My translational work has been both exciting and challenging, and would not have been possible without the KEC funding I have been awarded by the BI. I have learned a lot, made a lot of contacts, and I hope to see this project continue its journey to make a real impact to the scientific and biotech community”.
The judges from the BBSRC and KEC committee praised all entrants, with one commenting; “It is extremely pleasing to see so many high-quality applications, which is a reflection of the further development, appreciation and understanding of KEC at Babraham.”
Nelly received a further commendation from one judge saying; “This is a good example of an enterprising individual, supported by the PI and Institute, demonstrating how their research and enterprise activities inform and complement each other.”