Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) have been awarded £2m funding through the UK Research and Innovation's (UKRI) Technology Missions Fund, to develop novel vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics.
The funding is part of a £12.3 million award to develop a GlycoCell Engineering Biology Mission Hub, based at the University of Nottingham.
The Hub will bring together a range of experts from different fields to unlock the potential of glycans, sugar-based biomolecules that function within our cells and proteins.
Glycans have a huge influence on our biology, are integral to the way that our immune system interacts with pathogens and ensure that many modern pharmaceuticals function properly. However, they are currently very difficult to study and manufacture, and are sometimes referred to as the "dark matter" of biology.
With the new funding, The Hub will focus on further study of their interactions, as well as exploiting modern technologies to enable their bio-manufacture. The team hope this will accelerate vaccine discovery and production, generate new therapeutics and diagnostics, and dramatically reduce the production costs of advanced drugs.
Glycans or sugars play key roles in both fundamental biology and biotechnology.
The GlycoCell consortium will exploit novel Engineering Biology approaches to produce more effective glycan-based therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines."
Professor Brendan Wren, Co-Director of both the GlycoCell Engineering Biology Mission Hub and LSHTM's Vaccine Centre
Professor Wren's fellow co-director and principle investigator for the Hub, Dr John Heap, from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Nottingham, said:
"We are delighted to receive this significant investment from DSIT and UKRI to take the GlycoCell Hub forward.
"It will make a leading, transformative contribution to bringing about a healthier, more sustainable, equitable and prosperous future."
Alongside the University of Nottingham, the project will be a collaboration between researchers at Imperial College London, the University of Dundee, the Quadram Institute, and the University of Exeter and three industrial partners - Iceni Glycoscience, Synthace Limited, Incepta Pharmaceuticals Ltd.
The Hub is one of six new Engineering Biology Mission Hubs and 22 Mission Award projects announced by the Science, Research and Innovation Minister, Andrew Griffith, designed to unlock the potential of Engineering Biology.
- Unlock our ability to program glycan sugars, opening a world of research opportunities in biology and medical biotechnology.
- Design, test and make many new therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines against pathogens that impact human and animal health.
- Enhance our epidemic preparedness.
- Counteract antimicrobial resistance by developing vaccines against bacterial and fungal pathogens, reducing our reliance on antibiotics to combat these threats.
- Develop the technology to move production of advanced drugs to microbial hosts, considerably reducing their cost thanks to scalable production.
- Build and deploy GlycoForge, a specialist automated facility, as a UK national asset that will routinely develop vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, and will be ready to deliver a 100-day rapid response to new pandemic threats.
- Train the current generation and develop future leaders in Engineering Biology for academia, industry and the public sector.