Researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) have been awarded £2 million from the Technology Missions Fund of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to develop novel vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics.
The funding is part of a £12.3 million investment for the creation of a GlycoCell Engineering Biology Mission Hub at the University of Nottingham.
The hub will unite experts from various fields to unlock the potential of glycans, sugar-based biomolecules that function within our cells and proteins.
Glycans have a significant impact on our biology, are vital in how our immune system interacts with pathogens, and ensure the proper functioning of many modern medicines. However, they are currently very challenging to study and produce and are sometimes referred to as the „dark matter“ of biology.
With the new funding, The Hub will focus on further examining their interactions and utilizing modern technologies to enable their bioproduction. The team hopes that this will accelerate the discovery and production of vaccines, generate new therapeutics and diagnostics, and drastically reduce the production costs of advanced medications.
Glycans or sugars play a key role in both fundamental biology and biotechnology. The GlycoCell consortium will use novel approaches in engineering biology to produce more effective glycan-based therapeutics, diagnostics, and vaccines.
– Professor Brendan Wren, Co-Director of the GlycoCell Engineering Biology Mission Hub and LSHTM Vaccine Centre
Professor Wren’s co-director and lead researcher of the hub, Dr. John Heap from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Nottingham, stated:
„We are delighted with this significant investment from DSIT and UKRI to advance the GlycoCell Hub. It will make a leading, transformative contribution to creating a healthier, more sustainable, fairer, and prosperous future.“
Alongside the University of Nottingham, the project will involve collaboration between researchers from Imperial College London, the University of Dundee, the Quadram Institute, and the University of Exeter, as well as three industry 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 Minister for Science, Research, and Innovation, Andrew Griffiths, aiming to unlock the potential of engineering biology.
The goals of GlycoCell are:
- Utilize our capability to program glycan sugars, opening a world of research opportunities in biology and medical biotechnology.
- Design, test, and manufacture many novel therapeutics, diagnostics, and vaccines against pathogens affecting human and animal health.
- Enhance our epidemic preparedness.
- Combat antimicrobial resistance through the development of vaccines against bacterial and fungal pathogens, reducing our reliance on antibiotics to address these threats.
- Develop the technology to shift the production of advanced drugs to microbial hosts and significantly reduce their costs through scalable production.
- Establish and implement GlycoForge, a specialized automated facility, as a national resource of the UK, routinely developing vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics and ready to respond quickly to new pandemic threats within 100 days.
- Train the current generation and develop future leaders in engineering biology for science, industry, and the public sector.
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)