BBSRC launches UK’s first bioscience prosperity partnership programme

For the very first time, the prosperity partnership programme dedicates its focus to the UK’s bioscience and biotechnology sectors.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) will support 10 dynamic research collaborations between UK business and academia in its first round of prosperity partnership funding.

From developing effective cancer drugs to reducing the environmental impact of industrial processes, the projects aim to unlock innovation and address key challenges faced by the bioscience and biotechnology sectors.

A UKRI partnership

Worth over £42 million, the 10 projects are funded via a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) cross-council collaboration led by BBSRC.

BBSRC’s £13 million investment is bolstered by almost £5 million from UKRI’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Medical Research Council (MRC).

UKRI’s funding is matched by a further £24 million investment from business and academia.

Skin health for all

The World Health Organisation predicts that by 2050, 22% of the global population will be over 60.

Maintaining healthy skin for an ageing population is therefore critical.

While research has historically focused on white European skin, Boots and The University of Manchester will use this new funding to expand their successful collaboration to study the full range of skin pigmentation.

Their research will foster the creation of inclusive skin health and ageing products and treatments. It will study melanin, responsible for skin, eye and hair colour, and its effects on skin behaviour.

The aim of this project is to conduct high-quality, inclusive skin research and education that results in effective skin health solutions for everyone.

Sustainable textiles

The textile industry is considered one of the most significant global polluters. It emits 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas and uses nine trillion litres of water every year.

That’s equivalent to almost 135 million round trips from London to Sydney and enough water to fill 2.25 million Olympic size swimming pools.

It is estimated that 17% to 20% of all water pollution is attributed to this one industry alone. As such, there is an urgent need to transform industrial processes to significantly lessen the environmental impact of the textile industry.

Colorifix, in partnership with the University of Cambridge, aim to drive this ambition by using natural pigments and enzymes for the dyeing process.

This will establish the UK as the market leader in sustainable textile dyeing.

Drug discovery and exploration

The Almac Discovery and Queen’s University Belfast collaboration will create a centre of excellence to explore uncharted areas of the proteome, the entire set of proteins expressed by an organism.

The research aims to find new starting points for creating biological tools and first-of-their-kind therapeutic drugs, particularly for diseases that currently have no effective treatments.

Beyond vital drug discovery research, the partnership also seeks to develop and enhance skills in this field. The centre aims to establish a resource for both regional and international research and development.

It will be the first of its kind in Northern Ireland to use cutting-edge technology in its studies, significantly enhancing the understanding of proteins that future drugs can target.

Unleashing world-class discoveries

Science, Research and Innovation Minister, Andrew Griffith, said:

Our new bioscience prosperity partnerships are a valuable opportunity for government, business and academia to come together and help unleash world-class, pioneering discoveries across the UK while growing our local economies.

More than £17 million of Government funding is backing vital projects including work in Belfast to unearth life-saving drugs, in Manchester to improve skin health research and in Cambridge to tackle a major source of global pollution, enhancing the health and wellbeing of people across our country and beyond.

Business-led, co-created and co-delivered

Dr Lee Beniston FRSB, Associate Director for Industry Partnerships and Collaborative Research and Development at BBSRC, said:

The inaugural round of the BBSRC prosperity partnerships programme has been a huge success. Led by BBSRC with investment from our colleagues at MRC and EPSRC, we will invest more than £17 million in ten projects.

This investment will support outstanding, long-term collaborative partnerships between businesses and academic researchers across the UK. Through the BBSRC prosperity partnerships programme, the businesses involved are investing over £21 million into research and development.

The projects supported will deliver on UK ambitions for private sector investment in research and innovation as outlined in the Science and Technology Framework, helping to drive economic growth and societal impact through key bioscience and biotechnology sectors and industries.

Further information

The projects

Antimicrobial resistance: breakthrough compound discovery through mechanistic studies combined with bicycle technology and target validation (co-funded by MRC)

University of Warwick and Bicycle Therapeutics

The University of Warwick and Bicycle Therapeutics have an established collaboration focused on the identification of much needed antibiotics. This project strengthens academic industry interactions to accelerate antimicrobial discovery, leading to a better understanding of how they work and how to reduce the future emergence of resistance to these compounds.

Bioactive terpenoids as high-performance ingredients for industry

University of York and Croda Europe Ltd

Croda, a UK speciality chemical company and the University of York will co-develop new sustainable technologies for healthcare, agriculture and cosmetics. These new technologies will improve the performance of new medicines, increase food production and help reduce the use of ingredients in cosmetic formulations from unsustainable sources.

Decarbonising the surfactant and functional polymer value chains by enzymatic processes (co-funded by EPSRC)

University College London and Unilever UK Central Resources Limited

Surfactants and polymers are key ingredients of laundry and cleaning products. A substantial proportion of these are currently produced from fossil reserves. Unilever aims to re-design surfactants and polymers from bio-based feedstocks, and to explore their potential applications and manufacture. This far-reaching demonstration of sustainable technologies presents worldwide deployment opportunities.

Developing a resilient and regenerative tea production system

Cranfield University and LIPTON Teas and Infusions

LIPTON Teas and Infusions, the world’s largest tea company, is partnering with Cranfield University to improve tea production for people and the planet.

Development of a chemoproteomics centre of excellence: a prosperity partnership for drug discovery in Northern Ireland (co-funded by MRC)

Queen’s University Belfast and Almac Discovery Ltd

To make more effective medicines we need to understand how drug molecules interact with their targets, namely the proteins inside cells. This partnership will create a new regional technology platform to examine their effects on thousands of drug targets simultaneously in disease-relevant systems representing a broad spectrum of human diseases.

Melanin’s impact on skin behaviour: effects across the pigmentary spectrum

The University of Manchester and Boots company plc

Historically, skin health and ageing research has focused on lighter skin tones, neglecting darker skin. This research will explore how skin structure, function and response to sunlight is influenced by melanin, the pigment determining skin colour. Research across all skin tones will lead to development of more inclusive skincare solutions.

Sustainable commodity chemicals through enzyme engineering and design (co-funded by EPSRC)

The University of Manchester and Shell Research UK

Commodity chemicals are produced on a global scale and normally derived from finite geological sources. The Shell-University of Manchester partnership seeks to re-imagine bulk chemicals manufacturing through industrial biotechnology, producing renewable chemical products from sustainable feedstocks and providing alternative scalable bioproduction routes to contribute to the global efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Surface engineering and pigment tailoring for sustainable dyeing of cellulosic materials

University of Cambridge and Colorifix Ltd

The University of Cambridge and Colorifix have teamed up to develop new strategies for sustainable dying of cellulosic materials using natural flavonoid pigments and enzymes. Their motivation is to reduce the negative environmental impact of textile industry by detoxifying the dying and processing of cotton and similar materials in textile manufacturing.

The design of next-generation antibody drug conjugates (co-funded by MRC)

University of Strathclyde and GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK)

This collaborative partnership between GSK and the University of Strathclyde will establish a technological platform for the discovery of antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) which can deliver next-generation targeted therapies for areas of unmet clinical need. Our work will streamline and accelerate the identification, development, and clinical delivery of new ADCs.

Understanding how microbial communities respond to design and process engineering in wastewater treatment

University of York and Yorkshire Water Services Ltd

This partnership will enhance sewage treatment by refining the bio-based anaerobic digestion process. It will enhance resource recovery (for example, carbon in renewable natural gas) by studying changes like biochar addition, using advanced diagnostics and real-world samples. It will explore separating non-volatile molecules and microplastics from liquids and create digital models to improve anaerobic digestion.

Top image:  Credit: skynesher, E+ via Getty Images

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