Translation Showcase: breakthroughs to benefits

Translation showcase 2023

This month, we invited industry partners and stakeholders to an exciting Translation Showcase event at the Science Gallery in London. It was a fantastic opportunity to hear directly from our Group Leaders about how they are translating their fundamental, discovery research into treatments and technologies for people affected by neurodegenerative diseases.

UK DRI Director Prof Siddharthan Chandran opened the event by outlining what makes partnering with the UK DRI so attractive:

  • The quality of our science. We have the highest concentration of internationally recognised neurodegeneration researchers within our Institute;
  • Our Innovation & Business team act as a single point of contact and ensure a smooth process throughout the partnership;
  • Access to many highly specialist areas of expertise within the Institute, for example, our gold standard Biomarker Factory lab.
Translating our discovery research towards patient impact is a core mission of the Institute, and industry partnerships are key to helping us achieve this. Dr Kay Penicud, UK DRI Director of Innovation & Business

Medical research charity LifeArc is already a key partner for the UK DRI, having committed £30 million in translational funding last year. Karen Skinner, Chief Project and Portfolio Officer at LifeArc, gave a short talk about LifeArc’s translational aims, celebrating the exciting news that almost half of the £30M has now been allocated to seven innovative projects aiming to deliver new treatments and technologies to treat neurodegenerative disease.

Prof Chris Shaw shared the story of AviadoBio, a spinout from UK DRI at King’s which he co-founded in 2021. The company aims to develop gene therapy treatments for frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Gene therapy is a promising area of translational research, and others at the UK DRI are also exploring gene therapy approaches in their work. For example, Prof Vincent Dion (UK DRI at Cardiff) is investigating the use of gene therapy to treat repeat expansion disorders like Huntington’s disease, where a small section of DNA in the Huntingtin gene is repeated many times in error.

Neuroinflammation is an important research area in the neurodegeneration field, and as we understand more about its effect, therapeutic opportunities are emerging. Prof Paul Morgan (UK DRI at Cardiff) is a world-leading expert in an important area of immunology, the complement system, which is a key driver of neuroinflammation. His work aims to develop an antibody therapy targeting the complement system.

The use of animals is still a vital feature of scientific research, allowing the modelling of key aspects of disease within a whole system. However, it is not without limitations, and translation from the laboratory into a clinical setting can be poor. To address this, Dr Julija Krupic (UK DRI Associate Member) set up a spinout, Cambridge Phenotyping, which develops ‘Smart-Kages’, AI assisted technology which automates and standardises animal behavioural work.

Attendees also heard about a whole host of other exciting projects, including Prof Adrian Isaacs’ (UK DRI at UCL) work to develop a gene therapy targeting the C9orf72 mutation – the most common genetic cause of FTD and ALS. Prof Sir David Klenerman (UK DRI at Cambridge) presented his work, which aims to develop a new method of detecting protein aggregates to improve early diagnosis of neurodegenerative disease.

Dr Kay Penicud, UK DRI Director of Innovation & Business, said:

“We had a fantastic turnout for this event, and it was great for so many of our researchers to present their translational work to potential industry partners. Translating our discovery research towards patient impact is a core mission of the Institute, and industry partnerships are key to helping us achieve this.”

Find out more about our translational work.

Article published: 28 November 2023
Banner image: Copyright UK DRI Ltd.