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MRC and UCB join forces to offer access to UCB's novel antibody discovery platform

27 Mar 2015

The Medical Research Council (MRC) and global pharmaceutical company UCB are to launch a collaboration that will provide UK scientists with access to cutting-edge technologies to discover new monoclonal antibodies*. These antibodies will enable scientists to research the mechanisms of human disease, identify novel therapeutic opportunities, and may provide the initial starting points for new treatments.

Under the joint initiative, MRC funded academic scientists will work in collaboration with UCB scientists to access and apply the company’s novel high-throughput antibody screening capabilities in support of research directed to biological targets which are implicated in human diseases. Using UCB’s innovative technology platform, MRC funded scientists will be able to efficiently sample the immune repertoire, potentially assessing over a billion antibody-producing B-cells, to find those rare cells generating antibody with the exact functional properties required to inhibit the relevant disease process. 

Dr Chris Watkins, Director of Translational Research and Industry at the MRC, said:
“This exciting new partnership with UCB will bring together some of the best UK scientists with UK-based industry to drive forward the quest to discover new treatments. Through access to cutting edge technologies such as these, the UK research community can build on its strengths to accelerate research that will bring benefit to patients.”

Discussing the collaboration Ismail Kola, Executive Vice President of UCB and President of New Medicines™, said: “The UCB Technology Platform Access programme offers the chance for researchers to access our state-of-the-art technology and scientific networks to deliver innovative new medicines. This joint initiative with the MRC is a world-leading collaborative interface between academia and industry to enhance the pace of new drug discovery and improve patient outcomes.”

It’s anticipated that this joint initiative will initially run for a period of three years, with up to five projects per year being selected for support by UCB and the MRC. UK-based academics will be able to submit research proposals to the MRC later this year and these will be independently assessed to select the best proposals.

*Monoclonal antibodies can be used in a number of ways in disease settings, for example to neutralise circulating mediators, to block or activate cell surface receptors either directly or allosterically, or to deliver a payload to a diseased cell.  Therapeutic antibodies are now a major class of drugs and bring great benefit to patients suffering from a range of severe diseases including autoimmune disease, infection and cancer.


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