FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies (FDB)
An EPSRC IAA Partnership Development project paved the way for an £8.7m Prosperity Partnership collaboration with global pharmaceutical manufacturer, FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies.
The University has worked with FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies (FDB) on small projects on an ad-hoc basis since 2017, with EPSRC IAA funds facilitating initial events and meetings between the two parties. In 2018 the company rationalised its academic engagement, deciding to work more strategically with a reduced number of three academic partners in order to maximise impact. An EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) partnership development project was awarded with the purpose of pump priming the collaboration within the partnership.
The EPSRC IAA award funded a project champion from the University to conduct a small exemplar project, and a project development workshop between the University and FDB staff. FDB had expressed interest in the University expertise in Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cell engineering and the project champion worked closely with FDB to explore and pump prime collaborative work in this area. The project development workshop enabled the PI Professor Susan Rosser to identify several further areas where UoE capabilities and expertise could intersect with FDB’s needs and facilitate the company’s aims.
The project development workshops were pivotal, as they allowed FDB and University staff to discuss several key areas of investigation. The result of these discussions was that 15 potential projects were identified, and since the workshops took place at least 9 of these have been successfully funded. With the support of Edinburgh Innovations, the partners also secured £8.7 million of Prosperity Partnership funding from EPSRC and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
A Prosperity Partnership for better, more cost-effective drugs
The FDB partnership has grown in strategic importance and has secured an £8.7 million Prosperity Partnership award over five years to fund development of more cost-effective ways to make modern antibody-based medicines. In recent years, FUJIFILM has made a significant $7.4 billion investment to increase manufacturing capacity at FDB.
Biological drugs based on recombinant DNA technology, which brings together genetic material from different sources, have transformed the treatment of life-limiting diseases including cancer, haemophilia and rheumatoid arthritis. The collaboration funded by the Prosperity Partnership will use state-of-the-art analytical tools and engineering biology approaches to enable more efficient manufacture of biological drugs. In the Prosperity Partnership FDB will work with the Universities of Edinburgh, Manchester and York to study and modify the commonly used Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell platform with the aim of making the manufacture of biological drugs easier and cheaper.
As well as the major impact this could have in terms of new drugs to treat various conditions, it represents a major economic opportunity with an increasing portion of all medicines, currently estimated at 20%, being biopharmaceuticals and the global biologics market predicted to reach a value of $319 billion this year.
The EPSRC IAA Partnership Development award provided resources to build a stronger relationship and detail plans for a joint research programme. This positioned the partners to submit a strong application to the Prosperity Partnership programme.
The EPSRC IAA grant accelerated the establishment of a strategic partnership with FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies which has now received an £8.7m EPSRC Prosperity Partnership award. I would really urge other academics to get involved with external partners for the opportunities it offers to expand your work and career into new areas.
We are delighted with the partnership we have with the University of Edinburgh and it is aligned with our core purpose to advance tomorrow’s medicines. We are a supporter of great science in the United Kingdom. This is an exciting project that will allow us to understand, model and ultimately design CHO cells to be more efficient.”– Andy Topping, Chief Scientific Officer, FDB.
EPSRC IAA funding
EPSRC IAA funding is for University of Edinburgh researchers and academics at all career stages to support activities that accelerate or amplify the impact arising from EPSRC-funded research. The funds are managed by Edinburgh Innovations on behalf of the College of Science & Engineering. Please contact the EPSRC IAA team EPSRCIAA@ei.ed.ac.uk with any questions.