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Translational strategy

Translation is integral to research at CIMR and exists at multiple levels. With 40% of our principal investigators being clinically active, CIMR and the Clinical School are particularly effective at translating strong basic discoveries into clinical applications. This is greatly facilitated by the Cambridge University Health Partners (CUHP) partnership, which includes the neighbouring Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

CIMR PIs are encouraged to pursue translation via several routes.  These include: initiating collaborations with industry (e.g. through the Milner Institute); and establishing spin-out companies with the assistance of Cambridge Enterprise (the University technology transfer office) (e.g. Jim Huntington’s founding of XO1 Ltd, ApcinteX Ltd, Z Factor Ltd, Cambridge ProteinWorks and SuperX Ltd). Cambridge Enterprise is a wholly owned subsidiary of the University that provides technology transfer, consultancy and seed-fund services to support researchers. It works within the University’s Intellectual Property Policy, which provides flexibility in approaches to commercial exploitation including the option of advancing independently of Cambridge Enterprise. 

New developments in Cambridge are set to enhance our capacity to move basic discoveries towards clinical utility. First, AstraZeneca will be moving their headquarters onto the Cambridge Biomedical Campus – this has already spurred collaborations (e.g. Rubinsztein with MedImmune). Rubinsztein has also led a successful bid from Cambridge to establish a 10-million-pound-funded Alzheimer’s Research UK Drug Discovery Institute for neurodegenerative diseases in a building adjacent to CIMR – this will provide a natural route for further validation and development of therapeutic strategies in this domain from CIMR PIs and groups across Cambridge. CIMR PIs are strongly linked to the translational activities on the Cambridge biomedical campus; this includes particular research themes at the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre and the NIHR BRU screening theme on Dementia.

Rubinsztein and Huntington are translation advisors for the CIMR, guiding PIs towards the most effective route for developing their discovery and obtaining seed funding when necessary. This is facilitated by Rubinsztein being a Cambridge Enterprise Champion at the CIMR and Jim Huntington being a Champion within the clinical school. All potential intellectual property filings from the CIMR are reviewed by the Institute Management Committee according to University regulations and our IP notification policy.

Translational research advances:

- Three spin-out companies from the Huntington lab have received a total of almost £30 million in Series A funding in 2017:

- Z Factor Ltd, which aims to discover drug treatments for alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, has received £7 million Series A investment led by existing investor Medicxi. 

- ApcinteX Ltd, which hopes to develop treatments for haemophilia, received £14 million Series A funding co-led by Medicxi and Touchstone Innovations Group plc (AIM: IVO).

- SuperX Ltd has raised €10.3M ($11M) in Series A from Medicxi and J&J Innovation to develop anticoagulant antibodies for stroke and heart attacks.


- Paul Lehner was among the six winners of the GSK Discovery Fast Track Challenge, which aims to designed to accelerate the translation of academic research into novel therapies. This collaboration will aim to develop an inhibitor for HUSH (human silencing hub), an epigenetic transcriptional repressor complex identified by the Lehner lab last year using forward genetic screens in haploid human cells (Science 348, 1481-1485 2015).

- Jim Huntington’s collaboration with Trevor Baglin at Addenbrooke’s Hospital led to the development of a novel synthetic antibody, ichorcumab, as a potential new anti-coagulant drug (licenced to XO1 Ltd in 2013 and sold to Janssen Pharmaceuticals in 2015).

- testing of a drug shown by the Rubinsztein lab to upregulate autophagy and protect against toxicity in a range of cell and animal models of Huntington's disease in a safety trial in Huntington's disease patients at the NIHR BRC.

- use of proteomics by the Lehner lab to define a way to identify cells that are latently infected with human cytomegalovirus, which could potentially be used to remove these cells prior to transplantation surgery (Weekes et al. Science 2013).


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