Six biopharma giants will invest a combined £14.4 million (just under $23 million) in the Division of Signal Transduction Therapy (DSTT) at Scotland’s University of Dundee, further growing what is already believed to be the world’s largest academic-industry translational research collaboration. Researchers from AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Merck Serono, and Pfizer will use the funding in part to work with partners at Dundee to develop new treatments for such diseases as cancer, arthritis, lupus, hypertension and Parkinson disease. The biopharma giants’ money will also pay for 50 academic positions at Dundee during the four-year collaboration, which ends in June 2016.
The collaboration raises DSTT’s total funding to more than £50 million ($79.7 million) and marks the partnership’s third expansion since it was launched in 1998. The other expansions took place in 2003 and 2008, two years after DSTT was awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education, the most distinguished award that a U.K. institution for education can win.
“Renewal of this collaboration with six of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies is a vote of confidence in that strategy and in Dundee’s leadership position in biomedical research,” said Professor Dario Alessi, who becomes DSTT’s director in July.
DSTT now consists of 15 research teams based at Dundee, with the goal of accelerating development of specific inhibitors of kinases and phosphatases for treatment of disease, as well as for the study of cell signaling. Thirteen are based at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Protein Phosphorylation Unit and Scottish Institute for Cell Signalling (SCILLS) at the College of Life Sciences, the world’s largest center for the study of kinases and the ubiquitin system with more than 200 scientific and support staff.
They are among more than 1,000 scientists, research students, and support staff from 58 countries at the College of Life Sciences, one of Europe’s largest life sciences research institutes with external funding of more than £30 million ($47.8 million) a year.
“This investment will continue the excellent work taking place at the university on major global diseases, helping to bring benefits for patients and the economy,” David Willetts, the U.K.’s science and universities Minister, said in a statement.
According to DSTT’s website, the division produces 200 antibodies and 4,000 DNA constructs, as well as screening 80,000 to 100,000 data points per month. Participating companies share the right to use DSTT’s reagents, kinase profiling service, unpublished results and technical expertise but pay fees to license the unit’s intellectual property or use special services.
Companies abide by a confidentiality agreement regarding any information they gain that involves the use of reagents, new technologies or information introduced to the DSTT. Company scientists visit Dundee three times a year to view DSTT presentations of the latest results. Drafts of the unit’s papers are available on a securely protected website accessible only to participating companies. Forty percent of the DSTT’s budget is spent on providing services to the participating companies, with the remaining 60% spent on research projects chosen by the participating laboratories.