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Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology

Industry Engagement Forum

MedImmune has become the first company to participate in a novel University of Cambridge initiative - the Industry Engagement Forum - that aims to encourage early-career University researchers to connect with industry and better understand commercial imperatives. The Forum is organized by Cambridge Enterprise and funded by the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

In this very first University of Cambridge Industry Engagement Forum, over 25 Post Doctoral researchers, PhD students and academic staff from this department (CEB) joined together with eleven  scientists from MedImmune's Biopharmaceutical Development team based at Cambridge. 

The aim was to brainstorm some of the key challenges facing the development of future biopharmaceutical drugs. During the day-long session, participants discussed specific technical issues around biopharmaceutical manufacturing and how CEB's expertise could be utilized to provide solutions to these commercial challenges. 

Dr Paul Varley, Vice President, Biopharmaceutical Development, MedImmune, said, "My team and I were delighted to be the first participants in this new Industry Engagement Forum. It was a highly stimulating and energizing meeting. The agenda, which we helped develop with CEB, involved brainstorming some of the key questions that challenge us in the commercialization of new biological drugs, such as cost, reproducibility and administration route. It is also great to be working with such a leading group as the CEB on our door step here in Cambridge."

MedImmune scientists then worked in individual teams with the CEB researchers to look at ways that academic research could help address these questions and develop new approaches and solutions. Each team then presented back its ideas and thinking to the Forum.     

discussionA Bridge from Academia to Commercial Success
"Feedback from everyone involved in this first Forum meeting with MedImmune has been exceptional and universally positive," remarked Professor Nigel Slater, Head of Department at CEB, and Professor of Chemical Engineering. 

"The benefits to research students taking part are immense," he continued. "By encouraging early-career scientists to fully grasp the potential impact and relevance of their work, we are enabling scientists to better understand commercial industry imperatives. Likewise, industry can help influence academic research priorities, and also glean insights into how our existing research may help drive the success of commercial initiatives."

Dr Marcel Kuiper, a MedImmune Senior Scientist, who took a leading role in organizing MedImmune's involvement in the Industry Engagement Forum, added: "This has been a great opportunity for MedImmune to forge strong on-going links with one of the world's leading research organizations, and create greater understanding between industry and academia.  In particular, we noted how the different mix of people created a real 'buzz' and enthusiasm throughout our discussions and team-working."

Paul Varley was also impressed by the level of debate and the flow and quality of ideas produced. "The event allowed staff and researchers from CEB to much better appreciate MedImmune's drivers for innovation, and the commercial challenges we face. The Industry Engagement Forum is a really forward-looking initiative, and I'm proud that MedImmune has been in the forefront in recognising its benefits and potential."

Image: The team judged to have made the best presentation was awarded special trophies: 'squidgy' MedImmune antibodies! Pictured are the winning team, left to right, Muhammad Safwan Akram, Axel Zeitler, Krishnaa Mahbubani, Graham Christie, Murtada Alsaif, MedImmune's Paul Varley and Shahid Uddin, with Professor Nigel Slater

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