A high-class hothouse has been launched in Cambridge to create a world-leading platform for collaboration between academia and industry to develop novel therapeutics against a range of diseases.
The Cambridge Academy of Therapeutic Sciences (CATS) will foster science that underpins the discovery of new treatments and diagnostics as well as the safe and effective use of existing medicines.
It aims to combine excellent science with efficient translation, working across biological, physical, clinical and social sciences and engineering, in partnership with industry. The arrival in Cambridge of major pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Otsuka, and the closeness of GSK, put Cambridge firmly at the epicentre of commercial drug discovery in the UK and internationally.
Cambridge has strong clinical trials and clinical science sectors, a network of aligned organisations supporting contract research, and excellent epidemiology and public health networks.
Many of these are situated on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, the centrepiece of the largest biotech cluster outside the United States. From early 2018, the campus will also house the Milner Therapeutics Institute, a partner organisation within CATS, which will act as a research hub and partner with institutions in aspects of drug development research.
Cambridge University vice-chancellor Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz says: “Healthcare in the future will be provided by a complex interplay of patients, industries and service operators.
“It will involve sophisticated diagnostic tools, digital scrutiny and interpretation using artificial intelligence, and access to an extensive toolbox of therapeutic approaches, all personalised to the individual patient, and available through a redesigned primary and hospital healthcare environment.
“There are few places in the world as well placed as the University of Cambridge to take advantage of this highly multidisciplinary scenario. The Cambridge Academy of Therapeutic Sciences will ensure that this capacity is fully exploited to speed up the development of new treatments that will benefit patients locally, nationally and internationally.”
The Academy will focus on three main areas:-
1 Research facilitation – through collaboration, networking and capacity building, encouraging people and skills exchanges between academia and industry in the UK, with the aim of expanding to involve international collaborations, particularly in in developing countries.
2 Education – from undergraduate through to postdoctoral, CATS will provide education and training opportunities, and facilitate networking and internships with industry partners; a key plank in this strand will be to develop a new modular Master’s course in therapeutic sciences.
3 Policy – working closely with the University’s Centre for Science and Policy, and the Research Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences, CATS will take the lead in addressing key legal and policy matters across the spectrum of pharmaceutical sciences, and beyond.
One key theme that the Academy will focus on is medicine safety, through the involvement of the Cambridge Alliance on Medicines Safety, a partnership between the university, the Medical Research Council Toxicology Unit (due to transfer to the University in 2018), GSK and AstraZeneca.
Its main aim is to connect scientists at the University whose work relates to safety of medicines to build an active academic research programme with strong collaborative links to pharmaceutical and human-safety related companies.
Professor Chris Lowe, director of CATS, adds: “With CATS, we will develop a way of fostering and supporting the community in and around Cambridge to develop new concepts, deliver new knowledge, and to produce people who are better educated in all elements of modern therapeutics.
“We believe the opportunities that CATS provides for research, collaboration and education will attract academic and industrial researchers from around the world.”