UKRI invited applications for individuals wishing to spend up to 3 years (full or part-time) on secondment within the biomedical sciences sector. Funding was available to create porosity between sectors by enabling career mobility, boosting the skills, knowledge and career development of people and intensifying knowledge exchange between industry and academia whilst adding value to the sector and the UK economy.
For Simon Chandler, CEO of Rinri Therapeutics, a pioneering regenerative cell therapy company in the treatment of sensorineural hearing loss, the Innovation Scholars was ideal in solving a skills and knowledge gap within their growing organisation. The company had strong research links with the Universities of Sheffield and Nottingham, and funding enabled career development and knowledge exchange across the industry and university environment, very much to the advantages of all organisations involved.
Simon says; ‘Both funding calls were an absolute no brainer for us and we are very pleased to be able to develop the careers of two academic researchers at different stages in their careers. The benefits definitely go both ways. Universities often struggle with the needs of businesses and complete immersion for this length of time really allows for learnings from all areas of a biotech business operations to embed, and as a business, we gain access to expertise, leadership and researchers across academic clinical networks that helps us gain insight we would not ordinarily get.’
Dr. Faizah Mushtaq, of University of Nottingham, says; '‘The hands-on and flexible nature of the secondment is enabling me to cultivate my entrepreneurial mind set and continuously enhance my understanding of organisational operations, processes and behaviours. During my first six months, I have already enjoyed taking on a number of varying responsibilities, ranging from clinical project management to organising patient and public engagement activities. These new experiences have not only enhanced my leadership skills and commercial awareness, but have also encouraged me to think outside of the box.
The secondment helps to bridge the gap between industry and academia in the exciting and emerging field of regenerative medicine for hearing loss by encouraging knowledge transfer between Rinri, academics and clinicians. I am able to utilise my previous clinical experience and understanding of translational research to help Rinri mitigate barriers they may experience when planning and delivering a first-in-human clinical trial’.
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In 2020, UK Research and Innovation awarded Dr John Hales, of UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering - University College London, the £1.2m Future Leaders Fellowship to use virus lasers to reinvigorate process analytical technology for biological manufacturing.
John first began the process of applying for a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship in April 2018. After passing an internal BEAMS School selection panel to become one of those put forward, the application went through several steps before John presented his proposal to an interview panel. The award is for four years, initially, and may then be extended for up to a further three years. The award also includes funding for a postdoctoral researcher as well as equipment, including a streak camera.
Following on from John’s previous work that has been a collaboration between UCL Biochemical Engineering and the London Centre for Nanotechnology, this project will see a collaboration with SwissFEL, the X-ray free-electron laser facility at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland, who are providing support in-kind.
John says; “The long-term vision is to establish virus-laser technology as a once-in-a-generation analytical technology that will have a transformative impact in biological manufacturing, clinical diagnostics and environmental sensing. In this fellowship, my overarching goal is to reinvigorate process analytical technology for biological manufacturing by using virus lasers to directly monitor the critical quality attributes that affect the safety and efficacy of biopharmaceutical products at all stages of the bioprocess.
I will also undertake multidisciplinary research into virus lasers at the interface of synthetic biology and laser physics which will pave the way for future innovations. I plan to achieve lasing at ultra-low concentrations, establish a biological structure - laser function link using cutting-edge optical detection and the world's leading free-electron laser facility for photobiology, and then use these techniques to investigate in-depth the mechanisms behind a novel detection paradigm unique to virus lasers.”
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