Mark SmalesCreating a multidisciplinary community for biopharmaceutical bioprocessing as part of the BBSRC’s industrial biotechnology programme will be the next step for the Bioprocessing Research Industry Club, says Mark Smales, Professor in Mammalian Cell Biotechnology at the University of Kent.

In 2003 the Bioscience Innovation and Growth Team (BIGT) report, Bioscience 2015, highlighted the need for new tools and methods which will contribute to accelerating development of biological products. To address the research challenges in this area BBSRC, EPSRC, bioProcessUK (originally a TSB-funded Knowledge Transfer Network, and now part of the HealthTech and Medicines Knowledge Transfer Network) and industry launched the Bioprocessing Research Industry Club (BRIC), with the aim of strengthening the UK research base in this area and improving academic and academic-industrial links.

BRIC is successfully delivering for the sector:

  • Excellent multidisciplinary research is being funded through BRIC with the expectation of longer term delivery of commercial value.
  • BRIC has provided a critical mass of research, people and facilities that would not have been possible through responsive mode funding alone.
  • BRIC is building an active bioprocessing community with members having access to leading expertise, facilities and materials.
  • Academics have a much broader sense of the industrial challenges than would be achieved through individual 1:1 collaborations.
  • Post-doctoral research assistants and postgraduates funded in bioprocessing gain invaluable skills in training at the commercial interface with a greater understanding of the problems faced by industry.
  • BRIC provides a great opportunity for the post-doctoral research assistants to work closely with some of the leading bioprocessing industrialists and to gain an advantage over other post doctorate researchers for their future careers.

However, funding for BRIC is coming to an end and the BBSRC is changing how its funding programmes run.
You may be aware of the current BBSRC call for Network proposals in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (NIBBs) – under which biopharmaceutical bioprocessing now falls. BBSRC has allocated £15 million for this networking initiative and aims to fund approximately 10 networks of varying scales. The BBSRC aims to:

  • support a number of networks in industrial biotechnology and bioenergy and through them, facilitate the development of internationally competitive cross-disciplinary communities capable of undertaking innovative research and attracting further investment from UK and international sources
  • provide the resources to support proof of concept funding for a range of research projects identified by the networks, ultimately leading to more competitive, collaborative, cross-disciplinary and integrative research proposals to BBSRC and elsewhere
  • encourage the interaction between the academic research base and technology-deploying, associated value-chain and end-user businesses, promoting the translation of research particularly involving genomic, systems and synthetic biology
  • enable the supported networks to provide the leadership to develop, in collaboration with business, challenges to be addressed by the IB Catalyst fund

Additional information on the NIBB call is available from the BBSRC website.

With regard to this call, a working group from across the biopharmaceutical industry and academia, which I am leading alongside Alan Dickson (University of Manchester), is currently developing a vision and proposal for one of these networks on behalf of the bioprocessing community.

The aim of the network will be to create a multidisciplinary bioprocessing community with international connections populated by the integration of research and industrial professionals from life sciences, biochemical, chemical and process engineering, technologists, biophysics, analytical and mathematicial specialists to address the challenges encountered to establish innovative bioprocessing solutions required to produce affordable biopharmaceuticals and biomolecules for sustainable and healthier lifestyles.

We are particularly keen that industrial members from all areas and of all company sizes can contribute and benefit from this network. We therefore ask for you to

  1. register your interest for involvement in such a network, and
  2. contribute your thoughts on a vision for such a network.

We require your input now to develop the outline proposal so that we can incorporate as much input as possible from the community and allow time for a draft proposal to be put to the community for comment. Please let us know what would you like to see from the network and how could you benefit from it.

To participate or view more on this proposed bioprocesssing network please contribute to the discussion on the TSB’s “_connec”t platform: Proposal to set up a bioprocessing for biopharmaceuticals network.

Note: you will need to log in to leave comments. if you are not a member of “_connect” you will need to register before you can make a contribution/leave comments. This can be done as follows:

  1. Go to “_connect
  2. Register using the “join_connect” button if you are not already a member
  3. Go to BBSRC Networks in IBBE site
  4. Click on “discussions
  5. Scroll down to Bioprocessing network and click on the link
  6. Click on first thread by Malcolm Rhodes: Proposal to set up a bioprocessing for biopharmaceuticals network