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New partnership to accelerate drug discovery

Digital health

A new partnership between the Universities of Strathclyde and Nottingham and pharmaceutical company GSK will accelerate research into the discovery of new medicines.

The five-year Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded programme will see the partners deliver a new suite of methods and approaches to tackle some of the major challenges in the discovery, development, and manufacture of medicines. The total project funding is £12.9 million, including a £5.5 million grant award from the EPSRC – the UK Government’s main funding body for engineering and physical sciences.

The research programme aims to enable the production of transformative medicines at lower costs with reduced waste production and shorter time for manufacture. 

Researchers will apply cutting edge Artificial Intelligence and machine-learning technologies to the efficient identification of next generation medicines.

They will also aim to improve the production process of medicines, with a focus on sustainability through reducing environmental impact, developing more efficient preparation methods, and improving equipment efficiency using digital manufacturing technologies.

Transformative medicines

The integration of the research undertaken in these areas combined with the world leading scientific expertise at each of the partner institutions will make a major contribution across the pharmaceutical sector and lead to the faster development of transformative medicines to help people do more, feel better and live longer.

In addition, the programme will train a cohort of outstanding postgraduate students and postdoctoral scientists who we expect to be future leaders either in industry or academia.

Professor William Kerr, Partnership lead and Deputy Associate Principal for Research and Knowledge Exchange at the University of Strathclyde, said: “Escalation of research impact through external engagements and collaborations is a core and founding mission of the University of Strathclyde.

“Based on this, we are delighted to be embarking on this ambitious partnership, which will further elevate existing Strathclyde and Nottingham links with GSK, whilst also establishing synergistic new connections between the two universities.

The programme will enable researchers in all three partners to deliver internationally-leading science of direct value to the pharmaceutical sector, whilst exploring new ways to connect research across all aspects of the drug discovery and manufacture process.”

Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Nottingham, said: “This is an incredibly exciting project for the University and strengthens our relationships with both GSK & the University of Strathclyde.

“The University is committed to investment in world-leading discovery and in a highly-competitive field we have shown that our research and training environment offers unparalleled opportunities for us to help solve key challenges in the discovery, development and manufacture of medicines.

“It is also tremendously exciting and gratifying that this government & industry investment is supporting key pillars of the University’s mission: to attract and retain world-class talent, and train and nurture the research leaders of tomorrow and make significant contributions to a globally competitive, agile and innovative UK economy, today and in the future.”

Meaningful benefit

Tony Wood, Senior Vice President, Medicinal Science & Technology at GSK said: “We are delighted with the EPSRC award which recognises the important work being done in collaboration with Nottingham and Strathclyde Universities.

“Together we are focused on the application of Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning in synthetic chemistry, a discipline that is central to drug design and development of new medicines. The additional support will enable continued research hopefully delivering efficiency gains that bring meaningful benefit to the discovery of new medicines.”

Scottish Secretary, David Mundell said: “Scotland has a well-deserved reputation as a leader in research and innovation and I am pleased the University of Strathclyde – with its partners – will receive £5.5m from the UK Government to use Artificial Intelligence to streamline the development and availability of potentially life-saving new medicines.

“The funding of projects like this through our modern Industrial Strategy is a clear example of the UK Government’s commitment to boost productivity, innovation, jobs and growth in Scotland and throughout the United Kingdom.”