Researchers in a laboratory at the Crick.

Bringing academia and industry closer together

Seeing scientific findings and discoveries develop into new treatments is a key priority for the Crick. One way we do this is by creating collaborative links with others who can help take ideas forward. Projects with GSK and AstraZeneca are combining expertise and delivering scientific progress.

Our partnerships with GSK and AstraZeneca enable scientists from these companies to work alongside Crick researchers – sharing ideas, expertise and approaches while working together on promising early-stage projects. 

They also offer the scientists a chance to learn new skills, broaden their experience and develop their careers. 

Industrial revelation 

We came up with lots of ideas we would never have thought of on our own.
Daniel Miller, Principal Laboratory Research Scientist

As a PhD student in Caroline Hill’s lab at the Crick, Daniel Miller made a discovery that looked interesting. 

He’d been looking at a particular cell-signalling pathway in breast cancer in mice and found a related protein that was produced in high amounts. It appeared to help drive growth of the cancer cells. Daniel spent nine months at AstraZeneca in Cambridge on a joint project to take these findings forward. 

“We came up with lots of ideas we would never have thought of on our own,” he says. Thanks to the collaboration, Daniel joined a team at AstraZeneca which uses a state-of-the-art platform to produce antibodies that bind tightly to proteins of interest. 

Having successfully made antibodies against the protein he discovered during his PhD, Daniel is now back at the Crick seeing if they neutralise the protein in breast cancer cells in mice. The group’s next step will be to see if the antibodies have the same effects in human cancers. 

“We’re now collecting samples from biopsies of patients with pancreatic, breast and skin cancers,” explains Daniel. Daniel found the AstraZeneca experience immensely rewarding and is including pharma companies in his search for his next position. 

“During my PhD, I was drawn to the idea of working in an industry setting. I’m enthusiastic about taking the basic biology and turning it into new drugs,” he says.

New perspectives 

A medicinal chemist by training and with more than a decade of experience at GSK in the US, Hilary Eidam is currently working in Barry Thompson’s lab Epithelial Biology Laboratory at the Crick, through a partnership between the Crick and GSK. 

The lab focuses on organ size control, and the pathway which tells a body when organs, such as the heart, have grown large enough during development. The hope is that the lab’s work could ultimately provide insights into the possibilities of organ regeneration. 

I’ll be able to draw on the different ways of working I’ve experienced here.
Hilary Eidam, Visiting Scientist

When Hilary’s 18-month spell at the Crick ends and she returns to Philadelphia, she will take some valuable lessons home with her. “Although my 12 years in drug discovery have given me a deep knowledge of the challenges involved in taking a drug through from molecule to patient, and great experience of working on pharmacokinetics, I’ve never had deep biology expertise or training,” she says. 

While her chemistry skills are valued by the team at the Crick, she feels she’s gained significant biological insight during her time at the institute. 

“I’m now able to bring a different perspective to my work that will make a big contribution to projects back at GSK.” “I’ll also be able to draw on the different ways of working I’ve experienced here,” Hilary adds. 

She points to the fact that people rarely call or email each other at the Crick – communication is always face-to-face in real time. “That’s a really collaborative approach and something that we can all learn from.” 

“Collaborations like this between academia and industry can be highly beneficial to mankind,” Hilary believes. “To borrow a thought from Sir Keith Peters: academia and industry are both vital, and their areas of expertise have very little overlap – why on earth wouldn’t we work together and rise to the challenges posed by human healthcare?”

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