How we are building a culture of translation at the Crick

Dr Veronique Birault is director of translation at the Crick and her team works with researchers and partners to enable Crick science to be converted into potential benefits to patients. Here, she explains how the team have created an environment that fosters ideas that can bring real world benefits, and how they have made translation an integral part of the Crick from day one.

The Crick’s Translation team aims to provide easy access to the expertise and mechanisms needed to convert discoveries to applications. We’re embedded in the heart of the building - breathing the same air and being under one roof makes a huge difference!

A wide range of tools 

As the Crick becomes more established, we are developing a broad ‘palette of colours’ to work with our researchers who are excited about finding applications for their research. Part of the way we do this is ensuring we have the right expertise with us to work on these projects. Walking the complex route from basic research to treatments can really be accelerated by working in close proximity to industry experts and clinicians.

Celebrating early stage translational research, such as awarding our annual translation prize, is creating a community of like-minded people. This year’s winning team was made up of chemists and biologists from Imperial College London and the Crick, including group leader Ed Tate, whose group is split between the two institutions, and Crick group leader Dinis Calado

This was a brilliant example of working really effectively with our university partners, and shows why collaborating with them is so important to us. It’s exciting that the work is backed by investments and a dedicated R&D team. Ed and the team now have to do the hard work – generating the data to support progression in the clinic.

We make the most of both our physical location and our links to forward-thinking organisations in the King’s Cross area.

Knowing when to step back

We encourage a positive translation culture at the Crick by knowing when we’ve reached the limits of our own specialism. Some projects will be most successful when they take on a life of their own outside the Crick and a key part of our expertise is knowing when to help them do just that.

Achilles Therapeutics, Gamma Delta Therapeutics and Ervaxx are spin-out companies that are taking our science closer to patients. We have close connections to the companies and work with them through formal and informal relationships, but it is the investors and R&D teams that give these companies the boost to change the lives of patients. 

We make the most of both our physical location and our links to forward-thinking organisations in the King’s Cross area like the Turing Institute, Wellcome, HDRUK and Google DeepMind. Thanks to these connections, we are becoming a hub for people who are combining data science with health research. Programmes like KQ Labs, our entrepreneurship summer school, and PULSE help researchers from the Crick and around the UK to learn more about what it can mean to be an entrepreneurial scientist. While this might not lead to participants forming fully-fledged start-ups immediately, it provides connections with like-minded researchers, as well as a new perspective on research, and helps to build our translation culture.

Having applied scientists working side by side with Crick researchers offers completely new opportunities.

Blurring the lines

Our innovative way of working with big pharmaceutical companies such as GSK, AstraZeneca and Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) blurs the traditional lines between academic research and industry. We aim for a more ‘porous’ system where evidence and data are generated collaboratively. This allows us to share knowledge, disseminate findings through publication, support the training of scientists and provide expertise in translational science.

I am excited about our new collaboration with MSD established last year. The partnership means that we are working side by side with industry colleagues to do science in areas such as neuroscience and ageing. Having applied scientists working side by side with Crick researchers offers completely new opportunities.

Proving principles

Advancing discoveries

Find out more about how the translation team works with Crick researchers to take their ideas from the lab bench to the clinic.

Meet the team

Our translational portfolio is going from strength to strength. Last year, we established a joint fund with LifeArc, a UK-based charity that supports medical innovation, to further enable translational research at the Crick. We had already established a way to gain confidence in a concept through our ‘idea to innovation’ (i2i) scheme, funded by the MRC, but to take these projects to proof of principle needs extra resource.

Throughout 2020, we’re looking forward to working with Crick researchers who have an ambitious approach to translation, working more closely with our neighbours in King’s Cross, with investing partners, and with industry. I’m excited about our current portfolio, as well as the translational projects that could be inspired by the work of people who have recently joined the Crick. 

Sign up for our newsletters

Join our mailing lists to receive updates about our latest research and to hear about our free public events and exhibitions.  If you would like to find out more about how we manage your personal information please see our privacy policy.