One of the UK's most successful academic entrepreneurs has teamed up with the University of Leeds to offer outsourced research and development in membrane biology to pharmaceutical, biotech and agrochemical companies.
Dr Tony Marchington, who turned his spin-out company Oxford Molecular into a business worth £450m, will work alongside the University's new Centre for Integrative Membrane Biology (CIMB) to broker research contracts with industry, based on Leeds' world-class expertise in membrane biology.
Membrane biology research is central to the improved treatment of human disease with pharmaceutical drugs; currently around 75 per cent of current drugs have their effects via membrane proteins(1).
The partnership between CIMB, based at the University's Faculty of Biological Sciences, and M2 Ventures - Dr Marchington's new company set up with finance expert Martin Manning - will offer a co-ordinated expert research resource to industry addressing membrane function at all levels: the biology of single cells through to whole organisms; analysis of protein structure and function; membranes on devices and high throughput 'interrogation' platforms, such as for sensor technologies.
Says Dr Marchington: "As the pharma and healthcare industries continue the trend to outsource their fundamental research and early stage development, the natural recipients of this work are universities, such as Leeds, that have both research excellence in these areas and can package and offer that expertise in ways that meet industry requirements.
"It's self-evident that Leeds has exceptional breadth of expertise including world-class research capability in membrane biology; and as the market for targeted drugs accelerates, we believe that there will be great demand for their services. With our combined knowledge, experience and contacts, we are in a formidable position to capitalise on the strengths of this partnership."
The partnership was brokered by Leeds' Professors Deborah Withington and John Colyer - both of whom have extensive commercial experience. Professor Withington said: "This partnership has all the hallmarks of something very special and we're excited by its potential."
(1) Watts, A. (2005) Solid state NMR in drug design and discovery for membrane embedded targets. Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, 4, 555-568.