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BRIC: Background

BRIC Club formation rationale

Biological products are large and complex molecules that require sophisticated manufacturing methods. The development phase is slow, expensive and complicated and, since speed to market is vital, there is a need for new tools and methods which will contribute to accelerating development.

In 2003 the Bioscience Innovation and Growth Team (BIGT) report highlighted these issues and recommended increased investment in bioprocessing research. In response we established a working group that identified key areas and important scientific challenges for further bioprocessing research activity.

In order to address these challenges, the Bioprocessing Research Industry Club (BRIC) was established by BBSRC, EPSRC and industry following the identification of the key industrially relevant bioprocessing research.

The Club supports:

  • innovative bioprocessing-related research projects to help strengthen and develop the bioprocessing research community
  • improve academic-industry links

Management support for BRIC is provided by the HealthTech & Medicines KTN, enabling a mechanism for the dissemination of research outputs and networking with industrial Club members.

Funding

The club operates by establishing a partnership between the Research Councils and a consortium of companies to support academic research.

  • BRIC 1: Invested 25 research projects at 19 institutions totalling £13.2M
  • BRIC 2: Invested 23 research projects, 13 institutions totalling £10.6M
  • Industrial members provide approximately 10% of funding through membership subscriptions.
  • BBSRC and EPSRC provide approximately 90% of funding with contributions with targeted support research proposals that fall within their remit.

Business drivers for BRIC

  • Expanding UK position in the global market for biological medicines
  • Support of relevant UK companies developing biological medicines and the underpinning supply chain
  • Growth of a vibrant and skilled bioprocess community
  • Added value through decreased time, cost and risk of product/process development
  • Reduced investment cost and risk by invention of intensive, modular and predictable process characterised by QbD
  • Enhanced regulatory confidence through improved process and product integrity/reproducibility

Expected BRIC outcomes

  • BRIC output demonstrably greater than sum of the parts
  • Advancement of working partnership between UK industry and academia
  • Transfer of knowledge, technology and people
  • Increased output of trained personnel (researchers and supervisors) with improved understanding of industrial needs
  • Self-sustaining and 'given' interaction between university research and the bioprocess industries
  • Greater systems-based understanding of biology for improved bioprocessing;
  • Increased predictability of biological processes for bioprocessing, including improved scale-up and reproducibility;
  • Improved cost efficiency - both in manufacturing and development;
  • Increased flexibility to improve product characteristics and reduce product heterogeneity
  • Increased speed to clinic and market
  • New tools and methodologies for bioprocessing

Over one third of drugs under development by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are biopharmaceuticals. Licensed biopharmaceutical numbers is forecast to grow at a rate of 20% per year.

However, biological products are large and complex molecules that require sophisticated manufacturing methods. The development phase is slow, expensive and complicated and, since speed to market is vital, there is a need for new tools and methods which will contribute to accelerating development.

In 2003 the Bioscience Innovation and Growth Team (BIGT) report highlighted these issues and recommended increased investment in bioprocessing research. In response we established a working group that identified key areas and important scientific challenges for further bioprocessing research activity.

To address the research challenges BBSRC, EPSRC and industry launched the club. It will support innovative bioprocessing-related research projects to help strengthen and develop the research community in this area and improve academic-industry links.

BioProcessUK, the Technology Strategy Board-funded Knowledge Transfer Network, manages BRIC. It will provide a mechanism for the dissemination of research outputs and networking with industrial club members.

BRIC will support industrially-relevant research projects from a joint fund in excess of £14M (£1M of which comes from industrial membership subscriptions).

BRIC is a mechanism for funding research which addresses one of the priority areas of the Technology Strategy.

Outputs

  • Greater systems-based understanding of biology for improved bioprocessing
  • Increased predictability of biological processes for bioprocessing including scale-up and reproducibility
  • Improved cost efficiency in manufacturing and development
  • Greater flexibility to improve product characteristics and reduce product heterogeneity
  • Increased speed to clinic and market
  • Tools and methodologies for bioprocessing that may be applicable in related fields

These outputs may best be achieved by a novel interdisciplinary approach. Calls for applications may take a more strategic approach and focus on specific research areas.

General research areas and scientific challenges

Bioscience underpinning bioprocessing – improving biological understanding to enhance bioprocessing

  • Understanding, controlling and manipulating metabolism in microbial fermentation and mammalian cell culture
  • Growth of stem and tissue cells in-vitro
  • Improved understanding of the properties of proteins

Improved tools for bioprocessing

  • High-throughput process technologies
  • Effective modelling
  • Analytical methodologies for bioprocessing
  • Improved downstream processing

Members (as at 1 October 2008)

  • Antisoma
  • Avacta plc
  • Avecia Biologics
  • Centre of Excellence for Life Sciences
  • Cobra Biomanufacturing
  • Eden Biopharm
  • Glycoform
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • HPA
  • Ipsen Limited
  • Lonza Biologics plc
  • Med Cell Bioscience Ltd
  • MedImmune
  • NIBSC
  • Novozymes Delta Ltd
  • Pall Life Sciences
  • Stem Cell Sciences UK Ltd
  • UCB Celltech

Steering Group and management

The Steering Group establishes the nature of research to be funded and assesses applications before making funding recommendations to the Research Councils.

Professor John Birch - Lonza Biologics (Chair)
Dr Mark Carver - Avecia Biotechnology
Professor Kevin Brindle - University of Cambridge
Professor Zhanfeng Cui - University of Oxford
Dr Brendan Fish - MedImmune
Dr David Glover - UCB Celltech
Dr Peter Levison - Pall Life Sciences
Dr Carol Marshall - GlaxoSmithKline
Professor Elaine Martin - University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Dr Simon Roe - Antisoma
Dr Mark Smales - University of Kent
Professor Nigel Titchener-Hooker - University College London
Professor Phillip Wright - University of Sheffield

Management is supported by the Technology Strategy Board-funded bioProcessUK Knowledge Transfer Network and provides a link to the industry community.

A BRIC programme manager works with the academic community in the development of project applications, monitors progress of funded projects and facilitates networking between the funded research groups and industry.

Future plans

Funding has now been awarded to research projects. Activities will continue through research projects, networking and dissemination until 2011. We are investigating plans for taking this activity forward.

A meeting "BRIC: Current Success and Future Opportunities" was held in June 2008 between the Steering Group, the club's industrial members, grant holders and Research Councils. A report of the meeting is available in the downloads section.