Next generation medicine and the pharmaceutical pioneers

29 Mar 2012 14:45:00.000


An innovative training centre producing some of the UK’s most promising pharmaceutical talent is to forge ahead into a new phase after attracting almost £2 million in further funding.

The money will extend and grow the Centre for Doctoral Training in Targeted Therapeutics at the School of Pharmacy and will ensure it continues training research stars of the future until at least 2017.

The new award has come from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and a consortium of industry leaders including Alliance Boots, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Critical Pharmaceuticals, Molecular Profiles and Quotient Clinical. It will also establish a new collaboration with UCL School of Pharmacy.

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Professor Cameron Alexander, Director of the new Centre for Doctoral Training in Targeted Therapeutics and Formulation Sciences, said: “This further funding is testament to the results the centre has delivered during its first five years and will allow us to build significantly on our successes by expanding our industrial partnerships, continuing to recruit the very best talent on offer and developing research collaborations in completely new areas.”

Links with industry

The funding success recognises the outstanding outputs the centre has achieved to-date in developing links between academia and industry, producing innovative research in areas including personalised medicines and providing highly-trained staff in pharmaceutical R&D — which have recently been highlighted as areas of key importance in the Government’s Strategy for UK Life Sciences.

Professor Bob Webb, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, said: “As a research led institution, PhD students are critical to the University delivering its cutting edge research as well as being vital to the UK economy.

“This additional funding will ensure that Nottingham will continue to build its portfolio of doctoral training centres which provide excellent training for the internationally leading researchers of the future. It will also ensure the continued delivery of international quality research in the broad area of drug discovery, which is an area of priority for the University. Importantly it will enable Nottingham to continue to grow its links with international companies across the pharmaceutical sector.”

Professor Graham Buckton, who will lead the Centre at the UCL School of Pharmacy in London, said “This is a great opportunity for UK pharmaceutical science. It is a unique venture bringing together two universities with complementary excellence on the breath of the field that makes up drug delivery, with the major ‘big pharma’ as well as SME partners. The synergies that are possible in this venture make this a very exciting time and the benefits for the students in the Centre, and the community that they will join, will be immense.”

Areas of interest

The new centre will support 19 leading PhD students, who will work on emerging scientific themes of critical importance to the pharmaceutical sector, while drawing on the existing research expertise at Nottingham and London.

Areas of interest will include tracking how drug delivery systems overcome barriers created by diseased tissue, developing new materials and processes for the next generation of drug delivery systems and developing specific formulations that could eventually lead to tailored medicines for individual patients.

The Centre for Doctoral Training in Targeted Therapeutics was first established at The University of Nottingham’s School of Pharmacy in 2006 with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and AstraZeneca. The aim for the initial five year programme was to take the brightest PhD students and transform them into leaders in targeted therapeutics — the science of designing, making and delivering drugs to where they are most needed in the body — a research field that could revolutionise medicine.

The centre has generated significant new research, including a highlighted paper in the Journal of Controlled Release on inkjet printing as a potential new medicine formulation technique — allowing medicines to be more accurately tailored to individual patients to make them more effective and to reduce side effects.

Collaborative projects

The close partnership with industry has developed in the region of 40 separate collaborative research and knowledge transfer projects with AstraZeneca scientists and last year the company and the EPSRC funded a one-year extension for a further five students. The work of the centre comes against the backdrop of a period of unprecedented change for the pharmaceutical sector, which currently has an annual turnover of around £31billion and employs around 78,000 people in the UK.

Professor Alexander added: “Pharmaceutical science is a strategically important area for UK industry and, despite the tough market caused by the downturn in the global economy, high-quality, skilled individuals will always be needed to drive forward innovation.

“One of the prime objectives of establishing the centre was to address this shortfall in talented graduates with the right skills set and we are now seeing that come to fruition.”

When the centre was launched in 2006, it became the first doctoral training centre of its kind to be established with matched funding from an industry partner, the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, providing an unprecedented support base for pharmaceutical research.

The initial funding has seen the recruitment of five students every year for five years — 25 in all — who have undergone four years of intensive training in the pharmaceutical sciences, including pharmaceutical nanotechnology and biopharmaceuticals, collaborating on research projects and undertaking placements in industry.

Two of the PhD student cohorts have now completed their training and all have moved into employment either directly into the pharmaceutical or related industries or academia and research roles.

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has 40,000 students at award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘the world’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking 2011.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2011, for its research into global food security.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fund-raising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news

Story credits

More information is available from Professor Cameron Alexander on +44 (0)115 846 7678,

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