In August 2020 Edinburgh was quiet for the first time in years. The pandemic meant that the city was unable to host its famous festivals last summer. The Royal Mile was devoid of tourists, and the University Central Area stood empty of the famous purple cow.
The University community will play a key role in the return of the Edinburgh Science Festival this year, with dozens of staff sharing their expertise and insights, leading events and designing experiences for the public.
After months of lockdown, the UK is finally opening up again. In line with Government restrictions, restaurants, cinemas and museums are opening their doors and welcoming us back.
The University’s Talbot Rice Gallery has also reopened its doors, with a new exhibition that looks to capture what our lives have been like during the pandemic. The Normal examines the turbulence of the past year, and the issues Covid-19 has exposed.
Later this year Glasgow will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) which will see institutions come together to discuss how to accelerate the aims laid out in the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Leading up to COP26, the Business School is running a programme of discussions, bringing together experts in climate change to explore a whole host of subjects. Beginning last year, the COP26Cast series, which was live streamed on Facebook, has already amassed more than 160,000 views globally.
Registration is now open for this year’s Learning & Teaching Conference focused on ‘Curriculum as a site for transformation’. Following the success of last year’s online conference, the 2021 conference will take place online on 15, 16 and 17 June 2021.
Social Responsibility and Sustainability’s annual Sustainability Awards celebration takes place on 1 April. The event will celebrate and recognise the efforts of staff and students who have made a positive difference in the university community, in their local communities or globally in a socially responsible or sustainable way.
Building on recent growth in commercialisation activity in the therapeutics field, Edinburgh Innovations and the College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine have launched their Bench to Bedside campaign.
When you have notched up a record year and the graphs are continuing to curl steeper, what next? The answer for Edinburgh Innovations (EI) and the College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine is to launch a campaign to build on that momentum.
Commercialisation of the College’s therapeutics expertise has reached new heights amid a series of successful company launches, supported by substantial investors, and an impressive roster of industry collaborations.
This month’s launch of the Bench to Bedside campaign will further boost industry engagement and inspire more research staff and students to commercialise their work.
The campaign is the first in EI’s Discovery Series, which will span 2021 and reach out to business by highlighting the University’s track record, facilities and expertise. It will also help more staff and students discover the benefits of maximising the impact of their work through commercialisation.
“We have a strong track record of engaging with industry to find solutions to unmet clinical needs,” says Professor Stuart Forbes, Dean of Research at the College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine.
Professor Stuart Forbes
“This new campaign will highlight that, from bench to bedside, the University of Edinburgh has the expertise, track record and facilities to help our partners deliver impact.”
The income generated for the University from the College’s translational and industrial funding awards more than doubled in 2019/20 and has already set a new record in the first seven months of the current year.
And over the past 18 months, Edinburgh Innovations has helped launch five therapeutic discovery companies that have raised substantial investment.
Recent spinout successes include Resolution Therapeutics, launched with an investment of £26.6 million from Syncona, to develop macrophage cell therapies to repair organ damage – including end-stage chronic liver disease.
Professor Forbes is a joint founder of the company, having worked with his research team at the Centre for Regenerative Medicine for a decade on the role of macrophages in organ repair, with funding from the Medical Research Council.
Syncona has been collaborating with Professor Forbes’ team since 2018, developing processes to engineer macrophage cell therapy.
Fellow founder John Campbell is Director of Tissues, Cells and Advanced Therapeutics at the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) and Honorary Professor at the University of Edinburgh. The SNBTS is part of the collaborative effort, working to optimise the manufacturing process and produce engineered macrophages for clinical use.
Dr George Baxter, Edinburgh Innovations CEO, says: “The way the parties have worked together to pursue their mutual aim is an excellent example of academic research translating into the chance to transform lives.”
Dr George Baxter
Meanwhile, researchers at the University’s Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences are working with New York-based Neurogene to develop next-generation gene therapies.
Supported by EI, the team led by Dr Stuart Cobb has signed a multi-year agreement to advance development of multiple platform approaches to improve on existing gene therapy technologies.
Neurogene will provide funding to Dr Cobb’s laboratory in exchange for the right to license intellectual property. Neurogene will be responsible for late stage preclinical and all clinical development of any products generated under the collaboration.
Dr Cobb, Simons Fellow and Reader in Neuroscience at the Patrick Wild Centre and Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences, has been working with Neurogene since 2018 and serves as the company’s Chief Scientific Officer.
Dr Cobb says: “Gene therapy is a very promising yet complex development area, and we are privileged to help address the unmet needs that exist within rare neurological diseases.”
EI has a dedicated Business Development team for the College, led by Dr Andrea Taylor – a driving force behind the current upward trajectory who is determined to build the momentum even further.
Dr Andrea Taylor
She cites the recent receipt of a £2.4 million Wellcome Trust Institutional Translational Partnership Award (iTPA) as typifying the direction of travel. The team’s previous, smaller, iTPA scheme ran for three years and brought an increase of 60 per cent in the College’s early career researchers engaging with commercialisation, including a disproportionate rise among women.
Dr Taylor says: “The iTPA alone has had a major impact on the culture across biomedical sciences, with a new pipeline of 80 projects currently live. We have created a translational hub which has built an engaged translational community of 300 members; we want to reach 1,000 in the next three years.
“There is no better way for researchers to have impact in the real world than to work with business. It’s an exciting time to join our growing community of collaborators and make ideas work for a better world.”
The Bench to Bedside campaign comprises a series of EI-hosted events, outreach activities including presence at external events, and communications and marketing activities. Key academics will act as champions to promote industry engagement and commercialisation, including Professors Neil Carragher, Shareen Forbes and Jonathan Fallowfield.
There will be news stories announcing company launches and collaborative research projects in coming weeks, case studies for use online, in newsletters and in marketing materials, and a takeover of the EI website to highlight the campaign.
Among the planned events is ‘Seeing Value in Novelty’ on 31 March. This one-hour session, delivered by venture capital company Epidarex Capital, will show how it’s possible to use investor expertise and finance while continuing to develop your career as an academic researcher.
Professor Jeffrey Pollard and Dr Luca Cassetta, co-founders of Macomics, will share their story on successfully managing the best of both worlds.
The event will also be an opportunity to learn more about EI and will be of particular interest to PhD students, early career researchers, postdoctoral fellows and principal investigators in the field of life sciences.
The first Una Europa staff week took place online in March, bringing together colleagues from eight leading European research universities, in a single Una community, for the first time.
Participants attended plenary sessions to learn more about Una Europa and the 1Europe Project. Other sessions were aimed specifically at colleagues involved in university libraries, and in alumni, international office and communications teams.
Una Europa is a unique alliance comprising Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Freie Universität Berlin, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, University of Bologna, University of Helsinki, Jagiellonian University, KU Leuven and the University of Edinburgh, which joined in 2019.
Members have a combined staff and student community of almost half a million people and aim to draw on their collective strengths to create a truly European inter-university environment.
The alliance has already successfully applied for funding for the 1Europe Project, which will focus efforts on the four areas of sustainability, data science and Artificial Intelligence, cultural heritage, and European studies. Within these areas, planned activities include joint programmes and increased mobility amongst member universities. The Project also considers what the European university of the future might look like.
Panel discussion, Una Europa staff week.
Jeremy Upton, Director of Library & University Collections, helped coordinate library-focused sessions and chaired breakout discussions. He said: “The Library is strongly committed to supporting the University’s international partnerships.
“The Una Europa sessions had a strong sense of what we are trying to achieve and what we are supporting. Participants from all the institutions engaged with the sessions and very quickly began to talk and explore shared interests. There was a feeling of enthusiasm. Una Europa provides a framework which supports opportunities for staff to learn from colleagues in other institutions. We have the potential to develop shared training where we discover common needs and can work together on shared challenges focused on the concept of the European university.”
Natalie Fergusson, Global Alumni Manager in Development and Alumni, found the week a great way to get a better understanding of the Una Europa initiative: “Alumni relations was a core topic during the event with a dedicated working group. I was pleased to have the opportunity to represent alumni relations at Edinburgh as we look to build a network among the alliance’s member universities.”
“It was an interesting and informative few days,” Natalie continues. “It was great to connect with professionals from other institutions, hearing about their programmes and sharing ideas. The nature of my role means I already work to engage our European alumni in the life and work of the University but this experience expanded my knowledge and understanding of other important areas and projects, and how they contribute to the University’s relationship with Europe.”
A key part of the University’s British Sign Language (BSL) Plan is a commitment to supporting staff and students who use BSL to communicate.
The British Sign Language (BSL) awareness training is available again to all staff looking to support colleagues, improve the accessibility of their services, or just to learn more about Deaf culture. Sessions will be available throughout February and March and can be booked through MyEd events.