NEWS | 13/09/2023

BioBabraham Symposium highlights Campus’ ground-breaking research

With the aim of encouraging collaborations within the Babraham Research Campus community, the inaugural BioBabraham Symposium, held earlier this summer, saw speakers from across the site present the remarkable scientific innovation taking place on Campus.

Above: The BioBabraham Symposium brought together academic and commercial sectors.

The event was a joint enterprise between Babraham Institute and the Babraham Research Campus, bringing together the academic and commercial sectors of the community to showcase their science. The event, which was co-sponsored by BioMed Realty and the BBSRC, alongside Campus-based companies bit.bio, RxCelerate and Xap Therapeutics gave the whole Campus community a chance to find out more about their neighbours and potential opportunities to work together.

Sessions were split into themes covering technology and innovation, research and development, and collaboration. As a key driver to enhance scientific progress, Campus collaboration was a thread throughout the day with many presentations highlighting its value. The event also provided the platform from which the new Campus Innovation Awards were launched, with the express aim to encourage and support collaborative science projects to accelerate the impact of the activities on Campus.

The day’s presentations were complemented by a poster exhibition and plenty of networking time. Many attendees have made multiple new connections and linked their programmes of work to research and technology across Campus.

Kathryn Chapman, Director, Science & Entrepreneurship at Babraham Research Campus said:

“This is just a snapshot of research going on across Campus. BioBabraham has already sparked new connections, which will hopefully lead to new science collaborations across the site.”

Scientific progress and future plans

Delegates heard presentations from companies including Talisman, bit.bio, RxCelerate and Abzena who all shared details of their scientific capabilities and aims of their businesses.

Human cell product specialist, DefiniGEN, described how it uses models of liver disease for drug screening with CEO Chris Kirton explaining the brilliance of being able provide these products and models around the world to a variety of scientific end users.

Inspired by individuals with extraordinary resilience to disease, Alchemab shared how it is aiming to harness the power of the immune system to cure disease. Four years post launch, its purpose is to develop drugs for the rest of the population from this research.

Crescendo Biologics’ VP Discovery, Colette Johnston was delighted to be able to meet face-to-face post Covid adding, “It’s a real pleasure to actually come into a room and speak to people in person!” Crescendo Biologics, a Babraham Institute spin-out, is a clinical stage immuno-oncology company developing particular types of antibody fragments they have named “Humabodies”. Colette shared the development journey of lead candidate CB307, a next-generation immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer, from proof of principle to clinical trial cohort expansion. She described the journey so far as ‘90% of the story’, adding that she hoped to return next year with the results of the study and ‘the final 10% of the story and a celebration of success!’.

Babraham Institute research and facilities

Dr Simon Cook, Director of Babraham Institute gave a whistlestop tour of the research taking place at the Institute which spans three streams – epigenetics, signalling and immunology. The primary aim of the Babraham Institute is to explore the biology of healthy-ageing and to understand how we might extend the healthy periods in our lifespans. His colleagues gave further presentations delving deeper into these areas, including the development of up to 15 collaborative PhD studentships - a joint venture between the Institute and Babraham Research Campus Ltd - as part of the Campus collaborative training partnership PhD programme awarded by the BBSRC.

In addition to their research, the Babraham Institute is home to eight cutting-edge science facilities, including Bioinformatics, Flow Cytometry, Imaging and Genomics services. Where capacity permits, Institute Facility services are available as a fee-for-service to external companies.

Head of the Flow Cytometry capability Rachael Walker told the audience how by attaching fluorescent tags on cells, the Institute’s cell sorting service can ‘sort 2.7 billion cells in six days’, or to put it another way, ‘if it’s fluorescent we can see it and if you can see it then we can sort it!’

Right: Companies shared details of their scientific capabilities and business objectives.

Community and collaboration

Other companies presenting ranged from long-established Campus stalwarts to latest tenants, such as CHARM Therapeutics which was founded in late 2021. Sarah Skerratt, Head of Drug Discovery said that they are in the process of establishing their labs so that they can accelerate their drug discovery programmes. She said of the Campus: “It’s such a supportive community with a great collaborative spirit set in gorgeous grounds. The facilities here are amazing and we’re in a fabulous building. We couldn’t ask for more.” 

“It’s such a supportive community"

Sarah Skerratt, CHARM Therapeutics

The Campus is also home to Cancer Research Horizons. Cancer Research Horizons is part of the charity Cancer Research UK, and develops new therapeutics funded by the charity. Hamish Ryder, CEO, Therapeutic Innovation described its impact and cited various examples of collaborations, including one with Campus company Artios Pharma.

He said: “Those presenting today come from commercial or academic groups and we’re probably the only one that’s neither, we’re a combination of the two. For that reason, collaboration is particularly important to us. Partnership is critical and a core part of what we do. We work to progress emerging science breakthroughs as early and efficiently as we can to help cancer patients.”

The Symposium really brought home how the research taking place on Campus will have tangible impacts for people, by revolutionising treatment for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer and liver disease; innovations for wound healing; speeding up the drug discovery process; and improving IVF success rates.

Babraham Institute Director Simon Cook gave thanks for the day commenting: “The co-location of a world-leading Institute and 60 bioscience companies is what makes this Campus unique and is precisely why it’s such a success - bringing together people from the commercial sector and the academic sector for collaboration.”

During his closing remarks Derek Jones, Chief Executive of the Babraham Research Campus mentioned plans to further extend the Campus’ capabilities, and to once again look at formally evaluating the impact on the local and national economy, and how it helps bring new therapeutics to patients.

Derek Jones, Chief Executive of the Babraham Research Campus said:

“When people come to the Campus the first thing they see are the buildings, and important as they are, buildings are not the heart of the Campus nor what makes this place special. The heart of this Campus is the community. We’re home to companies just starting out, such as those joining Accelerate at Babraham, translating science ideas into potential companies; early-stage ventures stress testing their science and scale-up businesses with 180 plus employees. It’s events like this that make this Campus distinct. We have the community to make things happen.”