Mobilising rge university-industry community against COVID-19

Alex Stockham, Communications Manager, IN-PART

I’m sure everyone remembers when the realisation hit that COVID-19 was here to stay. The morning when the 2020 AUTM annual conference was cancelled I had my suitcase by the door. With the lockdown imminent, we realised that we needed to do something to support the university-industry community to find solutions, treatments and a vaccine for this new virus. 

On the 23rd of March, we launched an open call for research and redeployed our teams. The response was rapid. We received 174 submissions from 61 universities and research institutes across 6 continents, with each submission detailing a new breakthrough or technology being developed by an academic team to stop the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and to treat COVID-19. 

I’m sure everyone remembers when the realisation hit that COVID-19 was here to stay. The morning when the 2020 AUTM annual conference was cancelled I had my suitcase by the door. With the lockdown imminent, we realised that we needed to do something to support the university-industry community to find solutions, treatments and a vaccine for this new virus. 

On the 23rd of March, we launched an open call for research and redeployed our teams. The response was rapid. We received 174 submissions from 61 universities and research institutes across 6 continents, with each submission detailing a new breakthrough or technology being developed by an academic team to stop the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and to treat COVID-19. 

These submissions cover everything from responsive antiviral biomaterials (University of Toronto), serological assays (University of Hong Kong) and early warning systems for post-intensive care deterioration (University of Oxford), to point-of-care diagnostics (Cornell University), therapeutic agents (University of Sao Paulo) and first-in-class RNA vaccines (Max Planck Society). A full directory of the submissions can be found in our public directory.

Each project submitted to our call for research was uploaded to our platform and our team ran them through the matching process to identify R&D teams from our network of 6,000+ companies with aligned interests. The response from industry followed what we’d seen in academia. Companies rapidly shifted their focus and redistributed their workforce to bring to market solutions to the pandemic building on the latest breakthroughs coming out of university labs.

Over 60 conversations are now underway between teams in academia and industry to further develop and deploy the solutions submitted to our call for research. These are being hosted by the likes of Merck, Roche, AbbVie, Ford, Philips, Thermo Fisher and GSK Vaccines, along with many others. 

Many of the conversations have now reached the stage at which the academics are involved, NDAs are in place, and the companies are reviewing confidential data and results. With others, academic teams are conducting new experiments to generate the data companies have asked to see before bringing the project in-house for further development.

Due to confidentiality agreements, much of this we can’t share at this stage. But one of the collaborations is with a UK-based pharma company seeking results from animal models for a potential oral vaccine developed by academics at Colorado State University that targets the COVID-19 virus-host cell interaction. Another is with a European pharma company that has requested further testing of an immunotherapy in development by researchers at Bar-Ilan University that could enhance the response of the innate immune system against COVID-19.

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