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AI Accelerator open for second-round applications

AI Accelerator open for second-round applications

The University of Edinburgh’s AI Accelerator is opening its doors once again to find 12 data-driven AI scale-ups looking to change the world.

The programme is designed to accelerate the best AI start-ups in the UK, Europe and beyond to scale globally within a short timeframe and aims to attract disruptive scale-ups that apply AI with high-growth potential while helping them grow into world-leading companies. The University of Edinburgh is home to the largest centres for computing science and informatics in Europe.

The AI Accelerator will be delivered both digitally and in-person by Edinburgh Innovations and the Bayes Centre, the University’s world-leading innovation hub for data science and artificial intelligence, on behalf of all the DDI hubs. The AI Accelerator is also supported by Edinburgh-based strategic design consultancy Nile.

The deadline for applications is 8 August 2021 and the programme will run for six months from 22 September to 18 March 2022.

The cohort taking part in the current AI Accelerator programme comprises 15 companies with high growth potential, each of which is addressing a global challenge, many responding to urgent needs in the health and climate change domains.

Scale Space partnership

Scale Space’s partnership with the University will provide start-up businesses on the Accelerator programme with access to the wide range of expertise, mentoring and knowledge at Scale Space, to help them grow faster and stronger. Scale Space is backed by Blenheim Chalcot, the UK’s leading digital venture builder, and has partnered with Imperial College London to launch the first physical site in White City, London.

Companies on the current programme include BioLiberty, designers of an AI-powered robotic glove that strengthens the user’s grip, Neeuro, which utilises Brain-Computer Interface technology to help ADHD children improve their attention span, and Reath, which enables companies to find compliant and scalable solutions for reusing single use items that have been sent to landfill.

Charlotte Waugh, Enterprise and Innovation Programme Lead, Edinburgh Innovations, said:

“We are delighted to be able to offer this fantastic opportunity to global data driven AI scale-ups, and to be partnering once again with Scale Space and Nile to build on the success of previous AI Accelerator programmes. Our USP is providing entrepreneurs with support on commercial skills at the same time as enabling them to tap into the University of Edinburgh’s world leading academic knowledge, data sets, talent and supercomputing facilities.

 

“The Bayes Centre, supported by Edinburgh Innovations, is at the heart of delivering this unique cross-hub collaboration ensuring cutting edge AI tech is at the heart of  these market led, real world solutions and providing specialist input, connections and investor networks that scale businesses quickly and successfully.”

Mark Sanders, Executive Chairman, Scale Space, and Entrepreneur-in-Residence, said:

I am so very proud to be Entrepreneur-in-Residence for the University of Edinburgh AI Accelerator for a second time and I can’t wait to meet the new cohort. Great things happen when you bring together academic excellence with business-building expertise, and the support provided by this programme is ideal for ambitious scaling businesses. In just a few months, the previous cohort made incredible progress in all areas of their business, developing clearer product propositions, sustainable commercial models and growth strategies.

 

“I wish that group the best of luck and I especially look forward to being able to welcome the new group to attend sessions at Scale Space in White City, which will help build their connections to Imperial College and the London market.

Jim Ashe, Director of Innovation, Bayes Centre, College of Science and Engineering, said:

The AI Accelerator provides an opportunity for data driven AI start-ups to grow and scale their businesses, in a dynamic environment – enabling connections with investors, mentors and their peers. The cohort will have access to the invaluable resources that the Bayes Centre provides.”

The AI Accelerator is financed by the Scottish Funding Council through the Data Driven Innovation (DDI) programme.

Related links

Applications

Scale Space

Nile

Bayes Centre

 

 

 

Collaborative research in predictive biomarkers

Collaborative research in predictive biomarkers

A new collaboration between clinician-scientists at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Inflammation Research and pioneering biotechnology company Genentech is bringing its combined expertise to bear on discovering predictive biomarkers for chronic liver disease progression.

Liver disease is on the rise. The British Liver Trust reports that since 1970 the number of deaths caused by liver disease in the UK has increased by 400%. Despite this alarming escalation, there is currently no way of predicting, from a clinical perspective, which patients will go on to develop complications or deteriorate at a faster rate. To improve patients’ prognosis, it is vital that predictive biomarkers are discovered to inform clinicians of their patient’s likely course and empower them to act before a patient deteriorates.

Collaboration

An informal chat at a conference between clinician-scientist Dr Prakash Ramachandran and a Genentech scientist quickly developed into a collaboration when the two parties discovered their shared ambition of improving the risk stratification of patients with chronic liver disease (cirrhosis).

Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, is a founder of the biotechnology industry, using the power of genetic engineering and advanced technologies to develop medicines for people with serious and life-threatening diseases. In its quest to predict cirrhosis progression, the company needs access to blood, plasma and other samples from a cohort of 100 carefully selected early-stage cirrhosis patients. The thriving scientific-clinical interface at the University of Edinburgh’s Medical School means that the research team of clinician-scientists, Dr Ramachandran and his co-investigator Professor Jonathan Fallowfield, have the depth of clinical experience required to identify the ideal participants for the study; the clinical network that will facilitate access to these patients and their anonymised data; and the scientific expertise to conduct detailed phenotypic analysis on the clinical samples before they are sent on to Genentech for further testing. The research team’s work will be aided by the University’s suite of world-class facilities, such as flow and genomic cytometry and the single-cell analysis facilities within the Centre for Regenerative Medicine.

Safe hands

When initial discussions between Dr Ramachandran and Genentech scientist Thiru Ramalingam indicated that a genuine collaboration was possible, the research team knew who to call on for advice and support. Both research partners have worked with Edinburgh Innovations’ Business Development Manager Susan Bodie on previous projects and they trusted her expertise. As the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, Susan was able to offer reassurance and shepherd both the industry and academic partners through the legal and logistical complexities at a time of unprecedented upheaval, helping with everything from the initial proposal and costings through to negotiating the collaboration agreement and finalising the project’s finer details.

Predicting Success

As the world moves back into gear the research team at the University of Edinburgh is ready. They will first hire the clinical research fellow who will be a key player in the project’s progress, before beginning the meticulous selection process for their cohort. An exciting three-year collaboration now begins, and a means of protecting patients from the ravages of progressed liver cirrhosis is on the horizon.

 

Related Links

Discover more about the University of Edinburgh’s therapeutic discovery capability at Bench to Bedside — Edinburgh Innovations

Investing in innovation, from bench to bedside

Investing in innovation, from bench to bedside

At the forefront of research to develop gene therapy treatment for Rett syndrome is the University of Edinburgh’s Dr. Stuart Cobb, his team and their partnership with Neurogene.

Neurogene began working with Dr. Stuart Cobb shortly after its inception in early 2018. Interested in collaborating with the University of Edinburgh to incorporate innovation into the organisation, CEO and Founder of Neurogene, Rachel McMinn reached out to Dr. Cobb, Professor in Neuroscience at the University.

Following a visit to Edinburgh, their partnership to find a gene therapy for Rett syndrome – a genetic neurological disorder – began.

Creating new gene therapy technologies

After realising that more ‘conventional’ therapies were unlikely to meaningfully improve the lives of people with Rett syndrome, Dr. Cobb, his research team and Neurogene focused on finding innovative and alternative gene therapies for the disorder. The team is working to do this by creating new technologies that will provide a more precise, safe and effective gene therapy for the disorder.

A shared purpose and mission

There is great alignment between Neurogene and the University. They both recognise the importance of collaboration, innovation and the impact of their work. They both share a sense of urgency when it comes to finding solutions for treating a complex disorder like Rett syndrome. And they both appreciate the impact an effective treatment could have on the lives of patients and their families – it is this that motivates the team to constantly innovate and test ideas.

Edinburgh Innovations’ ongoing support

Neurogene is collaborating with the University and Edinburgh Innovations (EI) on more than one research project. Despite some disruption at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the collaboration has successfully continued, and Neurogene and EI have worked effectively together to uphold a robust and productive scientific exchange.

From a business standpoint, EI have been paramount to progress and success so far. Their legal and business support allows the researchers and Neurogene to focus on what they do best – developing life-changing treatments for people living with Rett syndrome.

Success founded in innovation

So far, Dr. Cobb’s team have successfully developed a technology which allows the disruptive gene that causes Rett syndrome to be replaced with a healthy copy. This technology delivers gene therapy to the cells that need replacing with more precision than any standard gene therapy. Such early progress means the team will likely be able to develop treatments with the potential to transform patients’ lives, and they hope to be able to take these treatments to clinical trials.

Neurogene’s investment in gene therapy innovation and technology has opened up an incredible world of possibility for Dr. Cobb and his team, and has the capacity to go on to impact the field as a whole.

“We really value our collaboration with Edinburgh Innovations and the University, and believe that we are all working with a fundamental belief that investing in innovation is critical to successfully developing meaningful treatments for complex diseases like Rett syndrome.”

– Rachel McMinn, PhD CEO and Founder, Neurogene

 

Related Links

Discover more about the University of Edinburgh’s therapeutic discovery capability at Bench to Bedside — Edinburgh Innovations

Bench to bedside: with industry all the way

Bench to bedside: with industry all the way

Collaborations with pharmaceutical companies not only facilitate the transition of a scientific discovery from bench to bedside, but as the University of Edinburgh’s Dr Veronique Miron discovered, can also contribute to career development as a researcher.

Veronique is a translational research leader in the field of central nervous system regeneration. Her team focuses on identifying new therapeutic targets for neurological diseases in which the insulation surrounding nerve fibres, termed myelin, is damaged – causing nerve dysfunction and problems with movement, sensation and intellect.

Such disorders include multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy, for which there are no approved treatments to repair the damaged myelin. By taking an unconventional route of harnessing the regenerative properties of immune cells, Veronique’s work has attracted the interest of several pharmaceutical companies looking to meet the therapeutic need for regenerative drugs for neurodegenerative disease.

Working with pharma from the start

Her collaborative journey began when Veronique was a PhD student at McGill University in Canada, where she discovered the regenerative impact of a drug made by Novartis, which was originally aimed at the immune system.

Working with Novartis led to numerous impactful first and co-author publications, allowed Veronique to garner interest in her work at international conferences, and created long-standing networks within both industry and academia.

To the UK, Biogen and MRC award

Moving to the UK to carry out a postdoctoral fellowship, Veronique had the opportunity to develop a project with Biogen to identify regenerative factors released by immune cells within the central nervous system.

Forging this relationship not only led to development of new protocols to isolate and sequence small numbers of immune cells from the injured brain, but also provided funding to bridge her salary between her postdoctoral position and first faculty position. The funds gave Veronique the opportunity to generate the key preliminary data needed to land a prestigious Career Development Award from the MRC, through which she launched her independent research programme.

Prize-winning research

Having established her group, Veronique then liaised with GSK through a joint PhD studentship to investigate what regulates the transition from a potentially damaging central nervous system immune cell to a regenerative one. Veronique and the team discovered that death of immune cells is a surprising but important pathway for therapeutic targeting. In addition, through this collaboration, the student involved was able to engage with GSK researchers and generate a high impact first author publication, which led to a national prize for best paper on neurodegeneration.

By then setting up novel models and platforms for drug testing, Veronique subsequently attracted consultancy contracts which helped bridge salaries for research assistants, allowing the group to maintain its momentum.

Mentor and adviser

These interactions with the pharmaceutical industry have not only facilitated the translatability of the lab’s research, but have also contributed to Veronique’s continued development as a leader and mentor. She advises major funders and pharmaceutical companies on strategic direction in neuro-immunology, and leverages her networks to support trainees interested in transitioning to industry.

Interaction with pharmaceutical companies has been an integral part of Veronique’s research success, and importantly has led to target discoveries that may lead to new drug development for neurological disease.

Related Links

Discover more about the University of Edinburgh’s therapeutic discovery capability at Bench to Bedside — Edinburgh Innovations

Collaboration, Diversity and Impact from Bench to Bedside

Collaboration, Diversity and Impact from Bench to Bedside

Dr Emily Sena from the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh discusses her research and how collaborating with industry brings a diversity of perspectives.

I have been an academic for the past 15 or so years, and I really enjoy what I do. My research is about what makes studies using preclinical models of human diseases rigorous and valid, and understanding the critical facets of translating findings in these models to humans in a clinical setting.

The campaign ‘Bench to Bedside’ aims to demonstrate exactly this: the expertise, track record and facilities at the University of Edinburgh that enable us to translate our research into impact.

In addition to being a neuroscientist, I describe myself as a meta-research scientist and I use systematic review and other meta-approaches in my work.

Colleagues that know me well, know that I consider collaboration as key to both successful and interesting research projects. My first publication, in 2007 as a PhD student, was a study in collaboration with colleagues based in London, Argentina and Birmingham, and it landed me a paper in the BMJ. This was the type of research I liked to do: I had the opportunity to bring my skillset to the table but also learnt a lot from some very smart scientists.

I have been fortunate that in my relatively young career, although no longer an Early Career Researcher, some of my work has already had recognised impact. It has informed laboratory practice guidelines, reporting guidelines for animal research and also editorial policy. I suspect, for many of us, articulating, capturing and evaluating our research impact can feel a little gruelling but it is hugely satisfying and clearly important. I have to admit that these more “academic impacts” felt more within my wheelhouse; and I didn’t fully acknowledge how my research could be of interest to industry.

Inevitably, collaboration with industry colleagues came. This has been in different guises but it all speaks to the ongoing impact and the greater reach of my central aim to improve translational research. My most substantial industry collaboration has been my role in a European IMI project, European Quality In Preclinical Data (EQIPD), where I led the “historical data analysis” work package. The purpose of the project was to investigate the sources of variation on research findings, within and between partners, to guide how we may design robust experiments going forward.

This project opened my eyes to the different approaches to working and the different drivers, particularly between academics and industry, even when conducting the same experiment. But more importantly, we shattered some preconceived notions about the quality of research each type of partner conducted. It also allowed me to forge connections and exert some of my experience and expertise related to rigorous experimental design across the consortium.

One of our industry partners states that their work with us has changed their internal research procedures, that they have a greater focus on rigour and experimental design and that our collaboration not only alerted them to the issues but informed them of how best to address them. This for me was some tangible and novel impact. Even more excitingly, we are now scoping options to co-supervise a research fellow (read “get the project funded”) to take this work even further, make sure that what we do is applicable to multiple stakeholders and maximise our impact.

Ultimately we have similar goals, to ensure that laboratory models better inform us of human disease and lead to effective interventions. Diversity in the perspectives of those you bring to the table to include all key stakeholders and effective collaboration seems, to me at least, a pretty good strategy.

 

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Dr Emily Sena

Bench to bedside: from targets to treatments

Bench to bedside: from targets to treatments

The University of Edinburgh’s Professor Neil Henderson is leading research – in collaboration with two major pharmaceutical companies – to develop therapies that improve prognosis for people living with liver disease.

Drawn by his reputation, publication record and specialised areas of research, two major pharmaceutical companies approached the University of Edinburgh’s Professor Neil Henderson, Chair of Tissue Repair and Regeneration, to lead several research projects. These projects would identify better targets for liver disease therapies, and positively impact the health and livelihoods of people diagnosed with liver disease.

Developing therapies for liver disease

Both pharmaceutical companies are looking to find therapeutic, rather than surgical, treatments for liver diseases. Each beginning in early 2020, the first collaboration looks at using single-cell approaches to examine the prevalent liver diseases, Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC), and the second project focuses solely on NASH, for which there are no effective treatments.

The projects intend to identify relevant and novel anti-fibrotic targets and develop medications to stop, or even reverse, liver scarring. Achieving this would mean that clinicians could arrest, and potentially even reverse, liver disease before it becomes end-stage – greatly increasing the quality of life and lifespan of patients living with liver disease.

Two, true research and industry collaborations

These industry collaborations are a natural fit for Professor Henderson. They resonate with his own academic expertise and research ambitions. Both pharmaceutical companies are very pleased with progress, Neil’s team has maintained momentum and continued to meet milestones despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

The support from both companies is invaluable to the research, progress and development – enabling Neil’s team to double in size to 20, and establishing Neil as a leading expert in this area. These companies are also very keen to embrace technology, which, in such a fast moving industry and field, means Neil and his team are able to quickly integrate new technologies and optimise the outcomes of their research.

Pushing science forward from all sides

The research team, industry partners and Edinburgh Innovations (EI) are working hand in hand to push the science forward from all sides. EI have supported these projects from their inception – from negotiating and securing the agreements of over $2 million each, liaising with the industry partners and legal teams, and ensuring the research team has what they need to deliver the project.

Promising discoveries

So far, the research teams have seen several successes. Not only have they identified new subtypes of scar-forming cells in human liver disease, but they have also built up rich datasets to underpin these findings.

There will also be joint publications arising from each collaboration, further helping to raise the profile of this impactful and cutting-edge work within the liver community, and crucially, will form the foundation for future research projects that will benefit people living with liver disease across the world.

“Edinburgh Innovations’ support has been fundamental to the success of these collaborative projects with major pharmaceutical companies. They have been an excellent source of advice and support throughout this process, and have played a major part in helping set up these large scale collaborations with industrial partners.”

Professor Neil Henderson, University of Edinburgh

Related Links

Discover more about the University of Edinburgh’s therapeutic discovery capability at Bench to Bedside — Edinburgh Innovations