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Crick Institute’s ‘Discovery without Boundaries’ mission leads to open collaboration


By David Schwartz
Published: July 10th, 2018

On a bright, sunny day in July 2014, 100 researchers and staff from the Francis Crick Institute and GlaxoSmithKline took a tour of the London Zoo, part of a day-long event that would lead to scientific agreements between the Crick Institute and GSK. It was an early step to launch an important strategy for the Crick Institute: to collaborate creatively with industry to advance UK science and innovation.

“Our strategy is to bring industry experts in close proximity to Crick scientists so that we can identify and nurture what can eventually become a translational project,” said Dr. Veronique Birault, the Insitute’s head of translational science. “They provide much-needed expertise and mentorship on translation to build the initial experiments towards real products.”

The Crick Institute may be unique among research institutes. Opened just three years ago, it was created with translational science as one its primary goals, and with industry partnerships as one of its primary strategies.

It is built upon the vision of its director and chief executive, Sir Paul Nurse, and is summarized by the Institute’s three-word mission: Discovery without Boundaries. “The way the Crick strategies were articulated was really visionary,” says Birault. “Discovery without Boundaries [refers to] no boundaries between disciplines, academia and industry, or between research and translational research and its medical application. The intent is to lower the barriers between different and usually siloed areas. It’s a powerful vision.”

Part of the Crick translation agenda — indeed part of its mission — is to bridge the divide between industry, universities, and research organizations. “We bring in industry scientists to work on Crick science, harnessing a different expertise to work together on pre-competitive [research projects],” said Birault.

In the GSK partnership, Crick researchers are also working on-site at the pharma company’s labs on Crick-related research. In all, there are about a dozen active projects ongoing at any given time, and each will last from one to three years. “The project can be anything from target identification and validation, exploring diagnoses and prognosis biomarkers, or technology platforms,” Birault says. “These projects really reflect the breadth of what we do at the Crick.”

Keith Spencer, director of academic liaison at GSK, compliments the Crick Institute for its collaborations with their partner academic institutions. “It’s a tremendous facility and GSK really wants to be a part of that.”

A detailed article on the Crick-GSK partnership appears in the June issue of Industry-Sponsored Research Management. To subscribe and access the full article, as well as the publication’s complete online archive of best practices in building research partnerships and enhancing corporate engagement, CLICK HERE.

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