New ideas to help tackle COVID-19 or prepare for future viral outbreaks are set to get a major boost, thanks to a new service from the medical research charity, LifeArc.
LifeArc has over 25 years’ expertise in translating science into new healthcare treatments or diagnostics for patients. The charity’s new service, ‘Advise & Connect’, creates a simple and accessible route through which any researcher with an eligible project can access LifeArc’s expertise for free. Eligible projects must involve early-stage research into new drugs, diagnostics, medical devices or digital/AI applications to overcome the long-term challenges created by COVID-19 and to prepare for future viral outbreaks.
Advice on how to move these projects forward towards clinical adoption is not the only benefit of the scheme. Researchers may also be able to access support from LifeArc’s wider network of collaborators and partners and/or may be invited to apply for an Innovation Award of up to £20k.
LifeArc has an impressive track record in translational development, having helped to bring a diagnostic test and four antibody drugs to market. These include tocilizumab, originally licensed for rheumatoid arthritis and in use in 90 countries, but which has more recently been approved to treat severely ill COVID-19 patients.
The charity has already dedicated £27m funding towards new medicines and diagnostics to tackle the disease and donated PPE and lab equipment while its own laboratories were closed during lockdowns. But staff at the charity wanted to do more – and the Advise & Connect service was developed as a result.
While LifeArc is probably best known for its work in life sciences, the new service is not limited to researchers in that field, says LifeArc’s Executive Director Technology Transfer, Andrew Farquharson: “Any researcher from any field can apply, including engineers, mathematicians and data scientists. In fact, we’d really like to see applications from multi-disciplinary teams, so long as they have the right focus on the long-term challenges of COVID-19 and preparing for future viral outbreaks. It also doesn’t matter what organisation researchers work for. They can be based at a university, a charity, a company or even a governmental body: the door is open to all.
“As a medical research charity, we have very specialist knowledge in this area and that can really complement a university’s own technology transfer expertise.”
Applying to receive advice through the Advise & Connect is straightforward. Researchers with eligible projects will be invited to a meeting with two LifeArc advisors whose expertise matches the project’s needs.
LifeArc may also invite a partner organisation to assist in providing specialist advice. Following the advice session, researchers may be offered further support from LifeArc, its partners and wider network of collaborators or be invited to apply for grants of up to £20k. These can be used to help validate or de-risk a technology, to establish market need or feasibility and to develop or test prototypes.
Applications to Advise & Connect: COVID-19 will open on 12th May 2021 and will be assessed on a rolling basis.
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LifeArc is a self-funded medical research charity. Our mission is to advance translation of early science into health care treatments or diagnostics that can be taken through to full development and made available to patients. We have been doing this for more than 25 years and our work has resulted in a diagnostic for antibiotic resistance and four licensed medicines.
Our success allows us to explore new approaches to stimulate and fund translation. We have our own drug discovery and diagnostics development facilities, supported by experts in technology transfer and intellectual property who also provide services to other organisations. Our model is built on collaboration, and we partner with a broad range of groups including medical research charities, research organisations, industry and academic scientists. We are motivated by patient need and scientific opportunity.
Two funds help us to invest in external projects for the benefit of patients: our Philanthropic Fund provides grants to support medical research projects focused on the translation of rare disease research and our Seed Fund is aimed at start-up companies focused on developing new therapeutics and biological modalities.
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