Wellcome Sanger Institute awards Translation Fund to three promising projects 

The projects have been selected for their potential to extend the impact of Sanger research towards human and planetary health.

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From discovering drug resistance variants in cancer to making biodiversity genome sequencing accessible around the globe, the Translation Fund at the Wellcome Sanger Institute has awarded funding to three new promising projects which have the potential to bring our research closer to delivering societal benefit.

For Dr Matthew Coelho and his team at the Sanger Institute, the funding offers them the opportunity to establish a technology platform to discover drug resistance variants in cancer.

“Our ultimate aim is to accelerate the drug discovery process. Our work looks at preclinical drugs and predicts resistance mechanisms against those drugs in patients. The Translation Fund will enable us to partner with pharmaceutical companies and build upon our research to prove that this is feasible.”

Dr Matthew Coelho, Cancer Research UK Career Development Fellow at the Wellcome Sanger Institute

The call’s awarding group was formed by individuals with representation from the Sanger Institute, Wellcome and industry, who have backgrounds spanning genomics research, technology translation, discovery and development. The objective of the Fund is to enable projects that, if successful, will accelerate the pace at which Sanger science can create real-world impact. This call marks the eleventh edition of the Translation Fund, which has been funding innovative science since 2012.

Dr Valentina Migliori works in the Cellular and Gene Editing Research team at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, and is one of the successful applicants. Her work focuses on improving gene editing technology to make it safer, more effective and faster.

“The ability to engineer the genome of human cells is extremely important in the context of fundamental research, disease modelling and development of cellular therapeutics. Our line of work is now geared towards testing whether we can directly target primary immune cells, known as T cells, enabling us to make off-the-shelf CAR-T cells, which are used to treat certain blood cancers. This Translation Award allows us to have our colleague, Ivan Gyulev, working on this project full-time, which, if successful, can have an important impact for cancer patients.”

Dr Valentina Migliori, Staff Scientist at the Wellcome Sanger Institute

Head of the Tree of Life Programme, Professor Mark Blaxter, Ed Symons and the Tree of Life team at the Sanger Institute were also recipients of an Award. Their project aims to make biodiversity genome sequencing accessible by piloting a sequencing ‘laboratory in a container’.

“We’re thinking about developing laboratories the same size as the container that fits on the back of a lorry. This is something that already works in other areas of application, such as in natural disaster zones. We are working as part of the Earth Biogenome Project, which aims to sequence all eukaryotic species on Earth. At the moment, these efforts take place in a few centres in the Global North. One of our ultimate goals is to bring these biodiversity genome sequencing labs into biodiversity hotspots, which often lack genome sequencing infrastructure.”

Ed Symons, Associate Director of Operations and Delivery for Tree of Life, Wellcome Sanger Institute

The Translation Fund has enabled success stories at the Sanger Institute, such as catalysing the work of our researchers investigating malaria, supporting technology development that led to Sanger spin-outs such as Microbiotica, or furthering two vaccines for trypanosomiasis in livestock, to find a cure for a disease that causes billions in economic losses in Sub-Saharan Africa.

For all projects, a Sanger Translation Award will be taking forward a translational project which goes beyond the scope of basic science funding. In many cases, it is the only means to provide valuable early proof of concept to increase the chance of finding a commercial R&D partner, a distributor, investment or philanthropic funding to support further development outside of the Sanger Institute. The fund is one of the tools that the Business Development team uses to maximise the scope and application of our genomics and biodata research.

“Interest for this call was high, with eleven applications across five research programmes. It highlights the interest of our scientists to translate their work into tangible outputs. It also shows how much potential there is for translational research at the Sanger Institute. The projects that weren’t successful will continue to be supported by our team, by exploring and finding alternative routes of funding or expert support.”

Dr Aga Wabik, Business Development Manager at the Wellcome Sanger Institute

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