The University of Edinburgh and FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies UK (FDB) are leading an £8.7 million, five-year research collaboration to develop more cost-effective ways to make modern antibody-based medicines.

The partnership will use the latest analytical tools and engineering biology approaches to enable cost-effective manufacturing of biological drugs.

FDB will work with the Universities of Edinburgh, Manchester and York to study and modify the commonly used Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell platform with the aim of making the manufacture of biological drugs easier and cheaper.

The collaboration was announced by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng as one of nine to receive major Prosperity Partnership funding, backed by a total joint investment of £75 million from business, academia and UK Research and Innovation.

“The award of this grant unlocks the power of new technologies we have developed and applies them to this key industry challenge,” said Susan Rosser, Professor of Synthetic Biology at the University of Edinburgh and Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Technologies, who is leading the academic team in the collaboration.

“The aim is to better understand and improve one of the key cell-based manufacturing platforms of biopharmaceuticals. Ultimately it will mean that treatments and vaccines used by many millions of people worldwide will be easier and cheaper to manufacture.”

A press release from the University of Edinburgh highlights the “major impact” the research could have “in terms of new drugs to treat various conditions”, and also the “major economic opportunity with an increasing portion of all medicines, currently estimated at 20%, being biopharmaceuticals and the global biologics market predicated to reach a value of $319 billion this year”.

“Tapping in to the expertise of some our finest scientists and researchers, including at Teesside’s FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies and the University of Edinburgh, this state-of-the-art collaboration will seek to accelerate the development of biological drugs to help treat those with life-limiting diseases such as cancer,” commented Kwarteng.

“This is part of our efforts to put the funding and structures in place to ensure we build back better through innovation, drive local economic growth and cement the UK’s status as a science superpower.”