LSHTM researchers receive £2m funding to develop novel vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics

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Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) have been awarded £2m by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Technology Mission Fund to develop novel vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics.

The funding is part of a £12.3 million award to develop a glycocell engineering biology mission hub based at the University of Nottingham.

The hub will bring together experts from various fields to unlock the potential of glycans, the sugar-based biomolecules that function within our cells and proteins.

Glycans have a huge impact on our biology, and are integral to the way our immune system interacts with pathogens and to ensuring that many modern pharmaceuticals work properly. However, they are currently very difficult to study and produce and are sometimes referred to as the “dark matter” of biology.

With the new funding, the hub will focus on further studies of their interactions, as well as exploiting modern technologies to enable their bio-production. The team hopes it will accelerate vaccine discovery and production, develop new therapeutics and diagnostics, and dramatically lower the cost of producing advanced drugs.

Glycans or sugars play a key role in both basic biology and biotechnology.


“Glycocell consortium will use novel engineering biology approaches to develop more effective glycan-based therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines.”


Professor Brendan Wren, Co-Director of both the Glycocell Engineering Biology Mission Hub and the LSHTM Vaccine Centre.

Dr John Heap, from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Nottingham, said:

“We are delighted to receive this significant investment from DSIT and UKRI to drive the GlycoCell Hub forward.

“It will make a leading, transformative contribution to bringing about a healthier, more sustainable, equitable and prosperous future.”

Alongside the University of Nottingham, the project will be a collaboration between researchers from Imperial College London, University of Dundee, Quadram Institute and University of Exeter and three industrial partners – Iceni Glycosciences, Synthes Ltd, Incepta Pharmaceuticals Ltd.

The hub is one of six new Engineering Biology Mission Hubs and 22 Mission Award projects announced by the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, Andrew Griffiths, designed to unlock the potential of engineering biology.

Glycosyl will:

  • Unlock our ability to program glycan sugars, opening a world of research opportunities in biology and medical biotechnology.
  • Design, test and develop many new therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines against pathogens affecting human and animal health.
  • Enhance our pandemic preparedness.
  • Combat antimicrobial resistance by developing vaccines against bacterial and fungal pathogens, reducing our reliance on antibiotics to combat these threats.
  • Develop technologies to transfer production of advanced drugs to microbial hosts, significantly reducing their costs for scalable production.
  • Build and deploy GlycoForge as a UK national resource, a specialist automated facility that will routinely develop vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics and is ready to provide a 100-day rapid response to new pandemic threats.
  • Train the current generation and develop future leaders in engineering biology for academia, industry and the public sector.



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