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22 Mar 2011

CRB and Durham University launch medical research project

North-East specialist peptide manufacturer Cambridge Research Biochemicals (CRB) has teamed up with Durham University to carry out important health research.

CRB, which is based in Billingham, Teesside, and manufactures peptides and antibodies for use in pharmaceutical and biotechnology research across the world, is carrying out the work with Durham University as part of a twelve-month Knowledge Transfer Account (KTA) scheme funded by the EPSRC.

A Fellowship has been created which means that Dr Ehmke Pohl a structural biologist in the School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Durham, and Dr Steven Cobb (Department of Chemistry), a specialist in peptide synthesis to the commercial partner CRB, will be able to investigate synthetic ways of producing the human chemokines family of proteins. Chemokines are important in medicine because they play a key role in the human immune response, which makes them useful for researchers in the field of heart disease, cancer and allergies.

The work is focused on the monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 (MCP-1 or CCL2) which plays a major role in atheroscleoris and related conditions. Artherosclerosis is a condition in which artery walls thicken as the result of a build-up of fatty materials such as cholesterol and is more commonly known as ‘furring of the arteries’ which can cause severe heart disease, and can prove fatal.

CRB already has a strong track record in working with academic institutions, having engaged several years ago in a joint project with the Institute of Cellular Medicine at Newcastle University and being a member of a pan-European group as part of an EU funded Framework 7 R&D Programme (BIOSCENT) worth 6 Million Euros over five years investigating peptide scaffolds as Heart patches.

Emily Humphrys, Commercial Director of Cambridge Research Biochemicals, said: “Working with universities is important because it allows the transfer of knowledge and technological development of companies. We are internationally-acknowledged as specialists in our Peptide field and the academics we work with can substantially add to that knowledge.

“Our main aim has always been to improve our services and, therefore, help support medical science by providing high quality reagents such as peptides. We are delighted to be working with Durham University because of the expertise that they bring and the ease of working together due to our close proximity.”
Dr Pohl said: “I am really excited about this new collaboration which allows us to work with our industrial partners on a scientifically challenging project with immediate biomedical and commercial impact. Collaborating closely with CRB not only gives us the opportunity to develop a better understanding of the requirements in industry but allows us, via the KTA fellow, to acquire invaluable knowledge and skills.”

Emily Humphrys said that the Fellowship would benefit both CRB and the University. She said: “This work will allow us to develop a greater understanding of the subject, which helps us but also helps improve the education and training of chemistry students at the University. There is a renewed interest within the pharmaceutical industry to develop peptide-based drugs and thus the demand for highly trained peptide chemists is increasing. Our project will help further that process and help prepare students for life in industry.”