13 Apr 09

CRB to be part of groundbreaking European initiative

Research support company Cambridge Research Biochemicals (CRB) Limited has secured a key role in a European initiative to bring together experts in scientific research from across Europe.

CRB, which is based in Billingham, Teesside, in North East England, specialises in the synthesis of peptides, protein fragments which are used in the research and discovery of new medicines.

Already partnered with a number of major companies, CRB has now been named as one of the partners in the BIOSCENT project, part of the Seventh Framework Programme for research and technological development (FP7).

Established by the European Commission to co-ordinate scientific research, FP7 brings together research-related EU initiatives, allowing companies like CRB to share their scientific know-how in peptides with other experts from across Europe.

The idea of the programme is to give Europe leadership in key scientific and technological areas.

CRB’s involvement in BIOSCENT is as a SME which will be responsible for providing peptide synthesis expertise and synthetic peptides to support the development of peptides within the field of heart stem cell research and using peptide-directed antibodies to identify novel cell signalling factors.

The company will be eligible for EC support of 196,400 Euros as part of a consortium research and development programme worth Euros 6.305.731, with the project lasting five years.

There are 15 European members of the consortium, which is headed by the University of Pisa, Italy, through Professor Paolo Giusti, Department of Chemical Engineering, Industrial Chemistry and Materials Science.

CRB Commercial Director Emily Humphrys said: “To be involved is very exciting for us because it means that we are collaborating with some of the most respected research groups across Europe. We are already working with some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry so strengthening our place in the academic network is very important to us.“

The news comes at a time of continued growth for the company, which was recently awarded a Grant for Business from the Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR).

The grant, administered by regional development agency One North East and aimed at companies who are involved in innovative work, will help CRB further develop its Billingham laboratories in order to increase production and improve efficiency.

Another driver to further expansion is the alliance established between CRB and a major European chemical company. Under the agreement, CRB will carry out a range of research on new products as well as testing the effectiveness of existing ones.

Emily Humphrys said: “We will be providing product support for the company, which means making peptides to test existing products to prove their ongoing consistency and reliability. However, our work will also provide data which will be used in the development of new products.”

CRB is also extending its specialist services, including conducting an investigation into cell-penetrating peptides in collaboration with Dr John Howl, of the University of Wolverhampton, a leading expert in the field.

Further research is being carried out under the direction of Dr John Offer, Head of Peptide Research at the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR).The aim of this work is to achieve the rapid production of very long peptides and small proteins by chemical means, work which could have a national and international importance. Emily Humphrys said: “We will be forming a core peptide technology group to look in to, and develop, our expertise in the synthesis of highly modified peptides such as multiple bridged, glycosylated and adding unusual moieties which require complex chemical strategies. Researchers are continually requesting more complex peptides and CRB is committed to continued innovation and supporting those needs.”