Dundee’s transformative research drives spin-outs, jobs and hope

Economic Transformation in our Nation

Universities have a strong culture of delivery which aligns closely with the Scottish Government’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation. We’ve curated a set of 19 stories to show how universities support people, businesses, industries and Scotland’s regions towards economic transformation.

Commercial application of life-changing research

University of Dundee academic, Professor Alessio Ciulli, is one of the pioneers of a new drug type that changes the way medicines interact with diseases inside individual cells. Called proteolysis-targeting chimeras (PROTACs), the drug targets disease-causing proteins, working with the cell’s own waste disposal system to degrade and remove them. The research will have an impact on the lives of patients throughout the world.

This process has allowed previously thought to be untreatable conditions to be medicated and has stimulated over $3.5 billion of investment in the global targeted protein degradation sector.

Back in Tayside, the new Centre for Targeted Protein Degradation (CeTPD) will consolidate and bolster this research at the University and the wider development of the pharmaceutical sector. The University of Dundee has already successfully collaborated with pharmaceutical companies, including Boehringer Ingelheim. This collaboration was expanded in 2020/21 and will grow to support 30 jobs within the University by the end of 2022. Other company collaborations include Almirall, Eisai and Ono.

The Centre is based beside the new Tay Cities Regional Innovation Hub, which has been funded by the Scottish Government with £25 million as part of the Tay Cities Deal and will support the creation of spin-out companies from the research in targeted protein degradation.

Amphista therapeutics is one such biotech spin-out, of which Professor Alessio Ciulli is the scientific founder. The company grew out of his Dundee laboratory and It has recently been called one of the world’s most promising early-stage biotechnology companies in the industry (Fierce Biotech, ‘Fierce 15’). The company has raised over $60 million to date and is funded by leading life science investors.

Dundee’s Centre for Targeted Protein Degradation offers accommodation for growing companies and support with their commercial development, building on Dundee’s position as 1st in Scotland and 5th and 6th overall in the UK for turning research into world-changing companies. The CeTPD will work closely with the Regional Innovation Hub so the full commercial potential of this research is realised.

The economic impact that will be associated with the CeTPD in the future will be greater than the number of staff it employs or employed within the spin-out companies. The largest impact will be in the lives saved and diseases cured due to this technology. Two areas that the technology is currently being developed to treat are castration-resistant prostate cancer and metastatic breast cancer, which together are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths globally each year.

The potential improvements in outcomes for these patients will be cumulative, life-changing and attributable to the cutting-edge research at the University of Dundee.

Key Points:

National Strategy for Economic Transformation theme: New Market Opportunities

Institution: University of Dundee

Location: Dundee

  • Industry collaborations are supporting 30 jobs within the University of Dundee in 2022.
  • Biotech spin-out Amphista Therapeutics has raised over $60 million of investment to date.