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The Milner Team got into the Christmas spirit this week, taking part in a virtual wine tasting event!

Milner Update: December 2020


After this unprecedented year and the challenges it has brought, we are enormously grateful for the continued support of the Milner network and how much energy our colleagues have brought to working online together!

Highlights for us this year have included the success of the Symposium events online during the summer, new partners who have joined the Milner Consortium, and initiation of exciting new research collaborations. For an overview of our achievements throughout 2020, check out the news, case studies and current projects pages on our website. You can also now visit our Computational Research group's new webpage, which includes new case studies of collaborations with LifeArc and Storm Therapeutics. Read more »

We are recruiting! Two positions are currently available with us: A Technical Research Lead to work within our Centre for Pathway Analysis, and a Research Associate position in our Computational Research group. Full details can be found on our careers page.

Finally, we have had some exciting changes in our team recently! We have welcomed Business and Operations Manager Lou Bellis to the team, and Nikki Mann has moved into our new Digital Communications Manager role. Meet the team »

We hope that everyone has a restful break over the holidays and look forward to new opportunities that 2021 will bring!

In this issue:


Save the Date: Milner Symposium 2021


Join us for the next Milner Symposium on June 22nd, which will take place as a hybrid physical-online event to maximize the number of affiliates who can take part. Plenary speakers will include David Liu (Harvard), Jeff Settleman (Pfizer), Charles Swanton (The Francis Crick Institute and Achilles Therapeutics), Nevan Krogan (UCSF) and Fiona Menzies (Eli Lilly and Company). Registration details will be released in early 2021.


Consortium Spotlight


We are excited to announce that two new pharma partners — Eli Lilly and Company and Bristol Myers Squibb — have joined the Milner Consortium this autumn. Now with ten pharma partners and three academic partners, this has become one of the largest cross-sector Biomedical Consortia in the UK that is working in target discovery across multiple disease areas and emerging technologies. Read more »


Academic Spotlight


Serena Nik-Zainal
CRUK Advanced Clinician Scientist
Department of Medical Genetics,
University of Cambridge

Research focus: Mutagenesis, genomics, mutational signatures, comprehensive characterisation and interpretation of somatic and germline whole genomes, clinical algorithms.

Recent advance from the lab: We use the totality of mutagenesis afforded by whole genome sequencing to interpret the mutational history of tumours and normal tissues. We identify clinically relevant mutagenesis and develop algorithms to stratify patients for treatment. We study the causes and mechanisms of mutagenesis using combinations of experimental and computational methods.

Staaf J et al. Nature Med. 2019 »

Degasperi A et al. Nature Cancer 2020 »

Nik-Zainal S & Hall BA. Science 2019 »

Kucab JE et al. Cell 2019 »

Key challenge for the field: A critical challenge for the field is to distil biologically and clinically meaningful mutational signatures from those that are simply normal patterns that arise in healthy tissues. It is important to be cognizant of the limitations of mathematics in modelling biology and to adequately support ‘findings’ with thoughtful assessment and experimental validation.

Most exciting basic or clinical breakthrough in the past few years: The most fulfilling work has been in seeing the impact of our comprehensive cancer genome profiling on individual patients, when it has influenced patient management and outcome. Currently, we are working closely with the UK 100,000 Genomes Project and it is very exciting to see new insights directly from NHS patients recruited through this national endeavour.

Find out more about Serena's work by visiting her website here »


Start Codon Update


Start Codon, the life science and healthcare business accelerator based in the Milner Therapeutics Institute, announced last month that it has closed Start Codon Fund I LP at £15 million. Read more »


New Affiliated Companies


We are delighted to welcome two new companies to our Affiliated Company scheme this month. Follow the links below to find out more:

Totient uses immunoinformatics and machine learning techniques, and incorporates knowledge of immunological research into tertiary lymphoid structures, to select and assemble potent monoclonal antibodies affected by autoimmunity, infections, and cancer.

Biorelate is an AI and data science company whose Galactic AI™ platform provides comprehensive and up-to-date curation of biomedical research.

If you would like to find out more about becoming affiliated, email our Head of Partnerships and Alliance, Alison Schuldt:


Affiliated Company News


Affiliate Companies showcase their work

As 2020 comes to a close, it has been fantastic to learn about the recent achievements our affiliated companies despite difficult and unusual times. We've put together a showcase of these new announcements, which can be found on our website !

ActiveMotif have announced the launch of their new CUT&Tag-IT™ Assay Kit. Read more »

Aptamer Group Ltd announced further progress in their collaboration with Integumen plc (AIM: SKIN) to develop a wastewater detection system for COVID-19. Read more »

Bioascent invests £1m to expand drug discovery service offering. Read more »

Cytvia invests for global capacity expansion. Read more »

DefiinGen have secured £3.25 million in funding to fast-track growth. Read more »

Domainex CEO, Tom Mander, shared his article reflecting on forging a path of growth through the COVID-19 pandemic Read more »

Genedata have announced significant growth in adopting Genedata software solutions in the UK Read more »

Genome Biologics was selected to join the new Blue Knight™ initiative by JLABS and BARDA, and will receive additional support for their technologies and approaches against COVID-19 and future pandemics. Read more »

Healx opened applications to v.2.0 of its Rare Treatment Accelerator in mid-November. Read more »

Intellegens have teamed up with the drug discovery software experts from Optibrium to develop Cerella™, a new ‘deep learning’ platform tailored to small molecule drug discovery. Read more »

LabKey have launched LabKey Sample Manager in collaboration with lab partners, a feature-rich and intuitive sample management software designed to boost lab efficiency and productivity. Read more »

LifeBit partnered with Genomics England to power the UK Government’s COVID-19 research response. Read more »

Microbiotica have described their recent partnership with Cambridge University Hospitals and Cancer Research UK. They are tackling the link between the microbiome and response to checkpoint inhibitors, which has led to the development of an LBT candidate that could improve response rates in patients. Read more »

o2h co-work labs will be launching their incubator on the Hauxton Mill SciTech park in April 2021 Read more »

Phoremost announced a collaboration with Oxford Biomedica to develop next-generation CAR-T cell therapies with improved efficacy and durability. Read more »

Qkine, Manchester BIOGEL and Cellesce have been awarded Innovate UK Sustainable Innovation Funding to develop fully synthetic, chemically-defined three-dimensional (3D) scaffolds to enable manufacture scale up and improve reproducibility of patient-derived organoids. Read more »

Repure Life Sciences and Yonsei University Severance Hospital began joint research aimed at developing COVID-19 antibody drug. Read more »

RxCelerate have moved their Cambridge HQ by taking 25,000 sq ft of prime office and lab space at BioMed Realty’s Dorothy Hodgkin building on the Babraham Research Campus. Read more »

Storm Therapeutics announced that STC-15, its first-in-class drug candidate targeting METTL3, has been selected for development towards first in human clinical studies. Read more »

Totient announced a collaboration with Integral Molecular to screen antibodies against one of the world's largest collections of native human membrane proteins. Read more »

Twist Bioscience CEO, Emily Leproust, published an article reflecting on the success of Twist Bioscience over the past two years. Read more »

Virokine Therapeutics Ltd reported early preclinical in vivo results from their NIH sponsored study, with first candidates, for STD, showing protection, for future publication. Read more »


Events & Opportunities


Gateway to Translation (G2T) webinar: The use of Machine Learning and AI in Drug Design
13th January, Online

In this talk, Prof Paul Finn, CEO of Oxford Drug Design (originally InhibOx – spin out from the University of Oxford) and the Founder of Affinity Drug Design Ltd., will discuss the use of Machine Learning and AI in the Drug Discovery process. Read more »

Alderley Park Oncology Development Programme
Applications close: 15th January

This national programme, co-funded by Innovate UK and supported by a collaboration of global big pharma and research institutions, will find and develop start-up projects with the potential to improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. This 3-day pre-accelerator boot camp will cover the basics of entrepreneurship, before 6-8 companies are chosen to progress to the 6-month intensive accelerator stage. Read more »

CRUK Cambridge Institute Seminars in Cancer
21st January, Online

This Seminar series provides a platform for presentations by external speakers, both from within the UK and from overseas. Today's speaker is Jason Lewis, from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre. Read more »

Cambridge Centre for AI in Medicine's Inaugural Event
22nd January, Online

This Inaugural Event will explore new horizons in machine learning for medicine, in particular the transformations now taking place at the critical interface between machine learning, medicine and bioscience. Read more »

Early Detection Programme Sixth Annual Symposium
25th January, Online

The CRUK Cambridge Centre Early Detection Programme welcomes you to its 6th Annual Symposium focusing on research in the growing field. Keynote speakers will include Sir Mike Richards (former National Cancer Director), Molly Stevens (Professor of Biomedical Materials and Regenerative Medicine, University College London) and Kishan Dholakia (School of Physics and Astronomy, St Andrews University). Read more »

Neuro-oncology Seminar January 2021
26th January, Online

Join the CRUK Cambridge Centre for the latest in our series of seminars highlighting brain tumour research in Cambridge. Speakers are Dr Pau Creixell, CRUK Cambridge Institute, and Prof David Rowitch & Prof Peter Hutchison. Read more »

New Directions in Immuno-oncology: Response and Resistance
February 2021, Online (Abstract deadline: Jan 4th)

Join Abcam for a series of interactive digital sessions dedicated to the latest breakthroughs in cell therapies, resistance to immunotherapies (tumor microenvironment and overcoming acquired resistance), and multiplex technologies. Read more »

QMUL Epigenetics & Active Motif Chromatin Meeting
16th February, Online

As part of the successful QMUL Epigenetics Webinar Series, QMUL Epigenetics Hub and Active Motif are delighted to announce an exciting half-day conference on chromatin research, including four webinar talks by world-leading researchers in the field. Speakers include Prof. Steven Henikoff (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, USA), Prof. Rob Klose (University of Oxford, UK), Dr. Efrat Shema (Weizmann Institute, Israel), Dr. Iva Tchasovnikarova (The Gurdon Institute, UK), and Dr. Sarantis Chlamydas (Active Motif). Registration and attendance is completely free. Read more »

ELRIG Research and Innovation 2021
23-24th February, Online

The 2021 ELRIG Research & Innovation conference will discuss how the most promising new biology is being identified and explore emerging technologies and innovations to enable this science to be translated into successful therapeutics. Read more »

Milner Seminar Series
25th Feb, Online

This monthly seminar series will be back in February, beginning with an online talk from Nicola Wallis, Vice President in Biology at Astex. To see the full line-up please visit the seminars page on our website! Read more »

CRISPR in Drug Discovery 2021
23-24 March, Online

This meeting will focus on the application of genome engineering to identify novel drug targets through large scale CRISPR based functional genomics studies, developing advanced cellular and in vivo disease models for target validation, and the pioneering applications in therapeutic genome editing. Read more »

CRUK Cambridge Centre Neuro-Oncology Conference 2021
Spring 2021, Online

Bringing together leading brain tumour researchers from Cambridge and the wider international community to share the latest advances in neuro-oncology. More details about registration and abstract submission will be circulated soon. Please register at the following page if you would like to be added to the conference mailing list to receive updates. Read more »

Contact us

The Milner Institute
Jeffrey Cheah Biomedical Centre
University of Cambridge
Puddicombe Way
Cambridge CB2 0AW, UK
Tel: +44 (0)1223 767111 |

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