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Calliope Dendrou is an Associate Professor in the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS). In her story, Calliope explains how early collaborations paved the way for the Cartography Collaboration, a strategic industry partnership. Hear about the highlights of collaborating with industry, the strategic benefits of these partnerships, and also the positive impact on the research environment and career development of lab members.

Photo of Calliope Dendrou alongside quote "The Cartography Collaboration has allowed us to expand our research portfolio, leading to new projects and collaborations in areas outside of our original focus, including in vaccination, cancer and paediatric disease."

How did you get started in collaborating with industry?  

I was fortunate to have my first opportunity to work with industry as a postdoctoral researcher. Encouraged by this exposure, when I started my independent research group in 2017 as a Sir Henry Dale Fellow, I was interested in boosting the translational relevance of our work through industry collaboration. We were working on genetic variants that protect against multiple immune-mediated inflammatory diseases (IMIDs), and were interested in identifying novel allosteric inhibitors that would mimic the specificity of our genetic variants of interest. We started a new collaboration with Nimbus Therapeutics and we helped pinpoint an asset that has since been purchased by Takeda and is showing much promise in clinical trials. 

Where did you go from there?  

In parallel to this, my scientific interests began to shift from genetics to genomics – and specifically single-cell and spatial profiling technologies given the capacity to study the site of pathology of IMID patients at a previously unprecedented resolution and depth. Working with Prof Chris Buckley, Simon Travis and Holm Uhlig we carried out a longitudinal single-cell study profiling Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis patients before and after adalimumab treatment, that was supported by an industry collaboration with Celsius Therapeutics. This study has shed light on how the tissue inflammatory landscape changes in patients who either respond well or are refractory to adalimumab treatment, with implications for alternative or combinatorial therapies. You can read the publication here.

Please tell us about your current collaborations 

Partly building on this work, we became part of the Cartography Collaboration. This is a collaboration between Oxford and Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine (formerly Janssen) and represents a unique strategic industry partnership. My group leads the data analysis for Cartography, which encompasses patient tissue profiling across more than 10 different indications in gastroenterology, rheumatology, dermatology, oncology, neurology, infectious diseases, and vaccines. Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine funds this ambitious translational research programme that might not have otherwise found support through more conventional funding routes.  

What have been the highlights of working in this collaboration? 

Given our role in data analysis, my group is at the heart of the partnership, working closely with many other groups in Oxford and at Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this team science approach is the network of academic and industry collaborators that we now have. Our interests and motivations are well-aligned with our industry colleagues, such that the interaction with Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine extends well beyond the funding support: we have regular meetings with clinicians, wet-lab scientists and computational biologists across the Johnson & Johnson disease area strongholds, enabling bi-directional knowledge transfer and productive exchanges that enhance our research to ensure its translational value.  Moreover, this industry partnership has been instrumental in helping to foster a positive research environment through which lab members can gain added mentorship from industry colleagues and are well supported to explore the diverse opportunities and career trajectories that biomedical science has to offer. 

What’s next for this collaboration?  

With the ongoing support of the Medical Sciences Division Business Partnership Office, several years on we are now in the third phase of Cartography, and this industry partnership is continuing with as much momentum and excitement as when it first started as we proceed towards large-scale cross-tissue and cross-disease multimodal data integration and interrogation. The Cartography Collaboration has also allowed us to expand our research portfolio, leading to new projects and collaborations in areas outside of our original IMID focus, including in vaccination, cancer and paediatric disease.