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Hannah Jones is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Nuffield Department of Medicine. In this collaboration story, Hannah discusses how collaborating with industry partners has influenced her research on Parkinson's disease, opened doors to new career opportunities, and provided invaluable insights into the drug development process.

Photo of Hannah Jones, alongside a quote "Regular meetings with the whole consortium allowed me to learn about all aspects of the drug development process and helped me to build strong collaborations with other groups that I wouldn’t have otherwise made."

Can you share your experience collaborating with industry? 

I have been collaborating with industry since I began my postdoctoral research position five years ago. The project was part of a larger consortium between multiple groups at the Universities of Oxford, Liverpool and Sheffield, funded by the pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb and in partnership with Evotec. Each academic group involved contributed different knowledge and complementary techniques to help validate a drug target, ubiquitin specific protease 30 (USP30), and to develop and characterize small molecule compounds for inhibition of the target, as a potential treatment for Parkinson’s Disease.

My role was to apply proteomics and chemical biology to understand the function of the target USP30 and to elucidate potential biomarkers that may occur as a result of its inhibition. I also supported pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic studies with target engagement assays.  

How did this collaboration impact your research and career development? 

Regular meetings with the whole consortium allowed me to learn about all aspects of the drug development process and has helped me to build strong collaborations with other groups here at Oxford that I wouldn’t have otherwise made. The project was a good balance of meeting industrial targets and pursuing more academic avenues linked to the research topic of interest. Whilst some of the data generated was sensitive, a lot of the research was publishable and we were well supported to do this.

How has this collaboration influenced your current and future research projects? 

The collaboration for this project came to a close as the studies now work towards a candidate compound for clinical trials. Stemming from this collaboration, I was recently awarded further funding from Bristol-Myers-Squibb in the form of a research fellowship. This work will focus on investigating ubiquitomic biomarkers of neurodegeneration, and biomarkers linked to the initial Parkinson’s disease drug target, if and when it progresses through clinical trials. The funding opportunity occurred because of existing connections with Bristol-Myers Squibb and the strong support provided by both the company and my current supervisors. This process involved me putting forward a research proposal and has given me the experience of applying for funding and becoming more independent in my research.

What would you like to tell other researchers considering collaborations with industry? 

Overall, I’ve had a positive experience working with industry. There is a good exchange of knowledge to be had between industry and academia, with research interests and objectives often aligning. It has provided me with the opportunity to contribute to translational and impactful research, whilst progressing my academic research path.