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Five new Oxford-Bristol Myers Squibb Fellowships representing an investment of £3M have been announced. The fellowships (formerly Oxford-Celgene) will support postdoctoral researchers and clinicians across five departments within the Medical Sciences Division and the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division, providing an opportunity for them to gain exposure to the field of commercial drug discovery and development.

Research scientists working in laboratory

Now in its 6th year, the Oxford-BMS Fellowship Programme stimulates new scientific discovery and translation and facilitate skills and people transfer between researchers at Oxford and Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS). Oxford's relationship with BMS continues to grow year on year, with the new 2020 Fellowships taking the total of Oxford-BMS Fellows to 28.

Among the five new Oxford-BMS Fellows in the 2020 cohort, two will join the Kennedy Institute at NDORMS. The first will explore single-cell analysis of autoreactive B cells under the supervision of Professor Lynn Dustin.

 

The long-term goal of our work is to understand how self-reactive B cells escape the mechanisms that normally keep them in check, in order to use this knowledge to develop targeted therapies for autoimmune disease. In this project we focus on the role of B cells in Sjögren's syndrome, a disease with characteristic autoantibody signature. We will capture autoreactive B cells from the blood and tissues of patients with Sjögren's syndrome and define the B cells' immunoglobulin repertoires, gene expression, and epigenetic characteristics in order to identify new therapeutic targets. - Lynn Dustin, Professor of Immunology and Virology, Kennedy Institute

The second fellow will join Professor Kim Midwood and Christopher Buckley, Kennedy Professor of Translational Rheumatology, using cell-matrix ecosystems to define disease progression and treatment response and applications.

 

We are delighted to be joining forces with BMS through this translational Fellowship to further improve our understanding of how the tissue microenvironment impacts cell behaviour. The opportunity to use state of the art technologies, both within Oxford and at BMS, to examine how altered cell-matrix communication impacts the onset and progression of fibrotic disease will offer new insight into the efficacy of anti-fibrotic drugs currently in the BMS development pipeline, and identify new targets for novel therapeutic strategies for hard to treat fibrotic disease. - Kim Midwood, Professor of Matrix Biology, Kennedy Institute

Recruitment to both posts will take place early in the new year.

Bristol Myers Squibb focus on the discovery, development and commercialisation of innovative therapies for patients with cancer, immune-inflammatory and other unmet medical needs which aligns well with Oxford's research strengths. Current projects are running across several departments within Oxford's Medical Sciences and Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Divisions, tackling challenging questions in acute myeloid leukaemia, Parkinson's and a number of inflammatory diseases.

The BMS-Oxford fellowship aims to develop the next generation of translational researchers across many therapeutic disciplines by supporting talented fellows with mentorship from by top investigators. Moreover, it enables the evolution of the entire field by training the next generation of translational investigators. Both Oxford and BMS derive benefit today from the research funded by these grants, but, importantly, patients also stand to benefit for many years to come -- from application of this science to drug development, and from the emergence of young, well-trained clinical scientists with exposure to industry. We are continually impressed by the quality of the applicants and are excited to welcome the 6th class of fellows. - Rupert Vessey, M.A., B.M, B.Ch., F.R.C.P., D.Phil. Executive Vice President and President, Research and Early Development, Bristol Myers Squibb

Fellows carry out world-leading research during their three-year postdoctoral research project and have a unique level of support available through the direction and mentorship of BMS project leads. Both BMS and the University draw value from the opportunity to facilitate skills transfer between researchers in academia and industry and to stimulate new scientific discovery and translation. The Fellows also have opportunities to carry out research and utilise facilities at BMS labs in the US and Spain, in addition to accessing unique training opportunities.

Spearheaded by Professor Sir Marc Feldmann FRS of the University of Oxford and Rupert Vessey, Executive Vice President and President, Research and Early Development, Bristol Myers Squibb, this active alliance between BMS and Oxford catalyses translational research having the potential to make a real difference to the lives of patients, and equip a cohort of researchers with an in-depth understanding of industry research and development.

 

The need for new therapeutics could not be more evident, as we are in the middle of a pandemic. The Oxford-BMS Fellowship Programme has offered a wonderful way for trainees to get to understand the intricacies of effective research with therapeutic potential. Having access to supervisors and mentors from BMS as well as Oxford offers a unique training opportunity. A successful Pharmaceutical company like BMS has complementary strengths to a leading University like Oxford, and this Fellowship program has helped initiate and sustain valuable collaborations. - Professor Sir Marc Feldmann FRS, University of Oxford 

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