Opened in March 2016, Canterbury Christ Church University’s Life Sciences Industry Liaison Lab is based at Discovery Park, the Enterprise Zone, Sandwich, Kent. The Lab works with industry and prepares undergraduate and postgraduate students for careers in the sector. With industry standard labs and equipment, and staff based permanently at Discovery Park, there is a focus on fundamental genomics, genetics and biochemistry.

The unique location of Discovery Park facilitates collaboration, with the Lab taking an open approach focusing on industry-led questions and challenges. Since opening, this has developed existing business collaborations, forged new links, and driven recruitment and engagement. Paul Barber, Managing Director, Discovery Park says: “The provision the Lab offers to our companies is already making a positive impact.” Supported by bespoke programme provision at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and support for contract research and consultancy, the Lab now has 27 collaborative projects running with 14 industry partners.

At undergraduate level, 14 students have transferred to the new BSc in Biomolecular Science, with half of their final year delivered at Discovery Park. These students are all working on industry-linked projects with a range of partners. For example, two students are working to develop novel bioscience applications for equipment developed by Anton Parr and another is working on embryo freezing in collaboration with Genea Biomedx and JSR Genetics.

“Working with the Lab broadens our research portfolio and gives us access to vital knowledge and skills that aren’t easily accessible elsewhere.”
 Dr Grant Walling, Director of Science and Technology at JSR Genetics

At a postgraduate level, the Lab already hosts five PhD students working on industrial collaborations. Examples of these projects include work on pancreatic cancer in collaboration with Venomtech and on molecular dynamic analyses of drug structure in collaboration with Tetrad Discovery Ltd. Adrian Herron, Tetrad Discovery Ltd says working with the Lab: “…has been incredibly valuable as their approach is different to that of other Universities we have worked with and this has really helped us progress our business.”

The Lab also plays key roles in expanding outreach to primary school children, supporting increased uptake of science at secondary level, and enhancing the undergraduate student experience. Undergraduates visiting and working within the Lab gain careerenhancing skills and experience, and build an understanding of how the University’s cutting-edge research has impact for the industries in which they wish to develop careers. Steve Trim, CEO, Venomtech says they: “…benefit greatly from being directly involved in the curriculum to make sure new graduates have the skills useful to employers.”

Sarikh Limbu, a Biomolecular Sciences student, says the Biomolecular Science programme: “…gives me a competitive edge in terms of jobs and further studies.” With engagement across academic staff in the Life Sciences and a structure that allows full integration into the culture and research community of the University, the Liaison Lab is already delivering at a University level and far beyond. In less than a year, the Lab has already been a great success and will continue to grow.