Translational Research Office (TRO)


Overview of the UCL Drug Discovery and Development Therapeutic Symposium

25 July 2022

We recently celebrated UCL’s strengths and capabilities in Small Molecules and Repurposing research at the first in-person Therapeutic Innovation Network (TIN) event since early 2020.

Poster room

The first of a series of in-person TIN events, hosted at UCL School of Pharmacy, 14th July 2022, had a specific focus on drug discovery and development. The all-day symposium allowed the TIN community to demonstrate strengths and capabilities, and share new ideas, in the Small Molecule and Repurposing fields. We took the opportunity to celebrate and showcase UCL’s translational impact to the >160 attendees, with funding success stories and research poster examples from researchers of all career stages.

The event also presented a platform to facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations across departments and with our external sponsors: Biocair, Collaborative Drug Discovery, Sai Life Sciences, Miltenyi Biotec and Merck. 

Exhibitors and posters
Faculty of Brain Sciences Dean, Professor Alan Thompson, highlighted this in the opening remarks, also encouraging attendees to visit the “Support Zone” created for the event, where attendees could meet representatives from the Translational Research Office (TRO), Research Coordination Office (RCO), Joint Research Office, UCL Business (UCLB), UCL Consultants (UCLC), Academic Careers Office (ACO), Research & Innovation Service (RIS), Innovation & Enterprise (I&E) and get help and information to navigate the comprehensive translational support ecosystem at UCL.

TRO Support Zone

Presentations were kicked off by Dr Janet Brownlees (Senior Director of Neuroscience Biology, Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) Discovery Research Centre), who highlighted the facilities available and techniques used at MSD to accelerate novel target discovery in neuroscience and how they have partnered with universities to do this. 

This was followed by a presentation from the UCL Translational Research Office (TRO) Director, where Dr Jane Kinghorn outlined the TIN communities and associated drug discovery support and facilities at UCL (including the Science Technology Platforms). Jane invited UCL researchers to add their details to the TINs capabilities resource to demonstrate strengths in Small Molecules and Repurposing (and across the other four TIN modalities), enabling greater visibility to stimulate potential collaborations with colleagues.

Be a part of the UCL TINs capabilities resource by completing this short (approx. 10 min) form

We then heard from the fantastic Small Molecules and Repurposing TIN Pilot Data Scheme Awardees from 2020, as well as a Team from the ACCELERATE Team Challenge, who all gave excellent presentations of their work and emphasised how the TIN funding help them bring their independent projects to life, and how valuable the opportunity was as early career researchers starting out in their translational journeys. It was great to see that many since have secured follow on funding as a result of the data package generated from the TIN pilot funding. 

ECR presenters Q&A

To keep updated with future TIN funding opportunities, please subscribe to the TINs newsletter

In between talks from the Small Molecules and Repurposing TIN Chairs, Professor Mat Todd and Professor Oscar Della Pasqua, who highlighted the benefits of open antiviral drug discovery for the next pandemic and the future roadmap of drug discovery at UCL respectively, we also had an excellent repurposing case study example presented by Professor Nikki Robertson, whose repurposing project involves the use of Melatonin for the treatment of Birth Asphyxia. Nikki’s ACUMEN study is aiming to address the unmet medical need to develop an alternative effective treatment for Neonatal Encephalopathy with a phase I/II RCT trial.  

Nikki Robertson presentation
We also had a case study from a successful industry-academia partnership in action between ARUK-UCL Drug Discovery Institute and AstronauTx. Dr Sarah Jolly and Dr Jamie Bilsland commented on how differing expertise between the partnering institutions meant that both parties contributed complementarily towards the project which resulted in significant acceleration despite the challenges of a pandemic! This really highlighted the value of interdisciplinary collaboration in translation to accelerate patient access to medical innovation, as is emphasised across the TINs. 

Questions from audience

The symposium was closed with a visit from UCL’s President and Provost, Dr Michael Spence, who provided some inspirational closing remarks and awarded the well-deserved recipients of the best poster and presentation prizes. 

The panel commented that the posters were all of very high quality making it very difficult to pick a winner – huge congratulations to Kate Morling (Poster prize winner) and Shumeng Ma (Poster prize runner up). Congratulations are also due to 2020 TIN Pilot Data Awardees Freddie Partridge and Clara Gathmann, who secured the prizes for best presentation (audience voted) and runner up, respectively. 

Prize winners Kate Morling, Clara Gathmann and Freddie Partridge with the Provost and Dean of FLS

Overall it was a brilliant event with an excellent turn-out, which ended on a high after a networking session at the end of the day, where we hope that those who attended were able to make many meaningful interactions. The next in-person event will be centred around the Advanced therapies involving the Cell & Gene Therapy, Regenerative Medicine and Biologics TINs and is expected to take place in the Spring term so please keep an eye out on our newsletter and socials for updates on this!

Follow @UCL TRO on Twitter

Follow UCL TRO on LinkedIn


Thank you to the UCL Drug Discovery and Development Therapeutic Symposium sponsors:

BioCair logo

CDD logo



Merck logo

Miltenyi logo

Sai Life Sciences logo