School of Thought for Drug Discovery

For many of us, undergraduate school means newfound independence, late-night study sessions and microwavable meals. But for Nick Cundy, a fourth-year chemistry student at the University of Birmingham in the UK, undergraduate school means having the chance to effectively manage relationships between senior academic researchers and Lilly scientists to uncover and create solutions using Lilly’s interactive Open Innovation Drug Discovery (OIDD) platform. Through OIDD, participants gain access to the company’s cutting-edge research tools and data in a hypothesis-driven approach to early drug discovery. For researchers at the University of Birmingham, OIDD has been instrumental in helping them advance biomedical science one molecule at a time.

When introduced to OIDD three years ago, Dr. John Fossey, senior lecturer at the University of Birmingham’s School of Chemistry, thought the program sounded too good to be true. But he soon realized that “Lilly’s interest in academia was as strong as its commercial interest. I was encouraged to find Lilly shares an equal passion for drug discovery.”

Dr. Fossey encourages his team to submit all new compounds for screening through the OIDD platform, something which is replicated among the academic groups in Chemistry at the University of Birmingham. “OIDD has bolstered our development and testing of new compounds,” says Dr. Fossey. “The biological data [from OIDD] is now informing our day-to-day decisions in designing our experiments.”  

Lilly experts provide Dr. Fossey’s team with real-time support related to the OIDD web portal and ensure researchers have a complete understanding of what their biological results mean. Researchers retain full intellectual property rights to their compound(s) during the submission and screening of molecules.

Fossey & Cundy Photo 2016_608x608

Dr. Fossey solicited the help of Cundy through Lilly’s OIDD Undergraduate Work Study Program. Through this program, Cundy was responsible for preparing compounds for submission to OIDD, managing the shipment of compounds and communicating biological results to Dr. Fossey’s laboratory. Earlier this year, Lilly presented Cundy and Dr. Fossey with the OIDD Undergraduate Award for their outstanding contributions to the program.  

Cundy observed the collaborative interactions between academic researchers and Lilly scientists. “It was fascinating to see how the biological data received from Lilly was implemented in the ongoing research of our group. This experience provided me with good training in basic laboratory skills and helped improve my communication and project management skills.”

Dr. Fossey and Cundy have successfully used OIDD to push their science forward – including a recent agreement to utilize Lilly’s Automated Synthesis Laboratory – and Lilly continues to integrate learnings from collaborative projects into its ultimate goal of uncovering innovative solutions that will make life better for people around the world.

“We are glad to see a company is thinking about open innovation in a way that allows universities to sign on in a smooth and straightforward manner,” says Dr. Fossey, “and we look forward to publishing [research] results in the future.”

Click here to learn about another successful OIDD collaboration with researchers at Dartmouth College.