MedCity’s mission is to deliver economic growth through the connections between life sciences and healthcare capability. We were founded as a partnership between London’s three academic health science centres (AHSCs) and the Mayor of London, with financial support from the Greater London Authority. More recently, the AHSCs of Oxford and Cambridge have joined MedCity. King’s College London was the lead applicant for the Catalyst Fund bid and is deeply involved in our operations and governance.

The life sciences ecosystem of the greater south east of England is a thriving cluster for academia, industry and health services. We have over 3,400 companies working in the cluster, contributing over 167,000 jobs to the UK economy with £38.7 billion turnover. Our academic institutions are world-leading by whichever measure we use to look at them. In 2015/16 there were 185,000 students of medical and life sciences across the region.

However, whether you are a domestic company or a potential investor from overseas, it can be extremely difficult to find the capability and resources that you are looking for in the region, or to navigate the ecosystem. That is where MedCity is useful. We connect industry and academia, whether it is for clinical capability, investment, workspace or academic expertise. We provide a front door to the region and, after three and a half years, we have an enviable address book of contacts and collaborators. If we don’t have a direct link to an individual or an organisation, we are typically only a few steps away from making one and can leverage our network of contacts, as well as providing impartial advice, guidance and signposting.

In addition to this service, we have established many programmes and activities since 2014. One example is the Collaborate to Innovate programme, which was established with £1 million of match funding from the European Regional Development Fund to sit alongside the Catalyst Fund investment. A £2 million programme, it has forged links between small life sciences companies and leading academics from King’s College London, Imperial College London, Queen Mary University of London, and University College London in order to address a specific challenge related to a company’s product or service development.

Over 70 companies have applied to the Collaborate to Innovate programme and have been matched with suitable academic partners, allowing them to develop proposals for 6-12 month collaborative projects, with up to £100,000 of funding support. We convened a panel of academics and industry representatives to select 15 projects for support, based on technological potential, research and development challenges, commercial potential and impact.

The projects that we support cover a range of modalities within digital health, diagnostics and drug discoveries. One of the 15 projects is a partnership between LIfT BioSciences and King’s College London. LiFT BioSciences is developing the use of innate immunity in the treatment of cancer. Leukocyte infusion therapy (LiFT) is a transfusion of white blood cells from people who are naturally immune to cancer to boost the immunity of people with weaker immune systems. They applied to the programme with a particular academic in mind, but when that individual was not available, we used our contacts to identify a suitable academic partner. They are now working with Prof Farzaneh, Professor of Molecular Medicine at King’s College London, on an ambitious study to provide evidence that leukocyte infusion therapy works in pancreatic cancer.

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Photograph provided by MedCity