Multi-million-pound centre at the heart of the digital chemistry revolution appoints UK experts to new advisory board

External Advisory Board appointed for the Innovation Centre in Digital Molecular Technologies

CAMBRIDGE, 20 September 2021

The Innovation Centre in Digital Molecular Technologies, a multi-million-pound project based at the University of Cambridge, has appointed an External Advisory Board of leading UK experts that will align the centre with both national interests and local priorities in the digital chemistry sector.

The board’s composition has been carefully considered to complement the centre’s existing strengths with the new members bringing a range of experiences in the areas of support for UK-based SMEs, small-molecule discovery and chemistry innovation.

“I am excited to welcome Advisory Board members and very grateful to their time commitment to this venture. iDMT centre is a new and, so far, unique entity in UK, with its focus on helping SMEs to succeed in the transition to digital research and development, and manufacturing. Having a high-power external advisory board is critical for us, as we look to the Board’s experience in innovation in this very complex technology area.” says Alexei Lapkin, Director of the iDMT and Professor of Sustainable Reaction Engineering at the University of Cambridge.

The Innovation Centre in Digital Molecular Technologies (iDMT) offers an advanced platform for the rapid development and testing of new products and services, in the chemical synthesis of molecules and materials. The centre’s aim is to open new markets for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and to accelerate access to pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, functional molecules and molecular materials using artificial intelligence and robotics-based synthesis.

In partnership with AstraZeneca and Shionogi, and with funding from the European Regional Development Fund, the iDMT has established a new research facility in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge. This £5m project is led by Professor Alexei Lapkin and combines world-leading academic expertise from the Departments of Chemistry, Physics, and Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, integrating high-throughput synthesis, analytics, chemical informatics, machine learning, robotics and reaction engineering.

Professor Andy Neely OBE is the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations at the University of Cambridge and former Head of the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM). He was the Founding Director of the Centre for Digital Built Britain and the Cambridge Service Alliance. Professor Neely is widely recognised for his work on the servitisation of manufacturing, as well as his work on performance measurement and management. He received an OBE for services to Research and to University/Industry Collaboration in 2020.

According to Professor Neely, “We are witnessing a healthcare revolution – the convergence of digital technologies with life sciences is incredibly exciting and will create new approaches and solutions to healthcare. iDMT will play a crucial role in these developments, bringing business and the Cambridge University together and I am delighted to be supporting this important programme of work”.

Alleyn Plowright is the Head of Translational Science and Pre-Clinical Development at Wren Therapeutics Ltd. Wren Therapeutics is a spin-off company from the University of Cambridge (UK) and Lund University (Sweden) dedicated to eliminating protein misfolding diseases by discovering and developing new therapeutics. Plowright previously held appointments as the Head of Integrated Drug Discovery for Sanofi, Germany and was a Project Leader in Medicinal Chemistry at AstraZeneca. He has extensive experience in driving innovative approaches to drug discovery.

“The development and application of digital technologies including artificial intelligence and robotics has the potential to significantly accelerate progress in different fields of chemistry.” says Plowright. “I am looking forward to acting on the External Advisory Board of the iDMT to support the iDMT's mission to drive innovation and support SMEs with transformational technologies for the future.”

Neelam Patel is the CEO of MedCity. MedCity was established in 2014 by the Mayor of London in partnership with London’s Academic Health Science Centres as the cluster organisation for world-leading health and life sciences in the region. Patel has extensive leadership experience in the biopharmaceutical industry and public sector including National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) service improvement and strategy. Developing optimal innovation pathways for SMEs is a focus of her role at MedCity, in addition to driving MedCity’s strategy which includes promoting SME growth by enabling research collaborations, access to investment and infrastructure.

Patel sits on the board of the Health Research Authority, the NICE steering group for the Evidence Standards Framework for digital health technologies and is on the advisory board of the NIHR research design service. “The iDMT is championing a model of open innovation aligned to my own experience and interest in bringing together discrete parts of the ecosystem to accelerate scientific discovery and help SMEs grow into new markets. I am delighted to be supporting the Centre and its visionary mission.” says Patel.