Our Unit provides an unusually collaborative environment, operating as a focal point between leading life scientists, pharmaceutical companies and clinicians.

We build and value relationships and partnerships with research communities, industry, funding bodies, people with lived experience of disease, the next generation of scientific leaders and our local community. Nearly 70% of our publications involve an external collaboration.

We receive core funding from the Medical Research Council, allowing us to tackle major long-term questions.

This unique environment enables us to address challenging problems and results in the overall strength of our Unit being much greater than the sum of the individual parts - we achieve more by working together.

A unique long-term collaboration with industry

A key aspect of this cooperative spirit has been a unique collaboration involving the MRC PPU, other leading researchers in the University of Dundee’s School of Life Sciences, and a number of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies (GSK, Boehringer Ingelheim, Merck KGCA).

Established in 1998 under the umbrella of the ‘Division of Signal Transduction Therapy’ (DSTT) in the University of Dundee’s School of Life Sciences, this long-standing collaboration is widely regarded as a model for how academia should interact with industry.

The DSTT accelerates the development of drugs that target specific phosphorylation and ubiquitylation systems for the improved treatment of disease. It has led to the development and clinical approval of over 40 drugs that target kinases - mainly for the treatment of cancer. For example, researchers within the DSTT played a significant role in aiding GlaxoSmithKline develop a new anti-cancer drug, Dabrafenib (Tafinlar), targeting melanoma.

The DSTT collaboration also provides a platform for our Unit to be guided by the needs of pharma and to allow our students and postdocs a direct link into industry for their own development and career routes.

In return for investing in the MRC PPU, the participating companies have access to our unpublished results, technology, expertise and reagents, as well as first rights to license our intellectual property.

The collaboration was renewed again recently (2020-2024) and remains the longest and one of the largest collaborations between academia and pharma.

“I have worked at the interface between academia and industry for more than 25 years and, over this time period, the DSTT at Dundee has produced ground-breaking science. Their openness when working with industry has put Dundee firmly on the world’s scientific stage.”
Dr Malcolm Skingle, Director of Academic Liaison at GlaxoSmithKline

The Unit also engages with a significant number of stakeholders from industry in bespoke collaborations, which is leading to direct impact on accelerating drug development as well as identifying new targets for industry engagement.

UKRI Blog written by Paul Davies, MRC PPU General Manager: A first-hand account of academic and industry partnering benefits.

How our work helps many other researchers around the world

Inspired by the DSTT collaboration, the MRC PPU also provides reagents and services to help many other researchers around the world in the fields of protein phosphorylation and ubiquitylation.

During the coronavirus pandemic, we focused on generating COVID-19 tools for the research community, in collaboration with the MRC-funded Centre for Virus Research at the University of Glasgow.

The generation of so many reagents in the MRC PPU stimulated the establishment of the start-up company, Ubiquigent Limited, which exploits research and expertise based in MRC PPU. The company currently offers many reagents, kits and drug discovery services, from which the MRC PPU receives royalties that are re-invested in our research programmes.

If you’d like to discuss potential new collaborations or any of our services please contact our MRC PPU General Manager, Dr Paul Davies: