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Joanna Hester is an Associate Professor at NDS. In her collaboration story, Joanna shares her motivations and experiences in collaborating with various industry partners, starting from her post-doctoral days participating in EU-funded projects to her current role as a Principal Investigator.

Portrait picture of Joanna Hester alongside the text 'Gaining exposure to the field of commercial drug discovery and development made me appreciate both similarities and differences in research priorities between academia and industry and helped my development as a Principal Investigator.'

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR ROUTE TO AND MOTIVATIONS FOR WORKING IN COLLABORATION WITH INDUSTRY? 

I am an immunologist with an interest in the mechanisms of immunological tolerance and developing novel therapies that could benefit transplant recipients and patients with immune-related diseases. My experience with industry began in my post-doc days, where I participated in EU-funded projects with strong collaboration with biotech SMEs. These initial experiences provided me with insights into the biotech industry and the opportunity to observe translation of our collaborative research into commercially available analytical reagents.  

Building on this experience, after becoming a Principal Investigator, I decided to seek industry collaboration to investigate tolerance-promoting therapies in transplantation. Specifically, I have been interested in investigating how interleukin-2 and regulatory T cell therapy could induce transplant tolerance.   

HOW DID YOUR COLLABORATION START? 

Pitching this idea to the Celgene team as part of the Oxford-Celgene Fellowship program (now Oxford-BMS Translational Research Fellowship), which we were subsequently awarded, allowed me to gain access to the mutein form of interleukin-2 that the company has generated and establish a collaboration with the Celgene and BMS teams. This funding opportunity enabled me to gain access to resources, mentorship, and support that would otherwise have been extremely challenging, if not impossible, to attain 

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE OF WORKING WITH THE BUSINESS PARTNERSHIPS OFFICE? 

The Oxford-BMS Translational Research Fellowship program is a partnership between BMS and Oxford Medical Sciences Division, run by the Business Partnerships Office. Throughout the process, the continued support of the Business Partnerships Office has been fantastic and indispensable both for initiating the collaboration and for the success of the grant. 

HOW DOES WORKING IN COLLABORATION WITH INDUSTRY HELP YOU AND YOUR GROUP? 

Gaining exposure to the field of commercial drug discovery and development made me appreciate both similarities and differences in research priorities between academia and industry and helped my development as a Principal Investigator.  Since being awarded the BMS Fellowship grant, I have been successful in obtaining further funding and my group, which I co-lead together with Professor Fadi Issa, has subsequently expanded to form a close-knit team of more than 15 members, including post-docs, academic clinical lecturers and DPhil and Masters students. 

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