One of the UK’s top immunologists from Kings College London has joined the team at biotechnology company, Centauri Therapeutics, as its Lead Immunologist.
Based at Discovery Park, the company focuses on the discovery and development of novel molecules targeting life-threatening diseases. Raul Elgueta joined the company this autumn and is responsible for identifying Centauri’s molecules to better activate the immune system.
Raul completed his Bachelor of Biological Science at Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and his Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Chile. He says: “During my Ph.D., my research led me to suggest a new approach to studying Vitamin A deficiency. My findings were awarded the best Ph.D. thesis in the annual meeting of the Cellular Biology Society of Chile.
“I continued my career at Dartmouth Medical School, USA and then, in the Immune Regulation and Intervention department at King’s College London. My most recent position there was as Operational Leader of the Immunomodulation Hub. The project for which I was responsible gave me considerable experience on stem cells in the context of transplantation and tissue regeneration.”
Having worked onsite at Discovery Park for the past four months, Raul now provides the necessary expertise to Centauri Therapeutics in understanding how the immune system can fight infections and cancer. He also assists the company in developing immunological tools to progress Centauri’s compounds into human clinical trials.
Raul explains: “Centauri’s molecules can redirect the immune system to selectively kill a pathogen or tumour cells in infections and cancer respectively. My research is to understand which cells are responsible and how these molecules activate the immune system to produce an effective response to fight these diseases. Our research is really important. Using cutting edge technology, we are targeting diseases that have poor prognosis with current therapies.
“An approved molecule that improves the quality of life of patients would be the ultimate measurement of success in this role, but every step contributing to this is also a success. Building a program that supports Centauri Therapeutic in moving its compounds to clinical trials is a success, as well as the use of this platform for the development of new therapies.”
Having made the move from London to Kent, a lot of Raul’s work is now supported by the facilities at Discovery Park. He says: “Being based onsite provides networking, workshop and seminar opportunities, improving the professional development of employees here. There are also collaborations with academic partners, which gives students the chance to experience working in R&D companies.
“Places like Discovery Park are necessary to keep the UK on track with science and R&D. These fields are moving fast, and networking places like Discovery Park are able to bring academic and private partners together. Discovery Park has also this specific cutting-edge science background as many drugs were discovered here by Pfizer. Nowadays, several R&D companies are taking the lead.
No two days are for the same for Raul, and he prepares for the day ahead on his commute each morning. He says: “I start by checking my schedule on the train into work – this give me time to get ahead of my daily tasks. Every day is different, from meeting with collaborators to data analysis with my team. This is the exciting part of this role, you never get bored. We also have brainstorming sessions which keep the environment spontaneous and collaborative.”
Looking ahead to the future, Raul says: “I see my role as very dynamic and it will progress with the development of the immunology program at Centauri Therapeutics. I am currently designing different research programs to demonstrate the proof of concept of Centauri’s molecules. Once completed, my role will progress toward development of the pre-clinical and clinical phases in collaboration with different clinical centres. I’d also like to design new immunology programs for different disease models which are not covered yet by our company.
“I think Discovery Park is a great place to continue developing my professional career. It has the potential to become one of the leading centres for immunology in the UK.”