Over the last three years, the Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research (OSCAR) has worked hard to demonstrate the value of international collaboration on the world stage. On Wednesday, OSCAR researchers gathered at St Peter’s College in Oxford to celebrate their achievements, particularly over the COVID-19 pandemic period, when international partnerships have never been more important.
OSCAR is Oxford University’s first overseas centre for research in Physical Science and Engineering, established in China’s Jiangsu Province in partnership with the Suzhou Industrial Park. As a multidisciplinary research centre, focus is on research questions and technologies that capitalise on its location in the Suzhou Industrial Park and beyond, as well as Oxford’s particular research strengths. The aim is to create innovative solutions with commercial potential.
One such project recognised at the anniversary event is a rapid testing technology for COVID-19 developed by a team from OSCAR, led by Prof. Zhanfeng Cui and Prof. Wei Huang, in March 2020. The technology uses RT-LAMP technology to give results in just 15 – 30 minutes, which at the time was over three times faster than standard PCR. It was also more accurate, with 96% sensitivity, and has been used in airports such as London Heathrow.
The rapid testing technology went on to be spun out into the company Oxsed and led to a further collaboration agreement with Prenetics Limited, a global leader in diagnostics and genetic testing, in April 2021. The hope for the future is to see the technology used for other infectious diseases around the world.
OSCAR’s unique marriage of Oxford’s research strength within the powerhouse environment of the Suzhou Industrial Park has benefitted the work they do, giving them access to both some of the brightest minds in the world and the best facilities available.
Prof Mark Moloney, the Deputy Director of OSCAR and Professor of Chemistry, says, ‘The facilities and support at OSCAR is truly the best in the world, and the ‘can do’ attitude and the vibrant culture at OSCAR is refreshing. At OSCAR, we can tackle major problems like healthcare and the environment that face human society with the well-funded infrastructure of the Suzhou Industrial Park. Being close to the major manufacture and industrial base makes translation from lab bench to end users much easier.’
Prof Zhanfeng Cui, Director of OSCAR and the Donald Pollock Professor of Chemical Engineering, says, ‘OSCAR is a flagship project to show the added value of international collaboration. We have a great team on the ground to implement the Oxford University culture, governance, IP and data protection policies. Despite the pandemic, OSCAR has made great progress in scientific research and social impact.’
Leah He, the General Manager of OSCAR, says, ‘OSCAR has become an influential and highly visible platform in Suzhou and Southeast China. The OSCAR model of international collaboration has been studies widely. The fact that OSCAR is wholly owned by the University of Oxford has made the management of the venture much more straight forward as we simply implement various University policies at OSCAR. OSCAR is a good showcase of the University of Oxford within China.’