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Scientists at the University of Liverpool have been awarded £4.5 million, as part of the Medical Research Council (MRC) and British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) £20 million investment in the development of regenerative medicine therapies.
Regenerative medicine is a relatively new field of science which uses a range of biological tools to repair or replace damaged tissue. This field has the potential to transform medical care by providing treatments for incurable conditions such as heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, blindness and liver failure.
The new awards will help UK scientists overcome some of the barriers to transforming laboratory discoveries in this emerging field into clinical applications that will address a spectrum of chronic and untreatable medical conditions.
Around £13 million will be awarded through the first stage of the UK Regenerative Medicine Platform (UKRMP), which is jointly funded by the MRC, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
This will establish three research ‘hubs’ that bring together teams of scientists with skills and expertise in a range of disciplines to tackle the grand challenges in regenerative medicine.
The Liverpool project led by Professor Kevin Park from the MRC Centre for Drug Safety Science at the University, in collaboration with the University of Manchester, University of Edinburgh and University College London, aims to develop new technologies to monitor and track cells and treatments when they are transplanted into patients.
Professor Park, from the University’s Institute of Translational Medicine, said: “Cell therapies are far more complicated than small molecule drugs and require innovative science to understand where the cells go and what they do once they’re introduced into the body.
“The safety hub will devise new chemical ‘tags’ to mark the cells as well as imaging techniques to follow them. Eventually we should be able to develop whole imaging to track the exact action of the cells.”
The team will then work with a commercial partner to progress the best chemical markers into formal development ready for clinical applications across a broad range of therapies.
Dr Rob Buckle from the MRC and Director of the UKRMP, said: “This investment will help the UK move closer to realising the full potential of regenerative medicine to transform the lives of patients.
“By bringing together experts from a broad range of scientific disciplines the hubs will help forge links between academia and industry to drive innovation, promote clinical and commercial development of therapies and help grow a vibrant UK bioindustry in this area.”
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