An innovative three-way collaboration between blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan, Plasticell, a developer of stem cell technologies and advanced therapies and the Francis Crick Institute, has been awarded Biomedical Catalyst funding to perform a project valued at £594,210. The funding is aimed at concluding pre-clinical development of an ex vivo expanded stem cell product derived from cord blood.
“Haematopoietic stem cell transplantation can be curative in a wide range of disorders including haematologic diseases, primary immunodeficiencies, congenital metabolic disorders, neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases. However, due to a shortage of allogeneic HLA-matched donors, especially amongst patients from minority ethnic backgrounds, and limited HSC numbers in autologous settings, supply fails to meet demand. The challenge for novel therapies is to expand HSCs ex vivo without loss of repopulation and engraftment capacity in vivo.” explained Dr Diana Hernandez, head of immunotherapy at Anthony Nolan Research Institute.
Dr Robert Danby, Consultant Haematologist at Anthony Nolan and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Chairman of Plasticell’s Clinical Advisory Board, added: “Promising pre-clinical data obtained using Plasticell’s HSC product indicates a rapid ex vivo expansion of the long-term engrafting stem cell population from bone marrow, cord blood and peripheral blood. In this project we will complete all pre-clinical work packages with the aim of commencing UK clinical trials with umbilical cord blood material in the first instance.”
Anthony Nolan was the first stem cell register of unrelated donors and runs several research programmes in stem cell transplantation and cord blood banking. Last year the charity announced a strategic partnership with Plasticell to deliver clinical development of the expanded cord blood product.
“This is the fourth time Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, has backed Plasticell in developing its lead HSC programme, having provided funding for collaborative R&D projects valued at over £4.3m. These have supported activities throughout the discovery process including combinatorial drug screening, GMP process development and translational models. The present grant will address late-stage manufacturing considerations such as product release, preservation, distribution and stability, and will provide supplementary data to support applications for First in Human clinical studies”, said Professor Yen Choo, Founder and Chairman of Plasticell.
Dr Marina Tarunina, Research Director of Plasticell, commented: “In delivering these projects, we have been fortunate to collaborate with leading research groups from the University of Oxford, NHS Blood and Transplant, Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, UCL Institute of Child Health and Anthony Nolan. We are delighted this grant will give us the opportunity to work closely with Professor Dominique Bonnet from the Francis Crick Institute, a leader in the field of human haematopoiesis.”
About Anthony Nolan
Anthony Nolan saves the lives of people with blood cancer. The charity uses its register to match stem cell donors to patients with blood cancer and blood disorders in need of stem cell transplants. The charity also carries out ground-breaking research to save more lives and provides information and support to patients after a stem cell transplant, through its clinical nurse specialists and psychologists, who help guide patients through their recovery.
Every day Anthony Nolan gives three people a second chance at life by registering donors aged 16-30 and in good, general, health. Find out more at www.anthonynolan.org.
Plasticell is a biotechology company developing therapies through precise manipulation of stem cells and more differentiated cell types using award-winning combinatorial screening technology. Plasticell is advancing a number of therapeutic programs, including the expansion of hematopoietic stem cells from bone marrow and cord blood, the manufacture of red blood cells, platelets and immune cells from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Plasticell’s combinatorial screening technology, CombiCult®, allows to test large numbers of cell culture variables to derive optimal laboratory protocols for any given outcome in cell biology, including cell expansion and differentiation, gene transduction and protein production, as well as the provision of human cells for drug screening. Plasticell collaborates with leading universities and industry partners to facilitate discovery and improve product manufacturing in a variety of high value areas such as cell therapy, gene therapy, cancer immunotherapy and drug discovery. Find out more at www.plasticell.co.uk
About Francis Crick Institute
The Francis Crick Institute is dedicated to understanding the fundamental biology underlying health and disease. Its work is helping to understand why disease develops and to translate discoveries into new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, infections and neurodegenerative diseases. The Francis Crick Institute was formed in 2015 by founding partners including the Medical Research Council (MRC), Cancer Research UK, Wellcome, UCL, Imperial College London and King's College London. It brings together 1500 scientists and support staff working collaboratively across disciplines, making it the biggest biomedical research facility under a single roof in Europe. Find out more at www.crick.ac.uk