A new £3 million National Institute of Health Research Blood and Transplant Research Unit to advance pioneering research on the manufacture of red blood cells from stem cells and their translation from the lab to human trials has been announced.
Two academics from the University of Warwick’s School of Engineering have contributed their expertise in polymer materials to the new development.
The unit will carry out research to aid the development of new red blood cell products to support the transfusion needs of patients with rare blood groups and those with complex and life-limiting conditions like Sickle Cell Disease and Thalassemia.
Life Sciences Minister, George Freeman said: “This innovative new unit is fantastic news for patients with rare blood types and conditions, whose lives will be transformed through the latest pioneering research. Investment by the National Institute for Health Research in this project highlights the government’s ongoing commitment to translate 21st century scientific advances into real patient benefits.”
Professor Neil Cameron and Dr Ahmed Eissa are behind the University of Warwick research which involves creating polymer foams or ‘scaffolds’ in which the red blood cells will grow.
Professor Cameron said: “It is wonderful that the University of Warwick’s expertise in polymer materials will contribute to such an important trial which could help improve and prolong the lives of many people.”
The Unit is one of four new National Institute of Health Research Blood (NIHR) Blood and Transplant Research Units (BTRU) for which it has committed £15.1 million of funding through a competitive process. The BTRUs are all partnerships between top universities and NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), and focus on rapid translation of research findings into routine practice in blood donation and in transplantation of stem cells and organs.
The NIHR award is a partnership between researchers from the University of Bristol and NHSBT at Bristol and Cambridge and in collaboration with researchers from three other universities including the University of Warwick. It will also involve collaborations with several commercial companies including Miltenyi Biotech, GE Healthcare, Sanquin Blood Supply (Netherlands) and SmartSeparations.
The Unit’s ambitious research will include a clinical trial of small volumes of artificial blood in human volunteers and also carry research to maximise blood production.
Professor Dave Anstee, Director of the Unit, said: “The Unit will support a major programme of research aimed at generating new and better blood products for patients for whom provision of conventional donated blood is problematic."
11 September 2015
Notes to editors
National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website (www.nihr.ac.uk).
NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT)
NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority. Its remit includes the provision of a reliable, efficient supply of blood and associated services to the NHS in England and North Wales. It is also the organ donor organisation for the UK and is responsible for matching and allocating donated organs. The landmark clinical trials in Human volunteers of manufactured blood form a key part of the blood and organ service’s 2020 Research and Development programme [published June 25, 2015], and are set to be transfused into humans by 2017.
For further details please contact Nicola Jones, Communications Manager, University of Warwick 07824 540863 or N.Jones.firstname.lastname@example.org