New Immunomodulation Research Hub and Disease/Systems focused awards complete £25M investment programme

April 4, 2014

A £2.3m investment by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Medical Research Council (MRC) will set up a new multidisciplinary research ‘Hub’ to address important immune challenges in translational regenerative medicine as part of the UK Regenerative Medicine Platform (UKRMP).

The new Hub will focus on harnessing immunomodulatory approaches and will complement the other four Hubs established through the UKRMP last year. Together, these five strategic investments will provide the foundation for a world-leading and integrated programme of activity able to tackle some of the critical challenges in developing new regenerative treatments from discoveries made in the laboratory.

This Hub represents the final piece in the UKRMP jigsaw and will identify and begin to establish broadly applicable approaches to control the body’s immune system to minimize problems of transplant rejection during the development and clinical testing of regenerative strategies.

The Hub will link a number of leading groups to undertake research that will increase our understanding of how the innate and adaptive immune systems impact upon cell‑based therapies, so as to develop approaches for modulating these responses.

The Hub will investigate a range of potential applications, covering aspects of:

  • induced central tolerance, reducing the immunogenicity of stem or progenitor cells.
  • enhanced cell-based therapy efficacy.
  • harnessing immune evasion.

The Hub will be led by King’s College London and draws together leading stem cell and transplant scientists from across the UK, with partners from Imperial College London, Oxford, Birmingham and Newcastle.

Professor Fiona Watt, a stem cell biologist from the Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine King’s College London, and who will be the Director of this Hub, said:

“There have been exciting advances in the stem cell and transplant fields over the last several years.  Understanding how the immune system can be harnessed is critical to the advancement of regenerative medicine therapies.  This Hub draws together the unique combination of expertise that will allow us to begin to address the issue of ensuring that cell-based therapies survive in the patient after transplantation, which represents a significant barrier in bringing regenerative medicine to the clinic.  The Hub and its research focus will also provide significant linkage to the interests and capabilities of the other UKRMP Hubs and enhance the potential impact of the programme overall.”


Disease/Systems focused awards

A new £6m investment from the UKRMP in partnership with Arthritis Research UK will support five cutting-edge research consortia at UK research institutions. People suffering from a range of diseases will benefit from these multidisciplinary translational regenerative medicine programmes:

  • Professor Charles Archer, Swansea University – Generating durable and resilient repair of cartilage defects using tissue-specific adult stem cells – a systematic, therapeutic approach;
  • Professor Pete Coffey, University College London – Scalable production of RPE cells from induced pluripotent stem cell under GMP conditions for cellular replacement therapy of the dry form of Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a significant cause of blindness in the elderly;
  • Professor Andrew McCaskie, University of Cambridge – Stepwise Translational Pathway for Smart Material Cell Therapy (SMART STEP), which will be focussed on osteoarthritis;
  • Professor Salmeron-Sanchez, University of Glasgow – Synergistic microenvironments for non-union bone defects, with the aim of increasing natural bone regeneration and healing capacity;
  • Dr David Hay, The University of Edinburgh – The development of 3-dimensional implantable liver organoids, with the aim of providing alternative renewable solutions to organ transplantation in the treatment of human liver disease.

These awards, funded as a second stage of the UKRMP initiative, are intended to build upon the investments made in establishing the UKRMP Research Hubs (see above). Each of these disease-focused awards will be linked to the Hubs, providing the research teams with access to a broad range of technological support, expertise and advice to advance their goals, which will drive towards new treatments and benefits to patients.

In addition, the awards to Archer at Swansea and McCaskie at Cambridge provide collaborative research components between UK and Dutch partners adding additional expertise to the consortia.  The funding of the Dutch component of work in each case will be met by Reumafonds, the Dutch Arthritis Foundation.


Dr Rob Buckle, Director of the UKRMP and Head of Regenerative Medicine at the MRC, said:

“Today’s investment through the UKRMP will help us to go much further in developing next generation regenerative medicine products and treatments to provide long term benefits and cures for patients.  Additionally, these awards will contribute to the goal of establishing a coordinated and connected research community as we seek to ensure that the UK retains its position as a world leader in the field of regenerative medicine.”




About Arthritis Research UK:

Arthritis Research UK is the leading authority on arthritis in the UK, conducting scientific and medical research into all types of arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions. It is the UK’s fourth largest medical research charity and the only charity solely committed to funding high quality research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. For more information please visit:



The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £467M (2012-2013), we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see:

For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see:



The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone’s health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.


About the MRC

The Medical Research Council has been at the forefront of scientific discovery to improve human health. Founded in 1913 to tackle tuberculosis, the MRC now invests taxpayers’ money in some of the best medical research in the world across every area of health. Twenty-nine MRC-funded researchers have won Nobel prizes in a wide range of disciplines, and MRC scientists have been behind such diverse discoveries as vitamins, the structure of DNA and the link between smoking and cancer, as well as achievements such as pioneering the use of randomised controlled trials, the invention of MRI scanning, and the development of a group of antibodies used in the making of some of the most successful drugs ever developed. Today, MRC-funded scientists tackle some of the greatest health problems facing humanity in the 21st century, from the rising tide of chronic diseases associated with ageing to the threats posed by rapidly mutating micro-organisms.

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