Generation of human-sized bioengineered bile ducts

Lead Participant: Bilitech Ltd


"Advances in biological research has the potential to enable scientists to build artificial or bioengineered organs by combining human cells with biologically- or chemically-derived scaffolds. Bilitech, a SME based in Cambridge, has developed a technology to manufacture bioengineered bile ducts in the laboratory and aims to translate it to the clinic for use in patients.

Bile ducts form a network of tubes that transfer toxic bile from the liver to the gut. Damage to bile ducts through injury or disease leads to overflow of bile in the liver causing, severe liver damage and failure. Currently, due to the lack of healthy bile ducts that could be used to repair or replace the damaged ducts, the only treatment for the management of bile duct disorders is liver transplantation or a complex operation in which the small intestine is used to drain the bile from the liver. However, liver transplantation is limited by the lack of available organs, while both operations are associated with significant complications, multiple hospital admissions and increased cost for the NHS.

To address this challenge Bilitech has developed a technology for the generation of artificial bile ducts in the laboratory. This technology has been successful in generating miniature bile ducts which were used to successfully replace the bile duct of mice. Bilitech's overall aim is to advance this product from its current miniature form to a viable clinical therapy for humans. The company is uniquely placed to deliver this impact through its links with the University of Cambridge and the NHS which, allow access to expertise, resources, patients and infrastructure. Bilitech will additionally collaborate with experts from the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult to identify the best manufacturing process for human-sized bioengineered bile ducts, and to perform health-economic analysis identify the best strategy for bringing the technology to the market.

The aim of this project is to test the feasibility of the technology to generate human sized bioengineered bile ducts and asses the market potential and cost of developing this therapy. The generation of bioengineered bile ducts will provide the first alternative therapy to liver transplantation for the management of bile duct disorders, reducing pressure and cost for the NHS and significantly improve patients' health and quality of life."

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

Bilitech Ltd, Hitchin £124,000 £ 86,800


Cell Therapy Catapult Limited, London, United Kingdom £75,179 £ 75,179


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