Bio-Active Polymer Driven Cell Based Systems - Predicting Human Drug Toxicity

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Chemistry


We are all very familiar with polymers of one type or another, playing as they do a vital role in essentially all aspects of our lives, from fabrics to pens and plastic bags to car components polymers play a vital role in all aspects of our lives. Polymers also have a huge medicinal potential. This can range from the passive (e.g. blood bags and catheters) to the invasive with stents, dissolvable stitches and polymeric based drug release systems all playing a role in modern healthcare.We have identified and patented a polymer family that allow liver cells to grow with full function and for long periods of time. This is important because liver cells are notoriously difficult to maintain and grow, yet are vitally important in drug screening. Using our polymers we can therefore grow up liver cells and use then to assess drug toxicity and the potentially toxic metabolic products of liver breakdown.

Planned Impact

Within the research programme there are multiple avenues for impact. Commercial: This research project has a very strong prospect of enabling the development of a platform able to carryout high-throughput screening for drug and drug metabolite hepatocyte toxicity and drug metabolism analysis and has many commercial possibilities. The possibility of generating substrates that maintain both long-term hepatocytic phenotype and high level specific function in vitro have critical implications for biotechnology and drug testing applications (leading to a reduction in the requirement for animal based studies) and allowing initial studies targeted towards an artificial liver. We believe that major companies will become actively involved with us as we optimise and exemplify our initial patent filing. The close relationship the Bradley, Hay and Iredale groups have developed with Edinburgh Research and Innovation (ERI) (which seeks to promote the University of Edinburgh's research and commercialisation activities) will allow successful all commercialisation routes to be explored in a responsive and dynamic manner. This will include for example licensing or spin-out opportunities. Broader Academic Impact: One only has to look at the host of collaborators and potential avenues of research already being impacted upon by the polymer microarray platform and the already discovered polymers to appreciate the broad academic impact of the research. This will result in numerous academic beneficiaries of this research and will give significant academic (and commercial) impact. The research fellows employed in this project will benefit in many ways, gaining many new cross-disciplinary skills most importantly those associated with commercialisation and translation. General: An important generic skill is the ability to communicate and disseminate information: A multidisciplinary project such as this will provide many opportunities for the involvement in public engagement and dissemination. Research fellows of the group regularly participate in the School of College of Science and Engineering initiative SciFun and at the Edinburgh International Science Festival. The 'Researchers-in-Residence' Programme places postgraduate students in local secondary schools for short periods to interact on projects with 14 - 16 year old pupils.Dr Hay is committed to high quality scientific communication and has taken part in a number of outreach activities promoting science and stem cell research (Edinburgh International Science Festival 2008, RESCUE Public Conference 2008, Nexxus Horizons in BioScience 2008, filming with the BBC 2009). There has been a significant amount of interest surrounding Dr Hays' work resulting in frequent communication with the media.