Cell Control in a Petri Dish (CCPD) Collaborative Network

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Pharmacy


The human body is made up of tissues and organs that are themselves made up of smaller components known as cells. Changes in these cell populations influence how they function and can result in the tissue becoming diseased or affecting how well it repairs and regenerates. We can isolate these cells from the body, grow them in a Petri dish in the laboratory and use them to study disease and the regenerative process. In addition, we can use them to screen new drugs to see how they are effective they are and confirm that they do not damage other tissues (such as the liver). Over the years, chemists have been designing and making small molecules primarily as new drugs to treat diseased cells but recent research has suggested that we can use these molecules in the laboratory to make normal cells diseased or to influence cell populations involved in the repair process known as stem cells. By doing this, we will be able to understand the cell in much greater detail and this knowledge will undoubtedly lead to better treatments in the future. To do this though, we need cell biologists and chemists, who are often based in separate departments and buildings and may not even know each other, to work more closely together. The aim of this network is to bring these scientists together, along with people based in industry, and create an environment for discussion and to encourage them to embark on this new research area to better understand how small molecules can influence cell function.

Planned Impact

The central theme and vision of the CCPD Collaborative Network is to develop innovative methods for identifying and exploiting small molecules to direct cellular control in a Petri dish. The unique feature of our mission is to ensure commercialisation pathways are mapped early in the discovery initiatives, which will be achieved in close collaboration with end-user partners. Thus, we anticipate the CCPD Network will make substantial impact in multiple research and business landscapes, by:
1. Accelerating and building our knowledge of disease processes.
2. Accelerating and building our knowledge of stem cell biology and ability to control the differentiation pathway.
3. Building tools for the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry by generating robust and standardised cell-based toxicology screens.
4. Ensuring UK is a world leader in this area by creating a critical mass of scientists to acheive this and disseminating to a global audience.
5. Enhancing multi- and cross-disciplinary research efforts within the UK leading to further research proposals, both nationally and internationally.
6. Supporting the development and expansion of UK based SME's by providing them a forum to tap into expertise not currently available within the company.
7. Generating new IP, giving the UK a competitive market advantage.

We have also outlined a long-term strategy for the CCPD Collaborative Network, by not only expanding academic membership, but also buy-in routes for industrial end-users. In the long term, we anticipate the mission and vision of the CCPD Network would:
1. Lead to novel disease targets being identified and therefore inform design of new drug molecules.
2. Enhance our ability to control stem cell differentiation and accelerate cell therapies to the market (by making it easier to conform to regulatory requirements, making it cheaper to produce required cell types, and to scale-up production of cell types of interest).


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Description The CCPD Collaborative Network was successfully launched in 2011 and has engaged many new academic and industrial partners. Following the Launch Meeting on 23-June 2011, the Network organised a Sandpit meeting on 22-23-Sept 2011 to identify pilot/pre-competitive projects that are of value to both the academic and end-user communities. Three projects, which have the potential to generate key preliminary findings and IPs were supported by the Network. These projects have close fit to the Network scientific theme and are jointly managed by core members from both academia and industry.

The Network has launched a webpage for networking between core members, and also as a platform to attract new members from both academia and industry, and to convey the platform science to the wider community and the public. A quarterly e-newsletter, readily accessible from the Network webpage, is used to convey recent developments.

The CCPD Network Symposium is organised to take place on 27-Apr 2012, comprising of international speakers from the academic and biotechnology sectors. In order to engage early researchers, we have made available travel bursaries for postgraduates and postdoctoral researchers to attend the symposium.

As a direct result of the CCPD Network activities, 2 grant applications were submitted to UK research agencies for funding. These were academic-end users joint submissions. However, both grant applications (shown below) were not funded: (a) Technology Strategy Board (TSB) application, December 2011; Technology area - Industrial and medical biotechnology; Project title: Optimised control of stem cell bioprocessing. Applicants: Dr Lilian Hook (Plasticell Ltd.) and Professor Morgan Alexander (Univ Nottingham); and (b) BBSRC Tools and Resources Development Fund, most recent call; Project title: Capturing the 3D structure of the mucosal stem cell niche in vitro - a novel biological tool for the study of cell biology, disease and for pharmaceutical screening. Applicant: Dr Felicity Rose (Univ Nottingham), collaborator: Dr Sharon Presnell (Organovo Inc.).

Pilot project with Plasticell continued to make progress. A library of synthetic biocompatible polymers, generated at Univ Nottingham (Prof Morgan Alexander) were screened for ability to support differentiation of stem cells and hepatocytes. Some progress was made on the design and chemical synthesis of a switchable CYP450 fluorogenic substrate for monitoring stem cell differentiation to induced hepatocytes (Dr Weng Chan).

Small amount of financial funding was secured from Organovo Inc and Plasticell Ltd. to extend employment of part-time Network administrator.

The Network (co)-organised the following scientific meetings during May 2012-Apr 2013:

(a) Keynote lecture by Professor Lijian (Shanghai Institute for Biological Sciences, CHINA) on 16-July 2012 at University of Nottingham.

(b) First international symposium on 'Stem Cells and Metabolism' on 07-Nov 2012 at NHLI Education Centre, South Kensington London. The symposium was jointly organised with the Institute of Biomedical Engineering Metabolic Technology Network, Imperial College London. Keynote speakers include: Prof Joaquim Cabral (Technical University of Lisbon) and Prof Roland Wolf OBE (Univ Dundee).

(c) Early Stage Researchers Forum on 26-Nov 2012 at Biocity Nottingham, during which postgraduates and PDRA gave oral and poster presentations. The keynote speaker was Dr Davide Danovi (Progenitor Labs Ltd, London, UK), who gave a presentation highlighting SME business. Title of talk was 'Chemical screenings using stem-cell based technologies'.

(d) Keynote presentation by Dr Alison McGuigan (Univ Toronto, CANADA) on 18-December 2012 entitled 'Microfabricated systems for engineering tissue morphogenesis in vitro'.

The second CCPD Collaborative network Symposium will be held on 19-Apr 2013 at 76 Portland Place, jointly organised with In Vitro Toxicology Society. A selection of speakers from both academia and industry, e.g. Prof Robin Williams (Royal Holloway London), Dr Amy Pointon (AstraZeneca UK), Dr Colin Wilde (AvantiCell Science Ltd, UK) and Dr Geraldine Hamilton (Harvard University, USA).
Exploitation Route The platform technology and scientific theme of the CCPD Netowrk has the enormous potential to change the way drug and toxicology screens would be performed on a industrial scale. The technology exploits recent developments in stem cell biology. The on-going pilot projects have the potential to generate new IPs, which would be used as the basis for new grant applications and jointly used by the academics and end-users for future projects and/or patent applications.
Sectors Chemicals,Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

URL http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/pharmacy/cell-control-in-a-petri-dish.aspx
Description The CCPD Network successfully engaged academia and end-users working at the chemistry biology interface focused on the development and exploitation of stem cell biology. The Network has cemented collaborative research between academia and international SMEs, which has continued to date, as well as facilitated grant applications.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description Innovate UK
Amount £107,458 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/M506849/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2014 
End 12/2015
Description End-user partnership with Cellectis 
Organisation Cellectis
Country France 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Cellartis is a leader in the field of human embryonic stem (ES) cell propagation, banking and manipulation for almost a decade. Cellectis interest in the use of small molecules to manipulate the differentiation of human ES and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells fits well with the activities of CCPD Collaborative Network. Cellectis joined CCPD `Network as a core member to pro-actively contribute to the Network activities, as well as to provide expert advice on stem cell biology, the use of stem cells in high throughput screens and commercialisation pathways.
Start Year 2011
Description End-user partnership with Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation 
Organisation Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation
Country United States 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The SME has high value expertise in the development of complex robotics for high throughput screen, and therefore is a good fit to the overall theme of the CCPD Collaborative Network. The company joined the Network as a core member, and contributed to a keynote presentation at the Network Launch Meeting and expert advice on key high throughput technology. The end-user has joined CCPD as a core member and has contributed to expertise advice on robotics for high throughput cell-based screens. The end-user has pro-actively contributed to the CCPD Network programmes.
Start Year 2011
Description End-user partnership with Organova Inc 
Organisation Organovo Inc
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Organova, a SME based in the San Diego bay, USA, is a 3D biology company with unique bioprinting technology focussed on the exploitation of their technology for stem cell based research and medical applications. This company has good fit with the overall theme of the CCPD Collaborative Network. The company joined the Network as a new core member, and their Executive Vice-President for Research & Development (Dr Sharon Presnell) gave a keynote presentation at the CCPDNetwork Sandpit meeting. This is a key collaboration for the funded Network. This collaboration has led to (i) in kind contribution for an on-going pilot project and (ii) the support for a recently submitted grant application.
Start Year 2011