EPSRC RISE - Kevin Shakesheff

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RISE Leader Professor Kevin Shakesheff, Nottingham University and Rising Star Dr Marianne Ellis, University of Bath meet with Professor Jeremy Farrar, Director Wellcome Trust.

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Professor Kevin Shakesheff - Professor of Tissue Engineering, University of Nottingham [KS]

My name is Kevin Shakesheff. I am Professor of Tissue Engineering here at the University of Nottingham and my research is, in the long-term, hoping to develop new medicines called regenerative medicines which are looking to help patients who have lost part of the body, or have had part of the body injured. Let's say someone's had a heart attack and part of their heart isn't working, we'd like to be able to create new medicines that could restore the function of the heart. The way in which we are trying to do that is to work at the interface between stem cell biology, so a very biological area, and using materials and engineering to get those cells to do what we want.

Marianne Ellis is my Rising Star, she's from Bath University. As an engineer she is interested in how we can develop repeatable and reliable processes, for getting cells and materials to combine. What we would like to be able to do is to print a material which would give you the structure say of a nasal structure, but also print living cells at the same time and that requires us to create an ink for the printer that is a combination of a biological, so a cell, and a material. Marianne has got expertise in how you can work with those two together. She's got some things called bioreactors that allow you to combine them and recreate what would be a living ink that we could use in the 3D printer, hopefully for clinical applications.

Dr Marianne Ellis - Senior Lecturer, Biochemical Engineering, University of Bath

Whereas Kevin and his team might develop a new technology for cell delivery or drug delivery, or both, we can help them make that on a large enough scale in a way that is cost effective and repeatable and robust, so that when it goes into the clinic everybody can benefit from it and not just a small number of people.

[KS]

We have been paired with Jeremy Farrar who is Director of the Wellcome Trust, one of the major funders of biomedical research in the world, and that's great for us because it allows us to have a mentor whose got experience of how biological research and physical research can translate into the clinic, so getting advice from him and talking to him has been invaluable.

Professor Jeremy Farrar - Director, Wellcome Trust

If you take our three backgrounds from pharmacy, polymers and how you use plastics and drugs in chemical engineering and my own background in neurology and clinical aspects, you're bringing together three people who wouldn't normally work together. Different perspectives, different backgrounds, different ideas and inevitably that sparks off new ideas that none of us would have thought about on our own. To see a young chemical engineer who is clearly one of the great rising stars of the future being supported, mentored by Kevin, I contribute a little bit too, and seeing the way that people are thinking about this anew in a really imaginative way, the idea that you will be able to restore function rather than just stop symptoms, that wouldn't have been thought of twenty, thirty years ago and that's very exciting.

[KS]

For decades the research councils have funded work into the fundamentals of how cells form tissues and people like the EPSRC have funded how we can create new materials, so we've got an opportunity to be one of the world leaders in this whole area of regenerative medicine and we are starting to see some new businesses being formed in that area. In fact both myself and Marianne separately have formed businesses that have spun out at the university and are at the early stages of creating jobs and creating new technologies. It's going to be a difficult road but I think we have an opportunity as a country to see this as being a major growth area for the future.