Research teams based the Universities of Dundee and Edinburgh are looking to partner with the pharmaceutical industry to better understand the biological processes that could allow the development of new drugs to support tissue regeneration or repair. Monday 6th March 2017 - PRESS RELEASE FROM University of Dundee, the University of Edinburgh and the Medical Research Council
The National Phenotypic Screening Centre (NPSC) at the University of Dundee and the Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Regenerative Medicine (CRM) at the University of Edinburgh have signed a memorandum of understanding that commits them to work more closely together as they strive to translate novel biological discoveries into new stem cell therapies.
Regenerative medicine therapies to treat a range of debilitating diseases (including blindness, liver disease, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis and many others) are actively being developed around the world. Many of them are and are based on one of two approaches: implantation of stem-cell-derived cells or the use of drugs to selectively activate and mobilise the body’s own stem cells in order to replace damaged or diseased tissues. Understanding the stem cells in tissues and their supporting environment (the stem cell “niche”) is critical to both approaches.
The UK Regenerative Medicine Platform funded “Engineering and exploiting the stem cell niche” Hub, led by the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine (CRM) at the University of Edinburgh, is dedicated to further understanding of the biology of stem cell niches and to exploit this knowledge therapeutically to improve organ regeneration through endogenous repair and cell transplantation
Finding new drugs which can activate endogenous regenerative pathways requires the development of cell-based assays that are able to reproduce the complex behaviour (the “phenotype”) of the cells and tissues in patients. The National Phenotypic Screening Centre (NPSC) specialises in developing such complex assays so they can be systematically screened using large libraries of drug-like molecules to uncover agents that can alter cell and tissue behaviour.
Close collaboration between the two centres, which together represent government investment amounting to around £35M, will allow novel biological discoveries from CRM to benefit from the expertise and industrial drug screening infrastructure provided by the NPSC, leading to the start-points for new therapies. An in-depth understanding of cell and tissue function will facilitate the search to find molecules that improve key tissue regeneration processes that could eventually be used as drugs for regenerative repair.
Professor Stuart Forbes, Director of the Centre for Regenerative Medicine and co-director of the Niche Hub, said, “Stem cell medicine is coming of age, this is a great opportunity for Scottish Universities to partner with industry to ensure we can translate excellent science to new therapies that can help patients with chronic disease.”
Dr Paul Andrews, Director of Operations at the NPSC, said, “We are very excited to be able to sign this agreement which will help cement our growing relationship with the excellent scientists that are within the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine and the wider UK Regenerative Medicine Hub network.”
UKRMP Director Dr Rob Buckle said, “This MOU between the Niche Hub and NPSC extends the growth of the UKRMP by encouraging further interactions with the wider UK research community which will help to open up new opportunities and approaches to help deliver the great promise of regenerative medicine.”
The National Phenotypic Screening Centre (NPSC) was set up by the Scottish Universities Life Science Alliance (SULSA) with a £8M capital funding from the Scottish Government to provide state-of-the-art capabilities in the development and screening of physiologically-relevant assays for academia and allow close collaboration with industry. The main facility is in newly-refurbished labs within the School of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee (working closely with the Edinburgh Phenotypic Assay Centre at the University of Edinburgh and a sister screening lab at the Target Discovery Institute at the University of Oxford). The NPSC has an interdisciplinary group of scientists and engineers using world-class high throughput imaging platforms that can be applied to human, animal, and plant health challenges. www.npsc.ac.uk.
About the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine (CRM)
The MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine (CRM) is a world leading research centre based at the University of Edinburgh. Scientists and clinicians at the CRM study stem cells, disease and tissue repair to advance human health. CRM is housed within the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine building, on the Edinburgh bioQuarter site shared by the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and the University's Teaching and Clinical Research facilities. With state-of-the-art facilities and a 230+ team of scientists and clinicians, CRM is positioned uniquely to translate scientific knowledge to industry and the clinic. Research at CRM is aimed at developing new treatments for major diseases including cancer, heart disease, liver failure, diabetes, and degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's. CRM is led by Centre Director Prof Stuart Forbes. www.crm.ed.ac.uk
About the UKRMP
The UK Regenerative Medicine Platform (UKRMP) is a £25M investment by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC). The UKRMP addresses the technical and scientific challenges associated with translating promising scientific discoveries in this area towards clinical impact, and seeks to provide a world-leading programme to promote the development of regenerative therapies. Central to the Platform are five interdisciplinary and complementary research Hubs with the necessary critical mass to address key translational challenges and provide new tools, protocols and resources with broad applicability that can be utilised by other UK research groups in academia and industry. In addition, five Disease/Systems focused research programmes have been funded, which that link to or exploit aspects of the science being progressed through the Hubs. www.ukrmp.org.uk
About the UK Regenerative Medicine Platform (UKRMP) Niche Hub
The UKRMP Engineering and Exploiting the Stem Cell Niche Hub is one of five research hubs funded by a grant from the UK Regenerative Medicine Platform, which receives funding from the MRC, BBSRC and EPSRC and is led by the University of Edinburgh. Niche Hub research is focused on understanding the signals to stimulate cartilage, liver, and neural tissue repair and on developing tools and technologies for real-time analysis of the regenerating tissue. The Niche Hub is composed of 8 institutional members (Universities of Edinburgh, Liverpool, Cambridge, Imperial College, Keele, King’s College, Manchester and Strathclyde) with 21 principal investigators (PIs) and 10 Post-Doctoral Research Assistants. The focus of the Niche Hub is to exploit therapeutically our understanding of the biology of stem cell niches. The Niche Hub uses this knowledge to optimise the growth and differentiation of stem cells and improve organ regeneration through endogenous repair and cell transplantation.
NPSC's phenotypic screening platform is at the heart of efforts to develop a male pill.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have pledged $600,000 towards finding novel approaches to male birth control, which has been awarded to several laboratories worldwide. Different approches are being used to address the challenge, including genetic approaches to identify genes that might be good contraceptive targets, induced pluripotent stem cell approaches to find a better human model for male-contraceptive drug screening, and phenotypic approaches to identify agents that act on sperm function and fertility. NPSC is contributing to this this effort with high throughput biology and novel multiparametric phenotypic screening methods. High content imaging technology will be used to track sperm movement and to capture the “acrosome reaction,” when sperm shed a cap-like structure before penetrating an egg. A drug able to immobilize sperm, or block that reaction, could be a starting point for an effective contraceptive.
Thursday 8th December 2016 - 13.00 to 14.00
University of Glasgow - Wolfson Medical School
Gannochy Lecture Theatre, Room 248 Wolfson Medical School Building,University Place, Gilmorehill Campus, Glasgow G12 8QQ
Thursday 8th December 2016 - 15.00 to 16.00
University of Glasgow - Wolfson Wohl Cancer Research Centre
Seminar Room, Wolfson Wohl Cancer Research Centre, Garscube Estate, Switchback Road, Bearsden, G61 1QH
Friday 9th December 2016 - 12.00 to 13.00
University of Aberdeen - Level 5 conference room - Institute for Medical Sciences (IMS), Forrester Hill Campus, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD
We are looking for biologists and clinicians with phenotypic assays or assay-concepts, that are interested in translating their research. We offer the opportunity to get these assays screened to industry standards against best-in-class small molecule compound libraries. In this seminar we will present the opportunities for assay development and phenotypic screening that are available at NPSC.
NPSC is a world-class facility for phenotypic screening run by an interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers who collaborate to advance the use of complex biology and to drive innovation. NPSC was set up to complement the activities of the target-based screening centres, taking a more holistic approach to understanding disease at the cellular and tissue level. Focused on using “high-content” image-based approaches to hit discovery, initial emphasis will be on tackling complex, multi-faceted diseases, employing the most physiologically relevant assays possible.
Screens are performed using high quality compound collections to generate either new understanding of disease pathology and toolbox reagents for further academic use, or validated chemical start points for pre-clinical drug development. Phenotypic assay development will take place as a joint effort between the NPSC and the academic lab or clinician, thereby bridging the gap between early stage data and an industry-standard assay.
In addition to being accessible via existing funding routes, the NPSC has established the Phenomics Discovery Initiative (PDi), a public-private partnership between industrial pharmaceutical companies and NPSC. PDi seeks to identify, develop, screen and validate innovative phenotypic assays that are relevant to human disease. PDi phenotypic assays are recruited from proposals made by academics, clinicians and SMEs. Selected proposals are screened free of charge.
Phenotypic screening embraces the complexity of organisms, tissues and cells in order to identify bioactive agents such as small molecules and antibodies. Rather than being focused on biochemical assays on an isolated target molecule, it relies on a more holistic and empirical approach often using live cell assay systems. When integrated early in the drug discovery process, phenotypic screening hits can progress faster as they already act in the correct context, improving success rates for lead selection/optimization, and reducing failure in phase II and III due to poor safety and low efficacy.
The project will enable a unique collaboration bringing together expertise at Dundee in male fertility and drug discovery to help identify possible new male contraceptive drugs.
Cambridge, MA - 31st October to 2nd November 2016.
Neil Carragher, Paul Andrews and Denise Barrault from PDi and NPSC presented work carried out at the NPSC at the longest-running High-Content Analysis & 3D Screening Conference in Cambridge, MA.
SelectBio High Content & Phenotypic Screening 2016 - Cambridge, 10th and 11th May 2016.
This conference brings together researchers from both academia and industry, and will discuss the development of techniques and tools implemented in High Content technologies and Phenotypic Screening applications.
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