British scientists are embarking on a major international stem cell business collaboration, which will bring them a step closer to developing new patient therapies.

A team of stem cell researchers, based at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, has formed a partnership with a major American stem cell company which is going to invest £160,000 in their work.

The team, led by Colin McGuckin, Professor of Regenerative Medicine at the University, will use the funding to further its world-leading research using stem cells obtained from babies' umbilical cords.

The team is working towards developing new therapies for patients with a range of liver complaints that could be used in hospitals within five years.

At the same time, the team is developing and testing new tools for drug development that could be available for companies to buy in several years time.

The funding will also pay for an additional researcher and for a research nurse who will work with new parents at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle to encourage them to donate their baby's umbilical cords to the group which is based there.

Having a good supply of cord blood is crucial for the research programme, so the nurse will explain to the baby's parents about the importance of contributing to the cord blood research.

The University researchers are also due to help the American company, called BioE, to test and develop new products that aim to improve the storage of cord blood.

Prof McGuckin's team, which is based at UK Centre for Cord Blood at Newcastle University and which is a key part of the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine was the first in the world to produce embryonic-like stem cells from cord blood.

Stem Cells have the potential to develop into any tissue type in the body and could therefore be used to develop a wide range of medical therapies.

Prof McGuckin said: "This partnership marks a major boost for North East England. It fits closely with goals for a Newcastle Science City because regional leaders are promoting active relationships between the public sector and biotechnology industry as a key element of this.

"Our research indicates that cord blood has an amazing capacity to develop into a wide range of human tissues including blood, blood vessel, liver and nervous tissues.

"This research could have a huge impact not only on treating human disease, but also provide human tissues for drug development and testing, removing the uncertainty of whether new drugs will have side effects."

Dr Nicolas Forraz, clinical sciences business manager at Newcastle University and senior research associate in Prof McGuckin's group, also welcomed the partnership deal, adding: "This joint work with BioE is the first successful international stem cell commercial collaboration at Newcastle University and the United Kingdom advancing development of cord blood stem cells from the bench to clinical applications."

BioE, whose headquarters are based in the US state of Minnesota, is a biomedical company providing human cord blood stem cells for drug discovery and therapeutic research.

Mr Michael Haider, president and chief executive officer for BioE, commented: "Newcastle University is an extremely valuable partner for us given the wealth of technical and clinical resources it can offer BioE as we continue to identify and solidify business opportunities internationally."

Dr Caroline Gladwell, healthcare innovation manager at the regional development agency for North East England, One NorthEast, said: "Our investment in the Stem Cell Institute was to provide the region with the tools and the ability to attract and enter into international collaborations of this nature. We are delighted that the Institute has achieved its first international business collaboration. This will be the first of many."

Background notes:

The Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (ISCBRM): This draws together Durham and Newcastle Universities, the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust and other partners in a unique interdisciplinary collaboration to convert stem cell research and technologies into cost-effective, ethically-robust 21st century health solutions to ameliorate degenerative diseases, the effects of ageing and serious injury. The Institute has received substantial funding and other support from One NorthEast. See: iscbrm/

BioE:

Headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota, BioE is a biomedical company providing human cord blood stem cells as enabling, high-quality cellular tools for drug discovery and therapeutic research. The company's novel Multi-Lineage Progenitor Cell™ (MLPC™) - derived from human umbilical cord blood and obtained using PrepaCyte®, the company's proprietary cell isolation platform - provides clinicians and researchers a flexible, long-term and non-controversial tool for therapeutic research and drug discovery and screening. BioE is privately owned and was founded in 1993. For more information about the company, please visit bioe.

UNIVERSITY OF NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE1 7RU

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