The UK Stem Cell Bank has been awarded a £1.2m NIHR grant to secure the UK Public repository of human embryonic stem cell lines, and provide further high-quality, ‘regulator-ready’ cell lines as starting materials for advanced therapies.
The new £1.2m package from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) will allow the Bank to conduct further characterisation work and safeguard the repository of clinical-grade stem cell lines made available to commercial and academic partners in the UK and around the world.
The NIHR grant will begin in July 2021 and fund the core activities of the Bank to June 2024. The Bank will continue to provide its essential services to the advanced therapies community during this time and will expand its activities to better support the development and delivery of novel advanced therapeutics.
Accomplishments with MRC
The first clinical-grade stem cell line was released by the Bank in February 2017, and fully harnessing this unique public health asset has become a major point of interest within the field of advanced therapeutics. The UK Stem Cell Bank was established in 2003 with Medical Research Council (MRC) and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) funding, in response to the House of Lords Select Committee on Stem Cell Research. This, partnership has supported the Bank to deliver its important work for the UK cell therapy landscape.
From January 2018, MRC grant funding has supported the Bank in the delivery of 20 plus UK derived clinical-grade stem cell lines, as well as their standardisation and quality assurance, including deep characterisation using whole genome sequencing and cancer panel screening to detect tumour-specific genomic modifications.
During this most recent funding period the Bank has had the opportunity to serve an increasing international demand for high quality stem cell lines for pre-clinical research and has received requests for 43 cell lines from 18 academic and commercial institutions in six countries. 23 of these requests have been for clinical-grade cell lines.
Dr Elsa Abranches, Director of the UK Stem Cell Bank said:
“The funding provided by the MRC to the regenerative medicine field, and particularly to the UK Stem Cell Bank, has been essential to increase the UK portfolio of clinical-grade cell lines and support the development of safe and effective new therapies. We are now at a privileged position to enhance the utility of this unique asset and are very much looking forward to continue supporting cell therapy-based innovation and helping sustain UK leadership in the regenerative medicine field, under the NIHR umbrella.”
Dr Robin Buckle, Chief Science Officer at the Medical Research Council commented:
“The UK Stem Cell Bank is globally recognised and a vital resource for managing and supplying ethically approved and quality controlled human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines for research. The MRC is delighted that a series of robust lines has been established that constitute critical tools for clinical development of new therapies by the UK and international research community.”
“Now that these stem cell lines are ready for further clinical development and testing, we look forward to seeing these underpin the much anticipated impact of regenerative medicine on human health in the future, for example, building on strong work to date in developing treatments for sight disorders and neurodegenerative diseases.”
Next steps with NIHR
As the Bank enters the next stage of funding it will refocus on sharing its unique expertise with the wider scientific community, making available its facilities and staff to key clinical development partners and further integrating with other UK advanced therapies manufacturing centres. The Bank is internationally recognised, and it will seek to use its profile to further engage the scientific community and advance pathways to collaboration and commercialisation through outreach and consultation during this funding term. The Bank will also aim to align with the NIBSC science strategy, increasing the range of standardisation materials offered to the advanced therapeutics community.
Dr Louise Wood CBE, Co-Lead of the National Institute for Health Research said:
“NIHR funding for the UK Stem Cell Bank is part of our strategy to invest in world-class expertise, facilities, and a skilled workforce to enable translation of discoveries into improved treatments and services. The UK Stem Cell Bank is an important and high-quality resource for health research and this investment will enable greater use of the Bank’s new clinical grade cell lines and world class expertise by researchers.”