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The University of Southampton

Innovative ways of testing drugs on 3D stem cells backed by £1.6million Government grant

Published: 29 March 2007

A joint research project by the University of Southampton, its biotechnology spin-out company Capsant Neurotechnologies Ltd and King's College, London has been awarded funding of £1.6million over three years.

The grant will be used to explore innovative ways of testing new drugs using human stem cells and progenitor cells. The techniques involve growing cells in three-dimensional cultures on a membrane, rather than as a flat carpet of cells on a plastic dish. Grown like this, they effectively take on the characteristics of heart, brain and liver cells of the original organ.

Funding for the research includes a grant of £170,000 from the DTI-led Technology Programme, and funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Welcoming the new partnership, Science and Innovation Minister, Malcolm Wicks said: "The UK has a proud history of innovation in science and technology. We believe that we must work with industry to develop the marketable products and services of tomorrow, so that we can maintain our position as a leading global economy.

"That's why we're supporting this project, which explores innovative ways of testing new drugs. It provides a great opportunity to harness the UK's world-class expertise."

Leading the research is Professor Lars Sundstrom, Chief Scientific Officer of Capsant, who commented: "Essentially, we are making mini-organs in a dish so that the testing of new pharmaceutical products can be carried out more accurately."

Professors Neil Hanley, David Wilson and William Gray from the Centre for Human Development, Stem Cells and Regeneration ( at the University of Southampton and Dr Stephen Minger, Director of the Stem Cell Biology Laboratory at King's College, London are collaborating on the research project.

Collaborative research between the University of Southampton and Capsant has now generated more than £1million in research funding for the University.

Related Staff Member

Notes for editors

  1. The Technology Programme provides funding using two of the Department of Trade and Industry's (DTI) business support products: Collaborative Research and Development and Knowledge Transfer Networks.  Over the period 2005-2008, £320 million in funding is being made available from the DTI to businesses to support research and development in technology areas identified by the Government's Technology Strategy Board.  This funding is increased by contributions from other Government Departments such as DEFRA (£30m), Regional Development Agencies and Devolved Administrations (£30m), and Research Councils (£26m).
    The Programme is investing directly in new and emerging technologies and has been designed to help businesses work collaboratively with each other or with academic partners to develop technologies that will underpin products and services of the future.
    Since 2004, the Technology Programme has supported over 600 projects across 40 technology areas with a combined business and Government investment worth over £900m. 22 Knowledge Transfer Networks (KTNs) have also been established with funding of around £40m over 3 years.
  2. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship.  It is one of the UK's top 10 research universities, offering first-rate opportunities and facilities for study and research across a wide range of subjects in humanities, health, science and engineering.  The University has around 20,000 students and over 5000 staff.  Its annual turnover is in the region of £310 million.
  3. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. The EPSRC is investing £650 million this year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC also actively promotes public awareness of science and engineering. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK. Website address for more information on EPSRC:
  4. King's College London is the fourth oldest university in England with approximately 13,700 undergraduates and 5,600 graduate students in nine schools across five London campuses. The College has had 24 of its subject-areas awarded the highest HEFCE rating of 5* and 5 for research quality and it is home to five Medical Research Council Centres, more than any other university. King's has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, social sciences, natural sciences, biomedicine and nursing and has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA.
  5. The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £350 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.
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