Aston University is playing a critical role in a €6 million EU project working to develop a robotic stem cell factory, which will reduce the cost of manufacturing adult stem cells and open up the opportunity to produce new therapies for a range of conditions.
The AUTOSTEM consortium, coordinated by NUI Galway in Ireland, has received funding through the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme to address the current challenges in manufacturing stem cells.
Dr Qasim Rafiq, academic lead for the project at Aston University and Lecturer in Bioprocess Engineering, explains: “Stem cell therapies have the potential to treat currently unmet patient needs and provide therapies for conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and Parkinson’s. However, current manufacturing methods for adult stem cells are costly, time-consuming and labour-intensive, so will be unable to satisfy the expected patient demand.
“Our project will develop a scalable, automated robotic system for the growth of adult stem cells, allowing us to significantly reduce the costs associated with stem cell therapies and helping improve quality of life for patients around the world.”
The clinical product being developed involves isolating and purifying adult stem cells from the bone marrow before growing these in bioreactors to achieve sufficient numbers of cells to treat thousands of patients. This work will be conducted in a sterile, aseptic cleanroom facility operated by a robotic system.