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17 September, 2020 - 11:39 By Tony Quested

Cambridge stars in £7m UK-Japan regenerative medicine venture

University of Cambridge specialists dominate a £7 million programme initiated by the UK’s Medical Research Council and the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development to support eight new regenerative medicine research partnerships.

The funded projects will focus on research to underpin the early-stage development of novel regenerative medicine-based therapies for a range of disorders including, Parkinson’s disease, blood disorders and liver diseases, or to utilise stem cells as important medical research tools to study human development.

Professor Fiona Watt, executive chair at the Medical Research Council and Dr Yoshinao Mishima, President at the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development jointly said: “We are delighted to announce these new awards in collaboration with our partners. The UK and Japan are world leaders in stem cell and regenerative medicine research.

“Past pioneering work in our countries has had a transformative impact and has revolutionised the potential for innovative approaches to medicine. It is timely to bring our world leading groups together in their efforts to tackle the same therapeutic goals.

“Regenerative Medicine is a strategic priority for the MRC and AMED, and these excellent international partnerships will complement our existing investments in Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell research and add real value to the field.”

Regenerative medicine is an interdisciplinary research field that seeks to develop the science and tools to help repair or replace damaged or diseased human tissue to restore normal function.

As a form of ‘advanced therapy’ regenerative medicine has the potential to address a number of currently incurable degenerative conditions and is poised to revolutionise medical treatment in the 21st century.

All regenerative medicine strategies depend upon harnessing, stimulating or guiding our naturally occurring developmental or repair processes, and could involve transplantation of cells, stimulation of the body’s own repair processes, or the use of cells as delivery vehicles for therapeutic agents.

This exciting new area of joint research also marks an important milestone in UK-Japanese bilateral relations, with the initiative playing a key role in strengthening cooperation between leading UK and Japanese researchers in the field.

The main purpose of this program is to develop seeds of next-generation innovative medicine; therefore, emphasis is on research that will be of high international competitiveness, research based on innovative and creative ideas, and research that contributes to technological innovation.

The following four studies involving the University of Cambridge have been awarded through this initiative:-

  • Alfonso Martinez Arias (University of Cambridge) & Cantas Alev (Kyoto University) – 3D Human Axial Development In Vitro: using novel human in vitro somitogenesis models to study birth defects with patient-relevant iPS cell lines.
  • Cedric Ghevaert (University of Cambridge) & Koji Eto (Kyoto University) – Generating platelets in vitro for the clinic: optimisation and added clinical efficacy.
  • Simon Mendez-Ferrer (University of Cambridge) & Hitoshi Takizawa (Kumamoto University) – Improving haematopoietic reconstitution in blood stem cell transplantation procedures through the regulation of stem cells and their niches.
  • Benjamin Simons (University of Cambridge) & Shosei Yoshida (National Institute for Basic Biology) – Harnessing spermatogonial stem cell flexibility to increase transplantation efficiency.

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