Richard Thomas Leukaemia Fund

October 2013

We are delighted to announce that the research team that are partially funded by the Richard Thomas Leukaemia Fund (RTLF) have been awarded a significant grant of €2.5m by the ERC. The RTLF has focused on providing "seed" funding to enable innovative programmes like the "BioBlood" initiative to prove the concept and therefore source funding from larger organisations.

Extract from the ERC report

"Specifically, the panel found that the research proposal is outstanding and very innovative focusing on the development of an integrated platform for normal and abnormal hematopoiesis targeting two important applications in Regenerative Medicine: cellular therapy by the manufacturing of red blood cells from stem/progenitor cells ex-vivo; and drug therapy, by allowing to define optimal drug regime for hemato-oncological diseases. The PI’s group has extensive experience in the area. Overall, the project is a very well integrated involving academia, clinicians and industry. The panel therefore recommends that the proposal should be retained for funding with a grant not exceeding 2 498 903.00 Euro."

Response from Imperial College research team

We would not have been able to achieve this award without the generous support of the Richard Thomas Leukaemia Fund over the years. The support you have provided has guided us through very challenging times in the laboratory and this exciting programme would not have survived without you! I hope that the RTLF can feel very proud of this achievement with us, as we feel very strongly that it is a team effort jointly with the RTLF!

More details below

Chemical Engineering researcher awarded €2.5m ERC grant for artificial blood project

Professor Sakis Mantalaris has been awarded a €2.5m five year Advanced Grant by the European Research Council (ERC).  Established under the EU’s Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7), the grants target distinguished researchers based in Europe.  Of the five Advanced Grants awarded to Chemical Engineers since the scheme began in 2007, four have been based at Imperial College. Collaborators on the BioBlood project include Dr Nicki Panoskaltsis (Haematology) and Prof Stratos Pistikopoulos (Chemical Engineering) along with the National Blood Service.

Prof. Mantalaris’s BioBlood project broadly aims to deliver personalised healthcare - customised treatment that is tailored to the individual patient by the use of patient-specific data and cell-based therapies.  Using a unique approach that combines both experimentation and computer modelling, BioBlood represents a platform for the identification of optimal chemotherapy treatments that are adapted to best fit an individual patient’s need.  It is hoped that the project can help bring about a change in personalised medicine, specifically in the treatment of haematological cancers such as leukaemia and lymphoma.

"Developing the technology platform to address such important clinical needs as blood transfusion and chemotherapy treatment for leukaemia has been an ambition of mine since I started my academic career in the department," said Prof. Mantalaris. "The strength of the BioBlood project lies in the inter-disciplinary approach from the get-go. The ultimate challenge for BioBlood is strong fundamentals and clinical translation."

It is also hoped that the BioBlood project will find a solution to the problem of blood donor shortage.  In the UK alone, nearly 1 million litres of blood are transfused annually in to patients from donors, at a cost of approximately €300m.  Prof. Mantalaris and colleagues aim to meet the challenges of blood supply, pathogen infection and reduction of patient mortality by developing a new method for the mass production of red blood cells for clinical use.  The work could also have implications for the introduction of new drugs to market, currently an extremely long, complex and expensive process.  BioBlood would enable pharmaceutical companies to bring novel therapies to market more quickly by speeding up clinical trials considerably.

BioBlood is one of just 284 successful peer-reviewed bids from over 2,400 applications, in what is the final year of the €7.5b FP7 Programme.

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