Dr Krishnaa Mahbubani (on the left) from this department, with her team mates Dr Richard Day, Dr Nik Willoughby, Dr Yuan-Tsan Tseng and Prof Che Connon
A new collaboration featuring researchers from University College London, the University of Cambridge, Newcastle University, Heriot-Watt University and Imperial College London was funded at a Dragons’ Den event organised by the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Regenerative Medicine.
A 'sandpit' event was held at University College London in early July, where 25 participants and mentors considered the challenges faced in the tissue engineering of hollow structures. Prof Martin Birchall provided clinical leadership to the event, with mentoring from Prof David Williams and Prof Christiana Ruhrberg and facilitation by Dr Sophie Dale-Black. The Dragons' Den panel was completed by Dr Johan Hyllner, Chief Scientific Officer for the Cell Therapy Catapult.
Following a networking meal the night before, participants spent the day brainstorming ideas in response to the challenges raised by Prof Birchall, scoping out potential projects to later pitch to the dragons. £50,000 was up for grabs, with funded from the EPSRC Centre's engagement grant, and projects were required to target unmet clinical needs, while ensuring a highly innovative and interdisciplinary research programme.
Four teams pitched to the dragons and were quizzed on their project plans and deliverables. Following a difficult decision-making session, the dragons awarded the grant funding to the project 'Magnetic patterning of cells for hollow organ tissue engineering' which is a collaboration between Dr Richard Day (University College London), Prof Che Connon (Newcastle University), Dr Nik Willoughby (Heriot-Watt University), Dr Krishnaa Mahbubani (University of Cambridge) and Dr Yuan-Tsan Tseng (Imperial College London). The project will last for six months, targeting the development of a new process for achieving increased radial strength in scaffolds used for bioengineered hollow organ constructs by imbuing natural tissue components that will provide structural support.
The EPSRC Centre would like to thank all the dragons (Prof David Williams, Prof Martin Birchall, Prof Christiana Ruhrberg and Dr Johan Hyllner) for their valuable time and in particular thanks Dr Ivan Wall of University College London for providing considerable local organising support for the event.