Cellesce has carried out a study in collaboration with Cardiff University to assess organoid size and cell count from 3D image analysis. Whilst the improved predictive power of patient-derived organoids (PDOs) have the potential to replace 2D  assays in drug discovery the challenge for organoid users is to fully extract, exploit and understand the increased complexity of 3D in vitro models. 3D image analysis may well provide a means to address that challenge.

Many of the practical limitations have already been overcome by recent advances in microscopy, leading to improvements in 3D image resolution, speed of imaging, data acquisition and dedicated software for high-content, high throughput assays. This technology can be used to quantify changes in gross organoid morphology, such as size and shape and also detect subtle, cellular, drug-induced alterations. Multi-parametric, image-based analysis can lead to an understanding of the relationship between the morphology of 3D PDOs and the underlying cell biology Badder et al. 2020, PLOS ONE.

Comparison of the morphology of untreated and treated patient-derived colorectal cancer organoids

To find out more about this study please view the Application Note.

Dr Kate Rowley has been appointed as an Independent Non-Executive Director of the Company.

Kate is an Independent Consultant for Symmetrist and a Venture Partner at Global Bio Fund. She advises companies developing innovative science and technology with the potential to transform healthcare. Kate supports companies from across the UK, West Coast US and Australia and works with them on project, executive and non-executive roles as meets their needs.

Kate has a deep history of commercialisation of Life Sciences with experience in Investor, Founder and Non-Executive Director roles across a variety of businesses in med tech, digital health and drug discovery/development. She has more than 7 years’ experience of investing as an Investor Director working at IP Group and then Bioscience Managers, where she led the team supporting Downing with their EIS/VCT investments. Prior to this Kate held a number of commercially focussed roles at Quotient Clinical (now Quotient Sciences) Nexxus, the West of Scotland Bioscience Network and SAMS.

Vicky Marsh-Durban has been promoted to the position of Chief Operating Officer and will take a seat on the Board.

Vicky completed her Ph.D. at Cardiff University in 2008 in the field of cancer genetics with a focus on models of gastrointestinal tract cancers. She subsequently moved to the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) where she held a post-doctoral research scholarship investigating targeted therapeutic approaches in malignant melanomas. In 2014 she returned to Cardiff to take up a Research Fellowship at the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute.

Vicky took up her first commercial role as Head of Cell Biology at ReNeuron in 2016 before joining Cellesce as Lead Scientist in 2019. Vicky has played a significant role in helping the Company to navigate the CV-19 global pandemic whilst ensuring that key commercial and scientific progress has been maintained.

Paul Jenkins (CEO of Cellesce) said:
“I am delighted that we have been able to make these important appointments during this critical period for the Company. Kate’s industry experience and connections make her an invaluable addition to our Board, whilst the quality of Vicky’s input over the last 12 months has resulted in a well-earned promotion and extension to her responsibilities.”

Concurrent with these appointments Dr. Marianne Ellis and Prof. Trevor Dale will be stepping down from their Board roles and joining the Company’s Scientific Advisory Board. Both Marianne and Trevor have been instrumental in helping Cellesce develop its patented bioprocess for the expansion of Patient Derived Organoids and both will still be involved in the ongoing management of the company.

John Allbrook (Chairman of Cellesce) said:
“It is impossible to exaggerate the enormous contribution that both Marianne and Trevor have made over the last 7 years. They were here when it all began and I know that through their contribution to our Scientific Advisory Board we can look forward to enjoying the benefits of their input and expertise in the future as the Company embarks on the next phase of its development.”

Cellesce, together with peptide 3D scaffold specialists, Manchester BIOGEL, and complex protein manufacturer, Qkine, have been awarded Innovate UK Sustainable Innovation Funding to develop fully synthetic, chemically-defined three-dimensional (3D) scaffolds that mimic more accurately the physiological environment in the human body and enable manufacture, scale up and improved reproducibility of patient-derived organoids.

Organoids are three-dimensional (3D) structures derived from stem cells that mimic mammalian organs. These have transformative potential as new platforms for faster drug discovery and better model systems for determining drug efficacy and toxicity. As well as pushing forwards basic biological understanding by more accurately replicating the responses seen in humans and reducing the need for animal use in research. However, existing methods for growing organoids rely predominantly on a 3D growth matrix extracted from mouse tumours to provide a supporting structure, this material is complex and poorly defined, leading to challenges with scale-up and limiting use in drug discovery platforms and other research applications.

This project seeks to address these issues by combining the existing technologies of Manchester BIOGEL’s tuneable peptide hydrogel scaffolds with Qkine’s optimised high purity growth factors to build a new 3D cell culture scaffold that will mimic the natural environment of the body. Importantly, all the components will be chemically-defined and animal product free, enabling greater experimental reproducibility. Working together with the leaders in patient-derived organoid scale-up, Cellesce, they will develop and tailor these new materials for scalable and reproducible organoid culture.

Commenting on the grant award, Professor Aline Miller, CEO of Manchester BIOGEL said “I am very excited about this project – not only will we establish a new collaborative consortium, but we will also bring together our significant expertise to contribute to the development of an enabling platform technology with pressing scientific need, and with strong commercial potential.”

A successful outcome from the collaboration will lead to the development of improved human cell-based models. This addresses key scientific challenges in the stem cell and drug discovery sector, reduces animal use in research, and strengthens UK life science manufacturing to provide a long-term sustainable return on investment for UK PLC.

colorectal cancer organoids

Colorectal cancer organoids ©National Physical Laboratory

About Manchester BIOGEL
Manchester BIOGEL is a global leader in the design and manufacture of synthetic self-assembling peptide hydrogels that provide a natural physiological extracellular matrix to support long term culture. Their biologically relevant hydrogels mimic the cell micro-environment and their stiffness and functionality can be modulated to simulate the natural environment of all human tissues. Manchester BIOGEL’s proprietary technology is 100% ethical, animal free and chemically defined. It opens up opportunities and offers clinically translatable solutions to meet current healthcare challenges within the growing fields of 3D cell culture, 3D bioprinting, tissue regeneration and drug discovery.


About Qkine
Qkine is a Cambridge, UK-based manufacturer of high purity, animal-free growth factors, cytokines and other complex proteins. Qkine combines proprietary production processes with protein engineering technology to tackle fundamental biological and scale-up challenges for the fast-growing stem cell, organoid, regenerative medicine and cultured meat sectors.



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