Heriot-Watt University is one of four Scottish Universities to receive £2.5m from the Scottish Funding Council to carry out research into the development of industrially-generated blood.
The Universities - Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh and Dundee - will work with Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Blood Transfusion Service on this project to generate red blood cells and establish a new bioengineering and manufacturing capacity for Scotland.
The industrial generation of blood would end current problems in maintaining supply of blood for transfusion, managing the risk of infection and ensuring compatibility between donor and recipient.
Major economic benefits for Scotland
The project, which is unique to the UK, has the benefits for public good but also to deliver major economic benefits for Scotland.
There is a massive unmet and increasing clinical demand for blood – in the UK alone 2.2 million units of blood are used each year at a cost of around £140 per unit. It is estimated that the UK market could be worth up to £308 million per year and worldwide over £11.2 billion per year (based on an estimate of 80 million units).
Heriot-Watt University’s role on the engineering side is to handle the challenges associated with the scale-up and commercialisation of the blood cell processDr Nik Willoughby, School of Engineering & Physical Sciences, Heriot-Watt University
Dr Nik Willoughby from the School of Engineering & Physical Sciences (EPS) will be leading this project at Heriot-Watt University along with Professor David Adams also from EPS.
He said: “Heriot-Watt University’s role on the engineering side is to handle the challenges associated with the scale-up and commercialisation of the blood cell process. We will be looking at larger scale cell culture and novel purification and separation techniques to produce a medical quality product from a process that can be scaled up to supply the unmet clinical need.
“The SFC funding has allowed the establishment of a dedicated laboratory for scale-up work including state-of-the-art equipment as well as staff to manage this key area of the project.
“We will look to build close collaborations with Scottish companies to ensure that the process developed is commercially and clinically viable from the start.”
Collaborative, multi-disciplinary research
This exciting collaboration aims to provide a solution to a longstanding problem and one that touches many livesMark Batho, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council
Coordinated by the University of Glasgow, this collaboration will be multi-disciplinary, with key research teams in the biochemistry, engineering and social science fields.
The funding will support key posts at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt Universities and contribute towards two further posts at Dundee University and the Innogen Centre within Edinburgh University.
Mark Batho, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said: “The Funding Council is delighted to provide funding for this ground-breaking project. This exciting collaboration aims to provide a solution to a longstanding problem and one that touches many lives; if successful then this will not only be of great benefit for people in Scotland but has the potential also to deliver significant economic gain.”