Two academics from the University of Warwick’s School of Engineering have contributed their expertise in polymer materials to the new development.
The unit will carry out research to aid the development of new red blood cell products to support the transfusion needs of patients with rare blood groups and those with complex and life-limiting conditions like Sickle Cell Disease and Thalassemia.
Life Sciences Minister, George Freeman said: “This innovative new unit is fantastic news for patients with rare blood types and conditions, whose lives will be transformed through the latest pioneering research. Investment by the National Institute for Health Research in this project highlights the government’s ongoing commitment to translate 21st century scientific advances into real patient benefits.”
Neil Cameron and Ahmed Eissa are behind the University of Warwick research which involves creating polymer foams or ‘scaffolds’ in which the red blood cells will grow.
Professor Cameron said: “It is wonderful that the University of Warwick’s expertise in polymer materials will contribute to such an important trial which could help improve and prolong the lives of many people.”
The Unit is one of four new National Institute of Health Research Blood (NIHR) Blood and Transplant Research Units (BTRU) for which it has committed £15.1 million of funding through a competitive process. The BTRUs are all partnerships between top universities and NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), and focus on rapid translation of research findings into routine practice in blood donation and in transplantation of stem cells and organs.
The NIHR award is a partnership between researchers from the University of Bristol and NHSBT at Bristol and Cambridge and in collaboration with researchers from three other universities including the University of Warwick. It will also involve collaborations with several commercial companies including Miltenyi Biotech, GE Healthcare, Sanquin Blood Supply (Netherlands) and SmartSeparations.
The Unit’s ambitious research will include a clinical trial of small volumes of artificial blood in human volunteers and also carry research to maximise blood production.
Professor Dave Anstee, Director of the Unit, said: “The Unit will support a major programme of research aimed at generating new and better blood products for patients for whom provision of conventional donated blood is problematic."