UNEW – UK, Coordinator

Institute of Cellular Medicine
Newcastle University
Medical School
Framlington Place
Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4HH
United Kingdom

d-LIVER Coordinator and Contact:

Professor Calum McNeil
Diagnostic and Therapeutic Technologies
Tel: +44 191 2228259
E-mail: calum.mcneil(at)ncl.ac.uk
Website: www.ncl.ac.uk/icm/


Newcastle University (UNEW) has grown from a School of Medicine and Surgery established in Newcastle in 1834, to become one of the top 10 UK universities, measured by the volume of its externally-funded research. A major strength of UNEW is that medical researchers and clinicians with demand-driven interest in the practical implementation of micro-devices and technologies cooperate very closely, through University Institute structures, with basic scientists and engineers. In 2008 the University established the Institute of Cellular Medicine (ICM, see http://www.ncl.ac.uk/icm/), the aim of which is to support and develop the highest quality research in basic science relevant to patients, translational research, and clinical research. The ethos of the ICM is that true improvement in the clinical management of patients with chronic disease will come from increased understanding of the mechanisms responsible for their disease and, critically, the application of knowledge regarding these mechanisms in the development, testing and therapeutic application of novel treatments. Therefore, the disciplinary breadth of the expertise provided to the d-LIVER project allows a continuous link from generic research in all ICM components, through biomaterials, cell engineering and device support, to laboratory and clinical testing of prototype sensing and bio-artificial liver systems. This should ultimately pave the way for commercialization and deployment of novel diagnostic and therapeutic medical devices. The ICM components involved at UNEW are the Liver Research Group and the Diagnostic and Therapeutic Technologies Research Group.

Liver Research Group

Liver disease has high priority status at Newcastle University and was a key component of a successful bid for NIHR Biomedical Research Centre status (Specialist Centre in Ageing and Age-Related Disease). The Liver Research Group, established in 2007 (see http://www.ncl.ac.uk/icm/research/areas/liver/), is an integral component of a wider grouping of academic clinical and translational hepatologists in Newcastle which constitute one of the largest liver research groups in the UK. The combined critical mass of expertise and excellent laboratory facilities provided by the group will ensure an ideal environment to carry out the project. This group were the first to characterize (beyond a single marker gene) the broad hepatocyte differentiation of a rodent pancreatic acinar cell line into hepatocytes. Knowledge that this re‑programming event models a physiologically normal event in both rodents and humans has led the group to pilot the isolation and culture of a human equivalent for use in clinical liver support devices through the supply of human tissue by existing contacts with liver transplant surgeons at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle (Mr Stephen White, Mr Derek Manas) who will support the d-LIVER project.

The people involved from the Liver Group include:

Professor David Jones: Professor of Liver Immunology and, since its launch in 2008, Director of the ICM. Prof Jones is, in addition to his research activities, an active clinical hepatologist managing liver failure and liver transplant patients, as well as undertaking management of patients with long-term chronic liver disease. His research interests include outcome measurement (he developed the only disease-specific quality of life measure for liver disease and structured clinical care delivery in chronic liver disease and developed the only structured care pathway yet applied in PBC). He is a member of the European Associations for the Study of the Liver (EASL) clinical guidelines group and was an author of the EASL clinical guidelines for chronic cholestatic liver disease published in 2009 and applied throughout Europe. Finally, he is an experienced clinical trial coordinator in the field of hepatology.

Professor Matthew Wright: Appointed as a Lecturer in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Aberdeen in 2000, Matt Wright moved to Newcastle University in 2006 as a Reader in Hepatology. Professor Wright has published over 50 papers and 3 patents in the area of liver biology and hepatic differentiation. Professor Wright’s research is concerned with liver cell differentiation and in changes in hepatic differentiation in response to disease. At present Professor Wright manages research grants in excess of £1M from UK Research Councils (MRC, BBSRC) and charities such as the Wellcome Trust. Professor Wright is also a member of the North East Stem Cell Institute (NESCI – see http://www.nesci.ac.uk/ ), an internationally recognised centre of excellence on stem cell research. NESCI is a collaborative institute between Durham and Newcastle Universities, the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and other partners, including the International Centre for Life in Newcastle which hosts a wide range of active stem cell researchers with the primary aim of developing new stem cell treatments.

Diagnostic and Therapeutic Technologies Research Group

Multi-disciplinary translational research, especially applied to methods, technologies and materials to improve therapeutics and diagnostics is a major challenge. The specific remit of the Diagnostic and Therapeutic Technologies Research Group within UNEW is to promote and encourage training and investment in biomedical application and clinical deployment of therapeutic technologies and diagnostic devices.

The group is led by Professor Calum McNeil who was appointed as a Lecturer at the Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Newcastle University in 1987 and appointed to a Personal Chair in Biological Sensor Systems in 2001. Professor McNeil has published over 120 papers and 8 patents in the area of sensor systems for clinical diagnostics. Professor McNeil’s research concentrates on the design and development of biological sensor systems and their application to investigations of the biochemical mechanisms underlying disease processes. Professor McNeil will also be the Project Coordinator. He has extensive experience in performing this role on other collaborative projects. He coordinated the EC FP6 Integrated project SmartHEALTH and currently manages research grants from the EC, UK Research Councils and industry worth in excess of £13M.

A key member of the Diagnostic and Therapeutic Technologies Research Group is Dr Philip Manning who graduated from Newcastle University with an MSc in Biosensors in 1993 and a PhD in Clinical Biochemistry in 1996. In 1999 he was awarded the Wilfred Hall Research Fellowship which enabled him to study the effects of novel pharmaceutical compounds on cellular models of pathology by using biological sensor systems. He left Newcastle University in 2001 to take up the position of senior scientist at Pharmagene Laboratories Ltd. During his time in industry he was able to develop significant contacts with many blue-chip pharmaceutical companies including GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Shire and Pfizer. In 2007 Dr Manning returned to Newcastle University to take up a permanent academic position as a Lecturer in Diagnostic and Therapeutic Technologies. His research interests are based on the development of sensing systems to facilitate high content analysis.

The major RTD role of UNEW is in the development of cellular systems involving the isolation and culture of a human equivalent hepatocyte cell line for future use clinical devices and in contributing to sensor system design, development and testing. By necessity, UNEW will also be involved in systems design reviews, instrumentation development and clinical testing.

The relevant experience of UNEW participants in EC-funded projects includes: coordination of a Framework 6 ICT for Health Integrated Project, SmartHEALTH, being a partner in a Framework 7 large-scale integrating project, CD‑MEDICS, being a partner in one FP6 MNT Network of Excellence (Nano-2-Life), involvement two FP6 STREP projects – SAFER (NEST Adventure) and NanoTEMPLATES (NMP). Each of these projects involved RTD, training and dissemination aspects of novel technologies for clinical applications.