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Biochemical Engineering Students win prestigious Royal Commission for 1851 scholarships

25 October 2017

Royal Commission 1871 Winners Awards

Elsa Noaks and Shaun Mansfield both received a fellowship worth up to £80,000 to support the research, development and design of their projects. The Commission has supported them to help bring their technologies to commercialisation and make an impact on businesses and society. Originally set up by Prince Albert following the Great Exhibition of 1851, the Industrial Fellowships recognise the best research that could advance British industry and award them funds to bring them to market.

Bernard Taylor, Chairman of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, said: “Ensuring Britain’s young scientists and engineers are supported is crucial to ensuring that the UK is at the forefront of innovation in the years to come. Our Industrial Fellowships are designed to fund and commercialise the most promising technologies that could shape our society in the future. This year, we have awarded more Fellowships than ever before, and the breadth of technologies we are supporting, from artificial intelligence, to clean power and potential cures for most deadly diseases demonstrates that the talent in the UK is only growing.”

Elsa Noakes

Elsa Noaks. Autolus Limited and UCL

Traditional cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy, are sometimes unable to eradicate the disease. However, cellular immunotherapy has the potential to cure some of the most devastating and untreatable types of cancer by genetically modifying the T-cells from the patient’s own immune system to detect and kill cancer cells.

Elsa will develop a way to enhance the quality of T-cell samples taken from a patient’s blood prior to manufacturing. This will enable the resulting T-cell products to be more effective in targeting and killing of cancer cells that would otherwise evade the immune system.

Elsa graduated from UCL with a degree in Biochemical Engineering, and her interest in cell therapy led her to continue her studies with an Engineering Doctorate under the supervision of Dr Ivan Wall, and working with Autolus Limited, a company leading in cutting-edge T-cell therapies.

Shaun Mansfield, Biovault Technical Ltd and UCL

Shaun Mansfield

Development of manufacturing process for clinically-relevant cord blood haematopoietic stem cells

For nearly 30 years, umbilical cord blood (UCB) has routinely been used for stem cell therapies as an alternative to bone marrow (BM) and peripheral blood (PB) transplants. This is in part due to the quality of the haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) found within UCB, as well as the ease of collection and less need for stringent tissue typing among others. HSCs are the precursor to all types of blood cells, and are used to reconstruct the immune system, for example after chemo- and radio-therapy in the treatment of blood based cancers. However, UCB yields fewer HSCs than bone marrow and peripheral blood transplants.

Shaun’s project will look to increase the yield of HSCs from UCB by developing a new scalable manufacturing process. This will mean transplants using UCB will be more effective at restoring the immune system and will make UCB transplants more accessible to older patients than currently possible. The project will ultimately aim to provide both a personalised and off-the-shelf, clinically-relevant HSC product.

Shaun has a BSc in Biomedical Science from the University of Southampton and an MSc in Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine with the University of Bristol. He has worked at Biovault Technical Ltd for the past four years, and is currently a Stem Cell Scientist responsible for undertaking initial process development and implementation. Shaun also works closely with the company’s NHS partner for the processing, storage and analysis of their stem cell transplants.

Applications for the 2018 Industrial Fellowships are now open