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UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering

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Prof Chris Mason

Professor of Cell and Gene Therapy

Dept of Biochemical Engineering

Faculty of Engineering Science

Joined UCL
1st Jun 2003

Research summary

Mason coordinates the Department’s activities in the emerging field of stem cell and regenerative medicine bioprocessing (RegenMed) which involves the majority of the Department’s staff including; Prof. Mike Hoare, Prof. Peter Dunnill, Prof. Gary Lye, Prof. Nigel Titchener-Hooker, Dr. Farlan Veraitch, Dr. Frank Baganz, Dr. Martina Micheletti, Dr Yuhong Zhou and Dr. Nicolas Szita. Together with a large and growing collection of external of collaborators from both academia and the regen industry, this multidisciplinary group is advancing the translation of the basic stem cell science into safe, clinically effective and affordable therapies for deployment in routine clinical practice.

RegenMed research is focused exclusively on the bioengineering aspects of stem cell and regenerative medicine translation including scale-up and scale-out. Taking a whole bioprocessing approach, i.e. the complete process from donor or patient all the way through to clinical implantation into the patient, requires the establishment of a number of collaborative partnerships with leading representatives of all the key stake holders groups (scientists, engineers, clinicians and regen companies) including:

- Prof. Peter Braude (King’s College London) – Human embryonic stem cell derivation under Good Manufacturing Conditions (GMP). Together with Emma Stephenson (UCL), Braude and Mason, are at the forefront of establishing international consensus standards for human embryonic stem cell derivation.

- Dr. Stephen Minger (King’s College London), Dr. Farlan Veraitch and Martin Town – Human embryonic stem cell expansion and harvesting methodologies.

Prof. Gary Lye, Dr. Farlan Veraitch and Stem Cell Sciences plc together with Prof. Austin Smith (University of Cambridge) as a consultant – Automation of embryonic stem cell expansion and differentiation.

- Dr. Glyn Stacey and Dr. Lyn Healy (UK Stem Cell Bank, NIBSC) – A number of projects involving the expansion and controlled differentiation of stem cells to neurones including electrophysiological studies with Prof. Steven Bolsover (Dept. of Physiology, UCL) and scale-down bioreactor design with Linkam Scientific Ltd. and Martin Town.

- Prof. Nigel Titchener-Hooker, Dr. Roland Fleck (NIBSC), Dr. Yen Choo (Plasticell Ltd.) and Ludmila Ruban – The automation of “Combinatorial Cell Culture”, a novel platform technology designed to efficiently discover bioactive compounds involved in stem cell differentiation that could be used to precisely direct differentiation.

- Prof. Peter Andrews and Prof. Harry Moore (University of Sheffield/Axordia Ltd.) – An engineering approach to reprogramming human fibroblasts into “embryonic stem cell-like cells” using a novel gene therapy methodology.

- Prof. Mike Horton and Dr. Andrew Pelling (London Centre for Nanotechnology) and Dr. Farlan Veraitch – Atomic force microscopy applied to stem cell biology for better understanding the effects of bioprocessing on stem cells.

Prof. Dame Julia Polak, Dr. Anne Bishop and Dr. Helen Rippon (Imperial College London) - Defined cell growth media to optimise stem cell differentiation into respiratory cells.

- Dr. Julie Daniels who directs the Cells for Sight Transplantation & Research Programme at Moorfields Eye Hospital and and Prof. Gabriel Aeppli (London Centre for Nanotechnology) - Characterisation and optimisation of the culture of limbal epithelial stem cells for clinical use.

- Prof. Mike Hoare, Dr. Stephen Ward (Onyvax Ltd.) and Dr. Julian Braybrook (LGC Ltd.) – Impact of the bioprocessing environment on the manufacturing scale-up of whole cell cancer vaccines.

Teaching summary

Within the Department, Mason has taken the lead role on the provision of stem cell and regenerative medicine bioprocessing teaching at all levels i.e. undergraduate, masters, postdoc and industry. Thus providing the essential teaching base for skilled bioprocessing engineers underpinning the regen industry.

Part of Mason’s teaching contribution is to direct all the stem cell and regenerative medicine bioprocessing aspects of the fourth year MEng programme including two courses. The first MEng course unit introduces students to advanced biochemical engineering and bioprocessing skills and in particular the ability to take fundamental stem cell science concepts and identify how best to translate them into real clinical outcomes. This allows students with engineering design skills to address an activity that will need novel approaches if robust, cost effective and safe cell therapies are to be available. Likewise, Mason has also established an MEng course unit which introduces the students to the latest basic science behind the next generation of regenerative medicine therapies with a view to their potential impact and challenges for biochemical engineering.

Together with Dr. Karen Smith and Dr. Farlan Veraitch, a new MBI module, “Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine Bioprocessing” has been established. This course focuses on all aspects of whole bioprocessing including both universal (allogeneic) and patient specific (autologous) cell therapies plus tissue engineering and is taught by a team of internationally recognised industry experts. In addition, important related topics such as regulation and ethics from the commercial perspective are also covered.

A Masters level enterprise course for the Department’s full time MSc and doctoral students has been established in collaboration with Dr. Eli Keshavarz-Moore and Dr. Bill Hornby. Focusing on real case studies from the world of stem cells and regenerative medicine, the MSc and doctoral students, through a number of workshops and other activities, prepare in-depth business plans and presentations.

Mason also contributes to a first year undergraduate course aimed at encouraging students to realise the great value of biochemical engineering and its role in healthcare and society.

A major organisational requirement of the Department’s teaching and tutoring activities is to enable engineering students to acquire life science expertise. The Department strongly believes that this is best achieved by integrating the students with life scientists on their specialist courses and then providing the tutorial linkage to help guide the students. Mason heads up the departmental review group which meets with life science colleagues to oversee how best to address this rapidly developing area.

Mason is responsible for developing the stem cell and regenerative medicine bioprocessing activity of the EPSRC Engineering Doctorate (EngD) in Bioprocess Leadership Programme which is overall directed by Prof. Nigel Titchener-Hooker. Cell therapy and regenerative medicine companies/organisations which have already signed up to the scheme include; Axordia, Linkam Scientific, NIBSC, Moorfields Eye Hospital, Onyvax, Plasticell, Smith & Nephew, The Automation Partnership and the UK Stem Cell Bank.

Education

University College London
PhD, Biochemical Engineering | 2005
United Medical and Dental Schools of Guy's and St.. Thomas's Hospitals
MBBS, Medicine/Surgery | 1994
Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine
BSc Hons, Molecular Biology | 1993
Publications