Avecia Biotechnology Inc. Leads Wound Healing Bio-Processing Team

BILLINGHAM, England, April 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Avecia Biotechnology is taking a lead role in a new partnership to establish bio-processing technology for advanced tissue engineering. The work involves creating cost-effective and scaleable methods for making ethically-derived adult stem cells for therapeutic use, notably for wound healing.

The project aims to bring significant advances in the development of new, fully functional skin tissue to treat burns victims.

Partners in the near-GBP1m, three-year project include the Centre for Stem Cell Discovery & Regenerative Medicine of the UK's Durham University; the Blond McIndoe Centre, prominent in plastic and reconstructive surgery and Smith & Nephew. The healthcare-based regional economic development agency CELS - Centre for Excellence for Life Sciences - is also associated with the project. CELS is funded by the regional development agency OneNorthEast.

Avecia will bring to the project its extensive expertise in the development of robust, scaleable, economic and compliant bioprocesses. The Stem Cell Centre at Durham University is a recognised world leader in stem cell research, with the mission to characterise cells, and identify how to use them to develop new therapies for degenerative human disease.

The project has received half its funding from the UK Government's Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) under the Technology Programme, which is recognizing both UK expertise in the field and the challenge of competition from teams in both the US and the Far East. Most of the balancing funding is being provided by Avecia Biotechnology.

Wound healing technology uses adult skin stem cells to grow sheets of skin that can be grafted on to wounded areas, effectively replacing damaged skin with new skin tissue. Ultimately, the technology will be of notable benefit to burns victims.

On average, 2,300 patients - nearly half of them children - are admitted annually to UK hospitals with full thickness burn injuries. Some 300 patients die in hospital from these injuries, and many surviving patients with full thickness burns will require reconstructive surgery over many years following their initial recovery.

The scaled-up manufacturing of adult stem cells to create new tissue will increase both the speed and number of treatments, as well as lowering cost per treatment. In the UK the NHS spends about GBP160m p.a. on burns treatments in England and Wales alone. Greater knowledge of stem cell biology also promises to lead on to faster development of other potential therapeutics.

Commenting on the project, Avecia Biotechnology's Vice President for Business Development Dr. Stephen Taylor said: "Stem cells are challenging to grow and expand while maintaining their therapeutic potential. Our goal in Avecia is to be at the leading edge of bio-processing technology and we believe that scale up will help unlock their potential in a highly-specialised area of healthcare".

Professor Colin Jahoda of the Centre for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Durham University commented: "This partnership offers an excellent opportunity for the academic and commercial sectors to work together with the common goal of bringing lab-based science towards the health market. The partnership is particularly strong because of the different expertise that each organisation is bringing to the project".

Across the partnership, over 10 scientific personnel will be fully engaged on the project through the 2006-08 phase.

Notes for Editors:

- Avecia is a privately-owned biotechnology company with recognised leading positions in biopharmaceutical process development and manufacturing; bio-defence vaccines and the manufacture of DNA medicines. The company's Tees Valley, UK site has been developing processes and making protein-based biologics to cGMP since 1998. Products currently being worked on include medicines targeted at forms of cancer, heart conditions, stroke, growth and blood disorders. See www.avecia.com

- The Durham University interdisciplinary Centre for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, led by Professor Colin Jahoda, brings together groups from the Departments of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry & Philosophy at Durham University and clinical collaborators from North East England. This Centre also forms part of the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (ISCBRM), which draws together Durham and Newcastle Universities, the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust and other partners in a unique interdisciplinary collaboration to convert stem cell research and technologies into cost-effective, ethically-robust 21st century health solutions.

- The UK Government's ten-year Science and Innovation Investment Framework, published in July 2004, reaffirmed the commitment to support businesses investing in new and emerging technologies. Over the period 2005-2008, GBP320 million is available to businesses in the form of grants to support research and development in the technology area in a programme managed by the Department of Trade and Industry. For further information please go to http://www.dti.gov.uk/technologyprogramme/


CONTACT: For further information contact: Bridget Hall, CommunicationsManager, Avecia Biotechnology, Tel: +44-(0)-1642-367320, Mobile:+44(0)7796-938929, bridget.hall@avecia.com, Roger Johnstone, DebenEditorial Services, Tel: +44-(0)161-614-1450, Mobile: +44-(0)7841-433141,rdj@debened.com

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