MedCity has led a delegation of SMEs, scientists and industry leaders to BioJapan to promote partnerships in cell therapy and regenerative medicine between Japan and the greater south east

The group was joined by Mayor of London Boris Johnson who visited the conference, Asia’s largest bioscience event, in Yokohama to meet the UK’s entrepreneurs and deliver a speech on the value of collaboration.

The new cell therapy campaign, developed by MedCity, London & Partners and the GREAT Britain campaign, brings together leaders in the field including Professor Chris Mason of University College London, Professor Bobby Gaspar of Great Ormond Street Hospital, the Cell Therapy Catapult and Life Sciences Minister George Freeman, in a new publication and video on the potential of this new developing therapy.

Read the cell therapy report in English and Japanese.

Professor Mason also joined the MedCity delegation in Japan, along with his UCL colleague Professor Adrian Thrasher, and representatives of the Cell Therapy Catapult.

Dr Eliot Forster, Executive Chair of MedCity, says:

“I’m absolutely delighted to be bringing some of our most exciting biotechs to Japan to showcase the innovative, diverse ways that cell therapies are being developed and commercialised in the UK. With Japan also having such a strong track record and commitment to this field, there are huge opportunities for us to work together to fast-track a potentially game-changing new science.”

UK SMEs joining the group are:

  • CIMYM BioSciences
  • Curileum Discovery Ltd
  • Desktop Genetics Ltd
  • Genetic Microdevices Ltd
  • Imanova Ltd
  • Kanteron Systems
  • Plasticell LTD

The Mayor also announced a new partnership between University College London and Takeda, Asia’s largest pharmaceutical company, and unveiled new research on Japanese investment in the greater south east – read more about the announcements.

King’s College London and Osaka University – mobilising bone marrow cells to repair skin

A London-Osaka partnership is tackling painful skin diseases with bone marrow cells that can transform into skin cells to repair tissue.

The international collaboration between King’s College London and Osaka University has discovered the ‘distress signal’ released by damaged skin – a protein that mobilises cells from bone marrow and directs them to where they are needed. The discovery opens up the potential to persuade bone marrow to mobilise an increased number of cells to improve skin repair, according to Professor John McGrath, who leads the research at KCL.

“It’s a bit like dealing with your bank if the roof blows off your house,” he explains. “The bank may only be inclined to give you £500 to fix the basic problem. If you can persuade it to give you £5,000 to make thorough improvements you have a much sounder, longer-lasting structure. For damaged skin, this means being able to get the repairs done quickly when you need to.”

The team is now carrying out clinical trials in London and Osaka to develop a cell therapy that will repair skin and heal wounds, improving quality of life for patients and saving money for healthcare systems. The work initially targets inherited skin diseases such as epidermolysis bullosa, which causes painful blisters. However Professor McGrath believes it will have much broader applications over the longer-term, including wound healing for conditions such as varicose vein ulcers, which currently require dressings for many months at an annual cost of around £1bn to the NHS.

The partnership between KCL and Osaka is based on common protocols for research and clinical trials for cell and gene therapy between the two institutions, and Professor McGrath is enthusiastic about the benefits of joint working. He adds, however, that the experience of establishing clinical trials in the UK and Japan has given him a renewed appreciation for the NHS.

“We have an extraordinary level of support in the UK to facilitate clinical trials through the NIHR and Biomedical Research Centres that really speeds up the process, whereas in Japan the infrastructure for clinical trials is not so well set up. What is shared by researchers in the UK and Japan, however, is a tremendous energy to innovate and to deliver new health benefits for patients, wherever they may be,” he says.