We’re working with stem cells. We are very excited about the potential of new stem cell therapies and tissue engineered products. However, with many of these treatments the original lab-based techniques are not always suitable for production of clinical-grade material.
My research focuses on these production processes – taking an engineering angle and looking at how we can improve reproducibility, yield and efficiency. In one project we’re addressing a really difficult production process – turning embryonic stem cells into photoreceptors. These cells could be used treat diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa where a lack of functional photoreceptor cells causes a loss of vision. It’s a great target for us, because the production process as it currently stands is particularly challenging.
Just as an example, one of my PhD students (Dae-Kyeong Bae) repeated the process ten times, getting yields from 10% to 80% and everywhere in between, so it’s clear there are major challenges which need to be addressed. The overarching goal is to show the importance of the relationship between clinical efficacy and the control over the process of making the clinical material. That’s my vision for the foreseeable future.
I love teaching, absolutely love it. I think it’s really important. Our students are awesome. Whenever anyone visits our department they comment that they are articulate, skilled, and a great advert.
I did my degree here, my PhD in Birmingham – then I came back and did my post-doc here. I haven’t left these corridors for quite some time. I did do some industry work – for GSK and Lonza Biologics – but I’m UCL through and through. For stem cell therapy, London is a great spot to be in. You have pioneering engineering approaches which have been developed by UCL’s Biochemical Engineering department, a world class community of cell biologists and forward thinking clinicians right out on your doorstep developing new therapies. So we work together in truly multidisciplinary groups with the shared goal of developing new cell therapy treatments
Will your new appointment change anything?
I’m going to the Maldives! But that’s completely unrelated.
Dr Farlan Veraitch is undergraduate tutor in Biochemical Engineering and is responsible for mammalian cell culture teaching in the department. He co-ordinates the Mammalian Cell Culture MBI module and teaches fundamental engineering subjects such as heat and mass transfer.