Innovation news in brief: stem cells; healthcare; Internet of Things; farming

Bone marrow stem cells

Aston University wins funding to develop robotic stem cell factory

Aston University is playing a key role in a €6 million EU project working to develop a robotic stem cell factory, which will reduce the cost of manufacturing adult stem cells and open up the opportunity to produce new therapies for a range of conditions.

The AUTOSTEM consortium, coordinated by NUI Galway in Ireland, has received funding through the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme to address the current challenges in manufacturing stem cells.

Dr Qasim Rafiq, academic lead for the project at Aston University and lecturer in bioprocess engineering, explained: “Stem cell therapies have the potential to treat currently unmet patient needs and provide therapies for conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and Parkinson’s. However, current manufacturing methods for adult stem cells are costly, time-consuming and labour-intensive, so will be unable to satisfy the expected patient demand.

“Our project will develop a scalable, automated robotic system for the growth of adult stem cells, allowing us to significantly reduce the costs associated with stem cell therapies and helping improve quality of life for patients around the world.”

The clinical product being developed involves isolating and purifying adult stem cells from the bone marrow before growing these in bioreactors to achieve sufficient numbers of cells to treat thousands of patients. This work will be conducted in a sterile, aseptic cleanroom facility operated by a robotic system.

Innovations reducing child deaths in developing countries share $1 million prize

GSK and Save the Children have revealed the winners of their third annual US$1 million Healthcare Innovation Award, which recognises innovations from developing countries that are helping to reduce deaths among children under five.

A paperless immunisation records system in Vietnam won the largest share of the award, followed by a foil pouch for accurately giving HIV medicines to newborns in Ecuador; an integrated care package for mothers and newborns in Kenya; and a tool for better understanding child deaths in South Africa.

Lisa Bonadonna, head of the GSK-Save the Children partnership, said: “These latest inspiring innovations are strengthening healthcare systems and improving access to healthcare for mothers and children in some of the most underserved communities. We look forward to seeing them scale up and share their fantastic ideas, as previous winners have already gone on to do.”

Mavis Owusu-Gyamfi, director of programme policy and quality at Save the Children and a member of the award judging panel, added: “This year’s Healthcare Innovation Award applicants have once again demonstrated the best solutions for complex problems are often created by people affected by or closest to the problem. The pioneering healthcare solutions that the panel selected are already helping to save children’s lives in communities. I am confident that through the recognition and funding from this award, these winning innovations can be replicated to help make a bigger impact for the world’s most vulnerable children.”

More details regarding the award winners and their innovations is available here

Internet of Things spending set to soar

The Internet of Things (IoT) is clearly one of the fastest-growing areas in the technology industry, reports Information Week.

According to the latest forecast from IDC, IoT spending will likely grow from $698.6 billion last year to nearly $1.3 trillion in 2019, for a compound annual growth rate of 17%.

In its State of the Market: The Internet of Things 2015 report, Verizon estimated that only about 10% of enterprises have adopted IoT extensively so far. But it predicts that by 2025, enterprises that do adopt IoT extensively will be at least 10% more profitable than their competitors.

Innovation hub to hothouse new ideas for farmers and foresters in Wales

A project developed in Europe to stimulate new ideas in the rural sector is now being rolled out across Wales, reports the Daily Post.

The European Innovation Partnership (EIP) was launched in 2012 with the aim of facilitating novel approaches and ideas by groups of farmers and foresters.

In Wales, the EIP will work alongside Farming Connect’s Knowledge Exchange Hub, which is hosted by IBERS, Aberystwyth University.

Prof Mike Gooding, director of IBERS, said: “We want to hear from farmers and foresters who have an idea for addressing a specific issue or challenge, or a new approach they would like to trial or test.”

Contact details here

Lancaster Science Park to move forward

Plan to build a science park in Lancaster look set to move forward with councillors poised to approve a renewed planning application for the site, according to Insider.

Lancaster City Council's planning committee will next week be asked to renew outline approval for the 365,972 sq ft science park at Bailrigg Business Park, which is located next to Lancaster University. Approval is also being sought for the construction of an internal spine road and provision of landscaping.

The green light for the huge scheme, which could potentially create more than 1,000 jobs, was originally given in 2009 and again in 2012. However, the project stalled following the closure of the Northwest Regional Development Agency, which had agreed to provide funding.