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Patients to benefit from new £3M Blood and Transplant Research Unit

Generic illustration of blood cells

Press release issued: 11 September 2015

A new £3 million NIHR Blood and Transplant Research Unit [BTRU] to advance pioneering research on the manufacture of red blood cells from stem cells and their translation from the lab to human trials has been announced today [11 September 2015].

The Unit is a partnership between the University of Bristol and NHS Blood and Transplant. It will carry out research to aid the development of new red blood cell products to support the transfusion needs of patients with rare blood groups and those with complex and life-limiting conditions like Sickle Cell Disease and Thalassemia.

Life Sciences Minister, George Freeman said: “This innovative new Unit is fantastic news for patients with rare blood types and conditions, whose lives will be transformed through the latest pioneering research.  Investment by the National Institute for Health Research in this project highlights the government’s ongoing commitment to translate 21st century scientific advances into real patient benefits.”

Professor Dave Anstee, Director of the Unit, said: “The Unit will support a major programme of research aimed at generating new and better blood products for patients for whom provision of conventional donated blood is problematic."

Dr Ashley Toye from the University of Bristol’s School of Biochemistry, who led the application for the NIHR Blood and Transplant Research Unit, added: "This NIHR award cements Bristol’s reputation as a world-leading centre for blood research. The Unit’s ambitious research will include a clinical trial of small volumes of artificial blood in human volunteers and also carry research to maximise blood production.”

The Unit is one of four new NIHR Blood and Transplant Research Units [BTRU] for which the National Institute for Health Research [NIHR] has committed £15.1 million of funding through a competitive process.  The BTRUs are all partnerships between top universities and NHS Blood and Transplant [NHSBT], and focus on rapid translation of research findings into routine practice in blood donation and in transplantation of stem cells and organs.

The NIHR award is a partnership between researchers from the University of Bristol and NHSBT at Bristol and Cambridge and in collaboration with researchers from the Universities of Warwick, Bath and the West of England. It will also involve collaborations with several commercial companies including Miltenyi Biotech, GE Healthcare, Sanquin Blood Supply (Netherlands) and SmartSeparations.

Further information

National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website (

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT)

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority. Its remit includes the provision of a reliable, efficient supply of blood and associated services to the NHS in England and North Wales. It is also the organ donor organisation for the UK and is responsible for matching and allocating donated organs. The landmark clinical trials in Human volunteers of manufactured blood form a key part of the blood and organ service’s 2020 Research and Development programme [published June 25, 2015], and are set to be transfused into humans by 2017.

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