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Former BBSRC Innovator of the Year finalists shortlisted for the 2018 European Inventor of the Year award

On the eve of BBSRC’s 10th annual Innovator of the Year awards we’re delighted to hear that Eileen Ingham and John Fisher from the University of Leeds have been shortlisted for the 2018 European Inventor of the Year award for inventing a technique to wash cells and DNA out of tissue, so it is not rejected when transplanted into human bodies. The pair were finalists in BBSRC’s Innovator of the Year awards in 2009.

Now the University of Leeds is calling on people to vote for the invention, to help recognise and celebrate the pioneering technique. You can vote here: European Patent Office: Eileen Ingham and John Fisher CBE (UK).

Eileen Ingham, a medical immunologist, and medical engineer John Fisher are both long-standing senior professors at the University Leeds. Together, they have developed and expanded the technique called decellularisation over the past 20 years. Theirs is one of only two UK entries in the international competition.

Since the ground-breaking process was first developed and tested in laboratory and clinical studies, it has been used across the world, from supporting soft tissue replacements in injuries in knee joints, through to the development of a new human heart valve.

The decellularisation process works by washing a specific type of tissue to be used as an implant in a series of mild solutions. This removes cells, then lipid membranes, various other molecules and finally DNA. At this point it has no cellular content and is known as a ‘scaffold’.

When it is then implanted in the body, it will not be rejected because the host body’s defences have nothing to react to. Over time the host cells will colonise the implanted tissue which will integrate and grow naturally in the body.

Professor Ingham said: “The decellularisation process tackles a really important challenge - how to help tissues regenerate. New tissue is remodelled on this biologically neutral ‘scaffold’ and we hope to see even more medical breakthroughs in the future using the technique, such as replacement tissue for hips and ankles. Our ultimate aim is to help people stay active and provide a new lease of life.”

The technique is so successful, it has been developed by a spin-out company from the University of Leeds, called Tissue Regenix, which is now an AIM-listed organisation still based in Leeds.

The two professors - who are married, having met through their research - have been jointly nominated in two categories in the annual prize, which is run by the European Patent Office.

They are pitted against two other inventions in the research category, which will be judged by experts, and against 15 others in a public vote for the popular prize. The winner will be announced on 7 June 2018.

Alex Chaix, joint Head of Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation at BBSRC - UKRI said on the eve of the 10th BBSRC Innovator of the Year Awards: “We’re delighted to see past finalists from BBSRC’s Innovator of the Year award; Professors Eileen Ingham and John Fisher; as the only UK entry on the shortlist for the European Inventor of the Year award. Their decellularisation technique received support from across UK Research and Innovation via EPSRC, BBSRC and Innovate UK and is producing life enhancing products with a potential market value of hundreds of billions of dollars per year.”



The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by government, BBSRC invested £469 million in world-class bioscience in 2016-17. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

More information about UK Research and Innovation.
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