OxSyBio hosts Tomorrow’s World

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OxSyBio scientists with Maggie Philbin during the tour of the lab for BBC’s Tomorrow’s World.

23 November, 2018

OxSyBio was featured on a one-off live show of Tomorrow’s World which aired at 9pm on BBC Four on Thursday 22 November. 

When the production team first expressed an interest in featuring 3D printing for medical diagnostics, we jumped at the chance to get on board. It was an honour to give Maggie Philbin OBE and the crew a tour of OxSybio’s biofabrication laboratory on the Harwell Campus in Oxford.

The feature was introduced as part of a long-standing tradition of “breaking new medical stories” on Tomorrow’s World.

Sam Olof, Chief Technology Officer, was able to explain OxSybio’s vision for supporting medical diagnostics and treatment for long-standing chronic and critical illnesses:

“You’re in a hospital environment for, say, cancer and a tiny bit of your tissue gets put into your machines. We make hundreds of replicates and we can tailor the treatments.  Essentially, we take all the cutting-edge therapies and peronsalise to an individual.”

This could mean you don’t have to be given chemotherapy because it’s the first mode of treatment. You would be given it because your body responds.”

Maggie Philbin concluded by saying: “The future of this technology is potentially very, very exciting.”

You can view the whole programme by following this link (the feature on OxSyBio is at 22 minutes).

Tomorrow’s World is such an iconic British programme. For many of our senior scientists – now pursuing careers at the forefront of British biotechnology – it was their first exposure to science on mainstream TV. Thinking back to when they watched the show growing up, our team recall some of their favourite memories:



World Diabetes Day 2018 Q&A

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To commemorate World Diabetes Day on 14 November 2018, we talked to Roger D. Cox Ph.D, who leads the research into the Genetics of type 2 diabetes at MRC Harwell Institute.

What has been your path into MRC Harwell? 

I started out working on somatic cell genetics during my PhD at the Institute of Neurology in London, mapping human muscle cell antigens and then did a postdoc in skeletal muscle contractile protein gene regulation at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. I then moved into genome mapping in a second postdoc at the ICRF, Lincoln Inns Fields. After that I led the physical mapping and gene ID group at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford, during which time I first worked on the genetics of diabetes. I came to MRC Harwell in 1999 to set up a group working on the genetics of type 2 diabetes using the mouse as a model system.

Why have you dedicated research to diabetes and genetics?

Diabetes affects almost 4.7 million people in the UK with 1 million of those being undiagnosed. Diabetes has the potential to have a significant effect on an individual’s health and quality of life and can lead to increased mortality in those affected. Genetics offers a powerful way of identifying the underlying mechanisms that lead to increased risk of developing the disease.

How important is that to helping tackle the disease?  

Human genome wide association loci mapping has generated a tremendous resource of loci that alter the risk of developing diabetes in the human population and opens the way to understanding new biology. Basic research on these loci will lead to understanding of disease mechanisms. In the longer term these approaches should lead to the identification of new targets for the development of therapeutic approaches.

Are you focused on cure or managing the disease? 

We are focused on mechanisms and this should, in some loci, lead to treatments in the longer term.

What role does synthetic biology play in tackling the disease? 

We are exploring the potential of synthetic biology in studying mechanisms in fat tissue. Fat is important for the storage of energy and also secretes hormones and has an important role in type 2 diabetes, a multiorgan disease. We hope to be able to model some of the processes important in adipose tissue function and carry out mechanistic studies using synthetic biology.

How important are partnerships between MRC Harwell and OxSyBio in helping to understand and tackle diabetes? 

The partnership is enabling us to do experiments that would not have been possible alone. The technology and expertise are opening new avenues of research that we will apply to the genetics of type 2 diabetes. The ability to generate highly reproducible 3D cultures at scale also offers the possibility of carrying out large scale screens which will be useful for looking for compounds that may alter cell function in order to understand how these work and potentially offer future therapeutic benefit in the long term.