In June this year, TAP announced its involvement in the U.K. government-funded RAFT (rapid automated fabrication of tissues) collaboration, with scientists at University College London (UCL). The technology, licensed by TAP from UCL, involves generating complex 3-D tissues by mixing cells with collagen, casting the gel into a mold and compressing it into a sheet.
This structure has properties much like natural tissue and allows the construction of multiple layers with different cell types, TAP claims. Automating the production of tissues will allow the size, shape, thickness, and cell density to be reproducibly controlled to allow the consistent manufacture of tissues for potential therapeutic use, as well as providing a low-cost method of producing tissue models for drug discovery and development.
The three-year RAFT program initially aims to manufacture 3-D human corneal tissue using corneal limbal stem cells, as a means to evaluate whether the technology could be used to produce a range of different tissue types.
The UCL project also complements TAP's involvement with ESNATS, a European initiative looking at the use of stem cells in drug development, and the Remedi consortium, a U.K.-based group of industry and academic partners, including Cambridge University and Intercytex, researching cost-effective production of stem cell-based therapies. TAP contributes both to the leadership of the overall program and advises on the manufacturing and automation elements of the project.