TAP Biosystems has been awarded additional funding from the U.K.’s Technology Strategy Board to support further development of a biomimetic cornea and progress the product into preclinical development and a first-in-man safety trial in two patients.
The firm will continue its ongoing partnership with a team at the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London (UCL) to develop a RAFT (real architecture for 3-D tissue) production technology for generating clinical-grade tissues. Developed by TAP in collaboration with tissue engineering academics, RAFT is designed to enable the creation of complex 3-D cell cultures from collagen, consistently and reproducibly, in a simple-to-use format.
Head of the UCL team, Julie Daniels, M.D., has been collaborating with TAP since 2008. Her work has already demonstrated that RAFT tissues seeded with epithelial stem cells can generate corneal tissue that closely mimics the cells’ in vivo environment and supports stem cell growth, offering potential benefits for ocular surface transplant technology.
“There is a genuine clinical problem with some biomaterials used to culture and transplant cells," Dr. Daniels remarks. “The RAFT process creates a natural collagen scaffold that can be engineered to replicate features of the stem cell niche and is a more realistic environment to support the stem cell population. The additional funding we have received from the Technology Strategy Board is a great vote of confidence in the potential of RAFT to deliver a corneal tissue equivalent, which we believe will be more effective in treating patients with blinding corneal surface damage.”