The University of Leeds is calling on people to vote for the invention in the prize competition, to help recognise and celebrate the pioneering technique.
Eileen Ingham, a medical immunologist and John Fisher, a medical engineer 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.
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 decelluarisation 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 decelluarisation 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 also married having met through their research, have been jointly nominated in two categories in the annual prize, 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.
Professor Ingham, who completed her BSc degree and PhD at Leeds and has spent her entire career working in the University’s labs, added: “We’ve always been committed to making a real and telling difference to the world around us. Our decelluarisation process has shown how research in universities can have a genuinely positive impact on improving people’s lives.
“We were really pleased to be shortlisted, because technical science and medical engineering breakthroughs are often very specialised.
We’ve harnessed two very different fields of research to create this solution, bringing together the physical science of John’s engineering background with my own biological understanding, and it’s been wonderful to see the technique evolve across the world.
“Now both John and I are crossing our fingers for the result to go our way. If we win it will be something for all our colleagues over the years, and for the city of Leeds as a whole, to be proud of.”
Professor Lisa Roberts, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation at the University of Leeds said: “Congratulations to Eileen and John on being shortlisted for the prize; the University as a whole is very proud of their achievement. Researchers and clinicians in their field across the world know how important their invention has been, but this is a great chance to bring this international prize to Leeds, so please do take a few minutes to vote.”
Together, the two professors founded the Institute of Medical & Biological Engineering (iMBE) at the University, globally recognised as one the top centres for research and innovation in medical engineering and which now acts as a regional host for national medical technologies centres.
Much of the research carried out to develop the decelluarisation technique has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Bioscience and Biotechnology Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation
The original science which led to the ‘invention’ comes with the selection of specific chemicals which the tissue is washed in, and the concentrations at which they are used, as well as the addition of inhibitor enzymes to control other aspects of the process.
Journalists with questions or interview requests can contact Peter Le Riche in the University of Leeds press office on 0113 3463 2049 or email email@example.com
The European Inventor of the Year Award, now in its 13th year, is one of Europe's most prestigious innovation prizes. Launched by the European Patent Office (EPO) in 2006, the annual award distinguishes individual inventors and teams whose pioneering inventions provide answers to some of the biggest challenges of our times.
Helen Miller, Innovate UK (Apr 2018), £999,960
Elisabetta Groppelli, David Rowlands & Stanley Lemon (University of North Carolina), Medical Research Foundation Fellowship (Apr 2018), £293,494
Nikesh Patel, Medical Research Foundation fellowship (Apr 2018), £290,976
Jessica Kwok & Ralf Richter, Leverhulme Trust (Apr 2018), £298,273
Julie Aspden, Royal Society (Apr 2018), £20,000
Liz Duncan, Royal Society (Mar 2018), £14,602
Alex O'Neill & Ryan Seipke, BBSRC (Feb 2018), £45,489
Jim Deuchars, Royal Society (Feb 2018), £16,300
Stefan Kepinski & Netta Cohen, Leverhulme Trust (Feb 2018), £320,387
Lisa Collins, BBSRC (Feb 2018), £49,950
Lars Jeuken, BBSRC (Feb 2018), £30,000
Nikita Gamper, BBSRC (Feb 2018), £30,000
Alison Baker, BBSRC (Feb 2018), £30,000
Scott Bowen, Leducq Foundation Grant (Feb 2018), £28,470
Jessica Kwok and Ronaldo Ichiyama, International Spinal Research Trust (Feb 2018), £94,450
Alex O'Neill, Oxford Drug Design (Jan 2018), £86,098
Dave Lewis and Colleagues in South Africa, HEFCE Global Challenge Research (Jan 2018), £48,000
Sarah Calaghan, Ed White, John Colyer, Isuru Jayasinghe, BHF (Jan 2018), £128,308
Christine Foyer and Alison Baker, HEFCE GCRF Grant (Jan 2018), £71,158
Alison Baker, Yun Yung Gong and Lindsay Stringer and ICRISAT India, HEFCE GCRF Grant (Jan 2018), £27,000
Graham Askew, Simon Walker, BBSRC (Jan 2018), £699,781
Jennifer Tomlinson, Royal Society (Jan 2018), £512,801
Alison Dunn, NERC (Dec 2017), £18,000
Jennifer Tomlinson, Royal Society-Research Fellows Enhancement Award (Dec 2017), £94,681
Helen Miller, AB AGri Grant (Dec 2017), £73,600
Simon Walker, Royal Society Enhancement Award (Dec 2017), £10,000
Carrie Ferguson, Bryan Taylor, Harry Rossiter, The Physiological Society (Dec 2017), £7,392
Ralf Richter, Royal Society (Dec 2017), £6,000
Christine Foyer, British Council Newton Fund (Dec 2017), £49,840
Adrian Whitehouse and colleagues in School of Chemistry and University of Liverpool, MRC (Nov 2017), £622,319
Michelle Peckham, Neil Ransom, MRC (Nov 2017), £495,159
Dave Lewis, British Council India (Nov 2017), £22,540
Elton Zeqiraj, Royal Society (Nov 2017), £15,000
Hannah Dugdale, Royal Society (Nov 2017), £15,000
Shaunna Burke, Cancer Research UK Innovation Grant (Nov 2017), £20,000
Alex O'Neill and colleagues in Chemistry, BBSRC (Nov 2017), £431,865
Jessica Kwok, Wings for Life (Nov 2017), £87,365
Tom Bennett, BBSRC (Oct 2017), £523,679
Neil Ranson, Darren Tomlinson, BBSRC (Oct 2017), £494,318
Nikita Gamper, BBSRC (Oct 2017), £490,426
Amanda Bretman and colleagues from UEA, NERC (Oct 2017), £430,886
Juan Fontana, Rosetrees Trust consumables grant (Oct 2017), £22,500
Helen Miller, DSM Nutritional Products AG (Sep 2017), £69,988
Neil Ranson, Juan Fontana, Mark Harris, Michelle Peckham, Ralf Richter, Peter Stockley, Patricija Van Oosten-Hawle and colleagues in Engineering, FMH and MAPS, Wellcome Trust Equipment Call (Sep 2017), £418,000
Jamie Johnston, Physiological Society (Sep 2017), £10,000
Frank Sobott, Adrian Goldman, Mark Harris, Andrew Macdonald, Stephen Muench, Sheena Radford and colleagues in FMH and MAPS, Wellcome Trust Equipment Call (Aug 2017), £415,000
Ralf Richter, David Brockwell, Eric Hewitt, Jessica Kwok, Emanuele Paci and MAPS/FMH, BBSRC (Jun 2017), £600,000
Eric Blair, Adrian Whitehouse, Nicola Stonehouse, Alison Baker, Richard Bayliss, Joan Boyes, Ryan Seipke, Sally Boxall and MAPS/FMH, BBSRC (Jun 2017), £376,000
Stefan Kepinski, Yoselin Benitez-Alfonso, Tom Bennett, Michelle Peckham, BBSRC (Jun 2017), £331,000
Roman Tuma, Lars Jeuken, Paul Millner, Sheena Radford, Peter Stockley and MAPS/FMH, BBSRC (Jun 2017), £222,000
Vas Ponnambalam, Darren Tomlinson, Stephen Wheatcroft, BHF (May 2017), £107,878