Pioneering biotech start-up looking to tackle global donor tissue shortages joins growing life science cluster on Newcastle Helix

A biotech start-up, whose technology aims to tackle cornea donor tissue shortages and speed up life-changing transplants worldwide, has moved into a specialist lab facility – The Biosphere on Newcastle Helix.

3D Bio-Tissues and their technology is the outcome of more than 20 years of pioneering research. They specialise in creating ‘bio-equivalent’ structural tissues. Their technology works by applying novel bio-inspired manufacturing processes to generate complex structures. The team’s goal is to create structured, functional, and scalable tissues for both clinical and industrial use. 

The company spun-out of Newcastle University in 2019, and their current focus is to develop corneal, muscle and skin tissue equivalents from human and animal cells, to bypass the need for synthetic materials. These tissue equivalents will replace the need for scarce donor tissues, speeding up the clinical process and procedure for transplant patients across the globe.
 
Their lead product is a human derived corneal tissue product that aims to address the chronic world-wide shortage of sight-saving donor corneas.

Once cemented in The Biosphere, 3D Bio-Tissues have ambitious plans to progress with other projects, including developing skin care additives for topical products and addressing the challenges of improving the quality and quantity of lab grown meat to sustain an environmentally friendly food source using their unique ‘tissue-templating’ production platform. 

Based on Newcastle Helix, The Biosphere is a fit-for-purpose laboratory and office building dedicated to life science innovation, research, development, and commercialisation. Located in the heart of Newcastle’s City Centre and a £1.5bn life science eco-system, 3D Bio-Tissues will join eight other University spinouts including AMLo Biosciences, NewCells Biotech, NorthGene, MDNA Life Sciences, BiBerChem, Demuris, Atelerix and Alcyomics. 

Dr Che Connon, co-founder and CEO of 3D Bio-Tissues has extensive experience in extracellular matrix biology and is currently Professor of Tissue Engineering at Newcastle University. He is passionate about the commercialisation of life sciences, having successfully spun out three bio-tech companies in Newcastle. 

He says: 

“The Biosphere is an ideal location for us to commercialise and test our ideas and work towards getting our products to market. Our aim is to develop life-changing tissue equivalents, such as our corneal product to combat the global shortage in transplant donors. 

“The opportunity to make connections with other life science companies, small and large, based already in The Biosphere, including the many academic researchers and industry partners, provides a dynamic environment to innovate and collaborate. 

“The Newcastle Helix community is great for generating business and investment in the area, as well as bringing attention to the excellent work being carried out in the life sciences sector. We are delighted to join this community and be a part of growing bio-tech hub in the city.”

Dr Rachel Sanders, R&D Technician at 3D Bio-Tissues said:

“Having recently obtained a PhD in molecular biology from Edinburgh University, I decided to continue my career in Newcastle due to the many resources and assets the city has to offer in the life sciences field, including the pioneering and innovative companies based in The Biosphere and within the Newcastle Helix eco-system. No longer do scientists have to move down south to start a career in this sector, and myself along with many other academics and professionals based on Newcastle Helix is proof of that.  We are thrilled to be joining a list of innovative start-ups and established companies here.

“Being a spin-out from Newcastle University, we were originally based in labs on site and eventually outgrew that space. The increased lab space will enable us to expand our research and production and thrive as a growing business.
“The location of the lab will also allow us to maintain our connections to the University as well as connect with the high calibre of students graduating. This will be hugely beneficial for future staff expansion and collaboration projects.” 
Councillor Ged Bell, Cabinet Member for Employment and Culture at Newcastle City Council added: 
“Newcastle University has a successful track record of innovative spin-out businesses that not only supports the growth of the life science sector and the creation of jobs for local people, it helps further position our city as a career destination, retaining and attracting the best talent. A big welcome to yet another company who has joined our life sciences community on Newcastle Helix.” 
Luke Dunnett, Property Business Manager at The Biosphere, added: 
“We are proud The Biosphere is home to so many life-changing innovations that look to save and improve lives not only in Newcastle, but across the world. 
“Our building’s popularity is a testament to our city’s strengths in life sciences. The density of expertise, talent and world-leading research in The Biosphere and wider city make us a hot spot for life sciences; one that can be showcased on a global stage.
“We look forward to maximising these commercial opportunities, supporting businesses and attracting even more talented entrepreneurs and leaders to start and grow a business in Newcastle.”
The Biosphere is a purpose-built laboratory facility on Newcastle Helix dedicated to the commercialisation of life sciences. It has secured significant funding through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the Government’s Local Growth Deal through the North East LEP.  Both funds help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.

For further information about 3D Bio-Tissues visit https://www.3dbiotissues.com/ 

Photo caption: L:R:- Dr Miguel Jarrin, Research and Development Scientist (3D Bio-Tissues), Dr Rachel Sanders, Research and Development Technician ((3D Bio-Tissues), Dr Che Connon, Chief Executive Officer (3D Bio-Tissues), Luke Dunnett, Property Business Manager (The Biosphere), Councillor Ged Bell, Cabinet Member for Employment and Culture (Newcastle City Council), Dr Ricardo Gouveia, Chief Scientific Officer (3D Bio-Tissues).

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Notes to editor
About The Biosphere 

The Biosphere was awarded £8.6m from the Government’s Local Growth Fund through the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) along with £4.96m from the European Regional Development Fund.  The Biosphere owned by Newcastle City Council has received £4.96m from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for the European Regional Development Fund.

Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding. 
The Biosphere is part funded by the North East Local Growth Fund from HM Government, administered by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership. The Local Growth Fund is supporting major capital investments to promote innovation, economic and skills infrastructure and sustainable transport as part of the North East Growth Deal. 
The North East LEP works to make the North East a place where more businesses invest, grow, and prosper. For more information visit www.northeastlep.co.uk 
To find out more about The Biosphere visit https://thebiospherenewcastle.co.uk/ 

About the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is a public, private, and education sector partnership that covers Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland local authority areas. The £270.4m Local Growth Fund, secured as part of the North East Growth Deal, supports the North East LEP’s delivery of the Strategic Economic Plan, which aims to create 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024.
About the Local Growth Fund
Local Enterprise Partnerships are playing a vital role in driving forward economic growth across the country, helping to build a country that works for everyone. 
That’s why by 2021 Government will have invested over £12bn through the Local Growth Fund, allowing LEPs to use their local knowledge to get all areas of the country firing on all cylinders. 
Analysis has shown that every £1 of Local Growth Fund invested could generate £4.81 in benefits.

Further information

If you would like some further facts about the Fund, or the wider regeneration work going on across the country, please contact DCLG press office by emailing [email protected] in the first instance to request any additional information you might need.