The Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, Innovation in Medical and Biological Engineering is expected to bring 50 PhD studentships over five years to the University, allowing researchers to explore new treatments in fields including cardiovascular medicine, joint replacement, skin repair and dentistry.
Regenerative medicine has been identified by the government as one of “eight great technologies” vital to driving UK economic growth and the new centre confirms Leeds’ place as a leader in the discipline.
Professor John Fisher, Director of the University’s Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, which will host the CDT, said: “The centre will train the next generation of researchers in a field that has the potential to change the healthcare system and people’s quality of life. We will be bringing together the brightest young researchers from a wide range of disciplines in a structured programme to train the specialists the UK needs.”
The centre will be a hub for innovation in regenerative medicine, with 15 companies already signed up, and will involve academics from across the University’s faculties of Engineering, Medicine and Health, and Biological Sciences, its schools of Chemistry and Design and the Leeds University Business School.
Research projects already underway at the University include creating biological scaffolds to repair tissues by regenerating a patient’s own cells and developing practical stem cell-based therapies for musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and neural problems.
Dr Joanne Tipper, programme director for the new CDT, said: “This is young science with huge potential. Regenerative medicine and tissue engineering opens the possibility of intervening in the progression of conditions at a much earlier stage than is now feasible. Joint replacement, for example, is an end-stage treatment. It isn’t done until the cartilage is extraordinarily damaged. If we can get in earlier to repair and prevent that damage, we can change people’s lives.”
The doctoral trainees will enter a four-year programme that will first train them in the field and then guide them through their PhD research.
Dr Tipper said: “We will be looking at applicants from very varied backgrounds – from disciplines like chemistry, biology, mathematics, computer science, astrophysics, robotics, and aviation engineering – and bringing all that expertise to bear on the problems facing us.”
She added: “The programme will allow each student to develop their own bespoke training programme. If you are an engineer, you may be concentrating in your first year on biology or chemistry, while a chemist may want to do engineering. The taught element of the programme allows each student to build a firm foundation for their later research.”
The first cohort of doctoral trainees will be recruited early in the New Year, with ten students expected to be taken on annually. Students will earn an integrated MSc at the end of their second year.
“Unlike a traditional programme, where a PhD student will typically be recruited straight onto a particular research project, the centre will first train the researcher, allow them to get to know the field, and then chose the field that suits them,” Dr Tipper said.
The centre is part of a £390 million national programme, allocated by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), that represents the UK’s largest ever investment in postgraduate training in engineering and physical sciences.