13 Jun 23

World Blood Donor Day: Scarlet Therapeutics

Blood donations are essential to Scarlet Therapeutics’ R&D on red blood cell-based therapies

Every year, countries around the world celebrate World Blood Donor Day to raise awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products; and to thank voluntary, unpaid blood donors for their life-saving gifts of blood.

Today, we’re using this opportunity to highlight the incredible work done by Science Creates Member, Scarlet Therapeutics – a leader in red blood cell-based therapeutics. The team’s work, which applies advanced genetic engineering techniques to lab grown red blood cells (RBCs), has the potential to transform these cells into life-saving new treatments – and this all starts with a blood donation.

From research to a potential world-first

For two decades, the team behind Scarlet Therapeutics has been at the forefront of lab grown blood. Scarlet was founded by world renowned blood scientists, Professor Ash Toye and Professor Jan Frayne, at the University of Bristol, following decades of research including the ground-breaking RESTORE study run by NHS Blood and Transplant and the University of Bristol, which is investigating the transfusion of lab-grown blood into patients. The team is now developing a proprietary platform that generates novel red blood cell-based therapeutics to potentially treat a wide range of diseases, initially targeted at the rare metabolic diseases, hyperammonemia and hyperoxaluria but their approach could also be used more broadly to target other metabolic diseases, cancer and autoimmune diseases in the future.

Scarlet has assembled a range of technologies to help it achieve its aims:

* The production of red blood cells (RBCs) in the lab from stem cells

* The genetic manipulation of the stem cells in order to create RBCs with enhanced properties (due to the presence of additional therapeutic proteins – tRBCs)

* Technologies for the maintenance of the additional therapeutic proteins within the RBCs

* The ability to generate RBC producing cell lines that can then be further manipulated to provide more complex treatments and to be compatible with a higher percentage of patients

Professor Ash Toye, Director of the NIHR Blood and Transplant Research Unit in Red Cell Products at University of Bristol and Co-founder of Scarlet Therapeutics, says “It’s fantastic to have a day where we think about, and thank blood donors and those that help collect donations. To thank them not only for their amazing altruism in providing these essential blood transfusions that save lives around the world but also for those who consent for research to be conducted on any spare, donated material. The research conducted using waste products from this precious gift from blood donors led to the RESTORE clinical trial that is underway and the establishment of Scarlet Therapeutics. We are extremely thankful for this and are mindful that we still need donors to donate for the lifesaving NHS and to be able to conduct our state-of-the-art research.”

Find out more about Scarlet Therapeutics’ work here. If you’d like to donate blood then visit the NHS’ Give Blood page here.

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