NUI Galway to lead €7.45m robotic stem cell production project

3 Feb 2020

Image: © Suteren Studio/

A new EU research project at NUI Galway will look to develop advanced cellular therapeutics for osteoarthritis and other major diseases.

The Regenerative Medicine Institute (Remedi) at NUI Galway will lead a €7.45m EU-backed research programme called AutoCrat, which aims to bring a robotic revolution to the production of stem cell therapeutics.

Its purpose is to address the need to develop industrially relevant, cost effective and fully automated manufacturing systems for these therapeutics. Cellular therapies being tested for a wide range of conditions including degenerative diseases, immune and inflammatory disorders and cancer.

While several different types of cells may be used – such as stem cells or immune system cells – the use of living material as a medicinal product brings serious challenges in terms of production, with current manufacturing protocols relatively inefficient and limited in scale.

Now, the AutoCrat project’s Regenerative Medicine Factory will look to produce chondrocytes and stem cells for arthritis treatments using robots for every manufacturing step. It will also generate products based on proteins, RNA and other materials that stem cells produce and that are now understood to be key elements of their therapeutic mechanism.

The technology was developed from a predecessor project called AutoStem, which led to the development of a fully automated and closed advanced robotic platform for the industrial-scale manufacture of cell products.

‘A game-changing innovation’

The project will be led by Prof Mary Murphy, a principal investigator at Remedi. Other academic institutions working on AutoCrat include the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology at Aachen, the University of Gothenburg, Leiden University Medical Centre, Essen University Hospital and the University of Genoa.

“This is an exciting interdisciplinary project that will develop new cell therapies for arthritis and provide the platform for automated, robot-enabled manufacturing of the cell products to ensure that patients will benefit in the foreseeable future,” Murphy said.

According to Frank Barry, professor of cellular therapy at Remedi, AutoCrat can help solve the most serious obstacle facing the cell therapy industry: “We know from our experience in managing cell therapy clinical trials that the manufacturing side is inefficient and vulnerable with an unacceptably high cost of goods.

“The only way the field can progress is through the widespread adoption of highly automated production and testing protocols. AutoCrat addresses these gaps and will be a game-changing innovation.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic