Research rising star - Robert Thomas
- Groundbreaking research underpins scientific advances in cell therapies
Dr Robert Thomas initially trained as a pharmacist at The University of Nottingham (MPharm, 2001 and PhD, 2005) – including a period in pharmaceutics R&D with Pfizer – before returning to academia to conduct graduate research in liver tissue engineering in 2002.
He joined Loughborough in 2006 as a Research Associate in Regenerative Medicine Manufacturing and secured a Lectureship and RCUK Research Fellowship the following year.
His early research earned a number of honours including the IChemE International Award for Innovation and Excellence in Bioprocessing (2009), and was highly commended in the DaVinci Healthcare Engineering Awards (2008).
He took up his present roles as a Senior Lecturer and Deputy Director of the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Regenerative Medicine in 2010.
In 2013, he was awarded an EPSRC Early Career Fellowship of £1.3m to develop tools to manufacture industrial quantities of medically valuable cells from umbilical cord blood.
In the same year, he joined a consortium led by the Scottish National Blood and Transfusion Service that was awarded Wellcome Trust funding to conduct clinical trials of manufactured red blood cells. Dr Thomas’s lab is developing the manufacturing process for the red blood cells from pluripotent stem cells.
His current work comprises a number of other projects – with both academic and commercial partners – to develop the technology to support the manufacture of therapeutic cells and tissue outside the body including liver, neural and mesenchymal.
These research activities are providing the tools and methods underpinning scientific advances in haematopoietic and other cell therapies – creating real products to treat life-threatening problems including leukaemia, donor blood shortages and organ failure.