With a background in pharmacology I have always had an interest in healthcare and in 2008 I was appointed to a lectureship at Loughborough University within the Department of Chemical Engineering, in support of the EPSRC-funded Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) in Regenerative Medicine. As well as being the Operations Manager of the DTC, I also co-lead the Cell Technologies research group within Loughborough University’s Centre for Biological Engineering.
The overarching theme of my research is the manufacture of cellular therapies. The ultimate aim is to generate a viable stem cell bioprocess such that clinically relevant cell numbers can be generated whilst ensuring product potency, purity and safety. Developing scalable systems for stem cell growth and improving methods of cell preservation are the current focus of the group. For example, cells are typically frozen in order to enable storage and transportation but despite cryoprotectants being used to limit the damage to cells during this process, recovery of functional cells can be low. One issue is that the DMSO, which is typically used as a cryoprotectant, is reported to be cytotoxic and can also cause adverse reactions in patients if infused as part of a cell therapy. We are therefore exploring alternatives to DMSO, such as trehalose, and freezing.
In addition to being a member of the EPSRC Early Career Forum in Manufacturing Research, I am a member of the Bioprocessing Research Industry Club (BRIC) community, am on the editorial board of Biotechnology Letters and am the meetings secretary for ESACT-UK, the UK Society for Cell Culture Biotechnology. I am also a STEM Ambassador, going into schools to talk to pupils about regenerative medicine, the manufacture of cell-based therapies and/or careers in biological engineering.
- Coopman K, 2011, Large scale compatible methods for the preservation of human embryonic stem cells: current perspectives, Biotechnology Progress, 27: 1511-1521
- Want AJ, Nienow AW, Hewitt CJ, Coopman K, 2012, Large-scale expansion and exploitation of pluripotent stem cells for regenerative medicine purposes: beyond the T flask, Regenerative Medicine, 7(1): 71-84.
- Rafiq QA, Coopman K, Niewnow AW, Hewitt CJ, 2013, A quantitative approach for understanding small-scale human mesenchymal stem cell culture – implications for large-scale bioprocess development, Biotechnology Journal, 8, epub Feb (doi: 10.1002/biot.201200197
Contact Dr Karen Coopman
Cohort 1 (36 months)