Aston University to develop robotic stem cell factory

Stem Cells

22 February 2016

Aston University is playing a critical role in a €6 million EU project working to develop a robotic stem cell factory, which will reduce the cost of manufacturing adult stem cells and open up the opportunity to produce new therapies for a range of conditions. 

The AUTOSTEM consortium, coordinated by NUI Galway in Ireland, has received funding through the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme to address the current challenges in manufacturing stem cells. 

Dr Qasim Rafiq, academic lead for the project at Aston University and Lecturer in Bioprocess Engineering, explains: “Stem cell therapies have the potential to treat currently unmet patient needs and provide therapies for conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and Parkinson’s. However, current manufacturing methods for adult stem cells are costly, time-consuming and labour-intensive, so will be unable to satisfy the expected patient demand. 

“Our project will develop a scalable, automated robotic system for the growth of adult stem cells, allowing us to significantly reduce the costs associated with stem cell therapies and helping improve quality of life for patients around the world.” 

The clinical product being developed involves isolating and purifying adult stem cells from the bone marrow before growing these in bioreactors to achieve sufficient numbers of cells to treat thousands of patients. This work will be conducted in a sterile, aseptic cleanroom facility operated by a robotic system. 


For more information, or to request an interview, please contact: 

Jo Nussbaum: [email protected] / 020 7089 2092

Matt Dickinson: [email protected] / 020 7089 2084

Jonathan Garbett: [email protected] / 0121 204 4552 

Notes to Editors 


The AUTOSTEM project will last three years and consortium partners include: Aston University (UK); NUI Galway (Ireland); Orbsen Therapeutics (Ireland); Zellwerk (Germany); Cell & Gene Therapy Catapult (UK); Crospon (Ireland); Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology (Germany); Tyndall-UCC (Ireland); Universita Degli Studi Di Genova (Italy); and Pintail Ltd (Ireland). 

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston University  has been always been a force for change. For 50 years the University has been transforming lives through pioneering research, innovative teaching and graduate employability success. Aston is renowned for its opportunity enabler through broad access and inspiring academics, providing education that is applied and has real impact on all areas of society, business and industry.  True to Aston’s Coat of Arms which bears the word ‘Forward’, in 2016 Aston will hold a year-long anniversary celebration to recognise its heritage and achievements, but with a focus to drive forward the next stage in the University’s exciting journey.