Winner: 2022 Chemistry Biology Interface Division Horizon Prize: Rita and John Cornforth Award
For the development, application and translation of chemical tools for cryobiology.
Celebrate Team Ice
Team Ice, a multidisciplinary collaboration between researchers and industrial partners, are being recognised for the development, application and translation of chemical tools for cryobiology. These advances have a direct impact on the development and delivery of emerging medicines.
The team worked to explore cryobiology, studying the effects of extremely low temperature on living organisms and cells. Team Ice’s work will find its most critical impacts in future clinical applications. The work will reduce the toxicity of current cell-based therapies and will allow increased flexibility in patient treatment, improving patient outcomes entirely.
Team Ice are collaborating to develop the synthetic, bio, physical and computational chemical tools to understand how ice forms and grows, and to improve cryopreservation – the freezing of biological materials. This knowledge is being deployed in real-world applications, seeking to transform cell cryopreservation, working with industrial collaborators and a spin-out company. In turn, these advances have a direct impact on the development and delivery of emerging medicines, as well as other areas where ice has an impact.
Cryopreservation is key for drug discovery, cell therapy delivery, and for new exciting regenerative medicine treatments, but is limited by lack of understanding and toxicity of current cryoprotectant chemicals. This work will not only boost cryopreservation itself but will have direct impact on new treatments we are all likely to receive later in life.
The teamSee full team
Fabienne Bachtiger, PhD Student, University of Warwick
Trisha Bailey, PhD Student, University of Warwick
Alexander Baker, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Warwick
Dani Ballesteros, Scientist, Kew Gardens
Caroline Biggs, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Warwick
Akalabya Bissoyi, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Warwick
Thomas Congdon, Founder and visiting researcher, Cryologyx Ltd
Bethany Dean, Undergraduate Student, University of Warwick
Robert Deller, PhD Student, University of Warwick
Alice Fayter, PhD Student, University of Warwick
Iain Galpin, PhD Student, University of Warwick
Ya Nan Gao, PhD Student, University of Warwick and SUSTECH
Panagiotis Georgiou, PhD Student, University of Warwick
Matthew Ian Gibson, Professor, University of Warwick
Natalia Gonzalez Martinez, PhD Student, University of Warwick
Ben Graham, PhD Student, University of Warwick
Muhammad Hasan, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Warwick
Toru Ishibe, Visiting Researcher, University of Warwick/JSR
Peter Kilbride, Scientist, Cytiva Ltd
Nina Kinney, PhD Student, University of Warwick
Ioanna Kontopoulou, PhD Student, University of Warwick
James Lapworth, Technology Transfer Officer, Warwick Ventures
Huba Marton, PhD student, University of Warwick
Daniel A Mitchell, Associate Professor, University of Warwick
Daniel E Mitchell, PhD Student, University of Warwick
Alexander Murray, PhD Student, University of Warwick
Kathryn Murray, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Warwick
Rebecca Notman, Associate Professor, University of Warwick
Gabriele Sosso, Associate Professor, University of Warwick
Christopher Stubbs, PhD Student, University of Warwick
Ruben M F Tomas, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Warwick
Nick Vail, Undergraduate Student, University of Warwick
Matt Warren, PhD Student, University of Warwick
Thomas Whale, Leverhulme Trust Research Fellow, University of Warwick
What were the biggest challenges in this project?
Gabriele Sosso: From our perspective, the main challenge was certainly the gap between experiments and simulations, which is a well-known, long-standing issue in the field. The time and length scales involved in our computer simulations are drastically shorter than those characterising the experimental reality. However, we are very pleased to say that the combined efforts of the team have come a long way to fill that gap, thus paving the way for future collaborative work within the entire community.
Kathryn Murray: Cryopreservation is such a multi-disciplinary field, therefore one challenge was making sure we had expertise across a diverse range of research areas. Luckily, we are fortunate to have a very inter-disciplinary group of hardworking, collaborative individuals.
Why is this work so important and exciting?
Dani Ballesteros: Very little was known on the effects of a diversity of plant explants in the formation of clouds and on the chemical/molecular basis of this phenomenon, as well as on the ecological and evolutionary aspects of it for plants. This work is unique in the field, not only for the diversity of species/explants investigated but also for the connections made between atmospheric sciences, plant evolution and distribution and cell cryopreservation.
Where do you see the biggest impact of this technology/research being?
Kathryn Murray: I see this technology enabling some of the most exciting developments in modern medicine, such as the use of cell-based therapies. Being able to store large quantities of cell stocks for prolonged periods will allow key research as well as a traceable and effective supply chain for new therapies.
Peter Kilbride: My area is cryopreservation, where this technology will have a large impact. Improving cryopreservation methods will not only increase regenerative medicine and new cancer treatments such as T-cell therapies, it will also allow materials to be preserved and used more widely in research, reducing waste and increasing supply of cells in research.
How will this work be used in real life applications?
Natalia Gonzalez-Martinez: This work will provide the basis for improving the safety and transport of cell-based therapies, aiming to increase patient accessibility to treatment.
James Lapworth: The most immediate applications are being developed through a new spinout company, CryoLogyx Ltd., which is developing cryopreserved pre-plated cells for use in drug discovery and related research fields. These products have the potential to significantly increase the ease and the speed at which cell-based assays can be performed. Longer term applications also exist in the emerging cell therapy industry and in other high value biological therapeutics.
How do you see this work developing over the next few years, and what is next for this technology/research?
Dani Ballesteros: The team has already started to expand the research from pollen – the original project – to fungi and fern spores with some pilot projects and project proposals. I think we will expand into other plant groups (for example, bryophytes). I also think the number of species researched in each plant group will increase, as this will give us a better picture of the ice nucleation trait over ecological and phylogenetical aspects. Having this wide range of living organisms across kingdoms may also uncover a diverse set of molecules involved in ice nucleation, which will need deep chemical characterization and may lead to new applications.