Project Overview:

The second of the GSK-EML research projects aims to produce effective cell-derived nanomedicines for use as therapeutic carriers.  Because of their size, the medicines can be delivered with more precision as part of a targeted approach.  

This project comes as advances in nanotechnology and nanomaterials research are changing the way innovative materials can be engineered for applications in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering.


The primary subjects of this research, exosomes and extracellular vesicles (EVs) are tiny particles containing a small amount of molecules from their parent cell.  These sub-cellular vesicles have been implicated in cell-cell communication when RNA, microRNA or similar substances are transferred. 

The ability of exosomes and EVs to fuse with cells to deliver their intra vesicular ‘cargo’, combined with the relatively calming effect they have on the immune system, has generated a lot of interest over the last few years in using these nanoparticles as drug delivery vehicles. 

However, utilising exosomes or EVs as drug delivery vehicles presents a number of research challenges.  It is the aim of the project to address these challenges so that exosomes and EVs may be designed and engineered for production at an appropriate scale and quality.  To make this possible the parent cells will be manipulated to both target delivery of the right cargo and make it possible to ‘deploy’ as a therapeutic agent to meet patient needs.

The project is underpinned by state of the art materials characterisation approaches to reveal unprecedented insight into cell phenotyping and tissue regeneration in response to the exosome/EV-based nanomedicines. 

Meet the team

The Stevens Group

The Stevens Group's major aims include investigating innovative material-based approaches in tissue engineering and diagnostics as well as training next generation's ultra-talented students and postdocs.

Professor Molly Stevens

Professor Molly Stevens

Professor of Biomedical Materials & Regenerative Medicine

Faculty of Engineering, Department of Materials

Dr. Rongjun Chen

Rongjun Chen Senior Lecturer

Faculty of EngineeringDepartment of Chemical Engineering

Dr. Charles Coombes

Dr. Charles Coombes

Professor of Medical Oncology

Faculty of MedicineDepartment of Surgery & Cancer

Professor Jeremy Nicholson

Professor Jeremy Nicholson

 Chair in Biological Chemistry, Head of Department

Faculty of MedicineDepartment of Surgery & Cancer

Steve Hood

GSK logoDirector, Bioimaging and D@T,


Project motivation

The technology being developed within this project has broad potential, ranging from local wound healing applications to other regenerative medicine applications. Advances in this area would represent a new modality unlike current biological or small molecule platforms that could be used to target treatment for common and degenerative diseases. 

Indeed exosomes and EVs have not yet been exploited from a nanomaterials engineering perspective.  The opportunity of creating a joint effort bridging expertise from an internationally award-winning academic research group with the excellence of a world-leading pharmaceutical company is, therefore, incredibly timely.