Staff Profile:Dr Che Connon

Responsibilities:
  • Team Leader for Tissue Engineering and Cell Therapy Laboratory. Current team members include: Dr Ricardo Gouveia, Dr Stephen Swioklo and Dr Fadhilah Zainal Abidin
  • Director of Post Graduate Studies and Progression 
  • School Website Support Officer
  • Theme Leader, Smart Materials and Regenerative Therapies

 

Vision statement:

Diseases affecting the cornea are a major cause of blindness worldwide. Current treatments are limited by availability of donor tissue. Over the next 5 years we aim to apply both basic and applied research to improve corneal stem cell isolation and characterisation as well as providing novel therapeutic stem cell delivery systems using natural and synthetic hydrogels.

 

Areas of Interest:

Research in the Connon laboratory is primarily in the area of corneal tissue engineering. Within our research program, we seek to engineer functional replacement and temporary 'bridge' tissues while also developing model systems to study physiological and pathophysiological corneal tissue formation.

All projects in the lab are linked by the hypothesis that combinatorial approaches to tissue formation are superior to individual stimulation. More specifically, successful tissue engineering approaches will be realised upon the proper spatial and temporal presentation of cells, signalling molecules, biomaterials, and mechanical stimulation.

The biotechnology industry is rapidly expanding and the emerging field of tissue engineering and cell based therapy are projected to have a high impact in regenerative medicine. In particular we are investigating the application of hydrogels in this field. However, we also predict that the future of tissue engineering will not be limited to regenerative medicine. We are now starting to concieve of functional cell-based biological constructs engineered for not for transplantation but for a specific biotechnological need. We have termed this 'super tissue engineering' i.e. the design of cell based constructs that have a limited but exceptional biotechnological function.

Presently the group consists of 3 PDRA's, 2 PhD students and an ophthalmic clinical fellow funded mainly by Research Council grants. Currently we have MRC funding to develop a process to improve the corneal surface prior to stem cell transplantation.  We also have BBSRC grants to develop smart/intelligent hydrogels for wound healing and templates that control the spatiotemporal positioning of stem cells to create a bioprosthetic cornea. Finally we have BBSRC/EPSRC funding to develop hydrogels capable of storing stem cells at ambient temperature

We believe commercialisation, IP and the basic research underpinning a new wave of regenerative medicines are intertwined and as such we are actively involved in ensuring the UK competes globally by maintaining its competitive edge in the regenerative medicine space.  We are actively searching for complimentary partners to commercialise our work or further our basic understanding around these topics:

  • Tissue engineering of the cornea, including a stem cell based oculotoxicity tests.
  • Developing model systems to study physiological and pathophysiological corneal tissue formation using synthetic and biological hydrogels.
  • Developing smart cell-instructive biomaterials to control cell growth/differentiation.
  • Use of hydrogels for the storage or distribution of stem cells non-cryogenically

 

Current Research Funding: 

  1. EPSRC PhD project (2010 - 2014) "Polymeric hydrogels for corneal stem cells"
  2. BBSRC PhD project (2010 - 2014) "Trans-epithelial dug delivery via the cornea"
  3. BBSRC Project grant (2011 - 2014) "Smart materials to direct production of Bioprosthetic cornea"
  4. MRC Project grant (2013 - 2016) "Modulation of niche stiffness to regulate cell differentiation"
  5. BBSRC/EPSRC (2013 - 2016) "Bioprocessing Resaerch Industrial Club - Scaling up of cell storage technology"

Past Research funding:

  1. BBSRC Project grant (2008 - 2011) "A tissue engineered corneal epithelium replacement for animal testing using human stem cells"
  2. MRC Project grant (2010 - 2012) "Therapeutic corneal stem cell delivery using hydrogels without the need for ex vivo expansion"
  3. BBSRC/EPSRC BRIC project (2011 - 2012) "Stoarge and distribution of stem cells"
  4. BBSRC pilot grant (2012 - 2013) "Smart materials for ocular and skin wound healing"

Professional affiliations:

  • Visiting Professor, Shaanxi Ophthalmic Research Center, Xi'an Eye Hospital, China.
  • Member of AMPM Corneal section for Association for Research In Vision and Ophthalmology
  • Member of Executive Committee for Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science UK Alumni
  • Member of Editorial Board of PLoS ONE
  • Member of Editorial Board of Nature: Scientific Reports

Industrial partners:

  • Novozymes
  • Stem Cell Inc (UK)
Research groups / Centres:
Publications:
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!Self funded PhD studentships now avialable!

  1. "Improved isolation, characterisation and delivery of adult stem cells for corneal repair"
  2. "Novel biomaterials for corneal tissue engineering"

If you have the correct qualifications and access to your own funding, either from your home country or your own finances, your application to work on these or similar projects will be considered.

connon_staff_profile_headshot

Contact Details

Building:
Hopkins building, 108 (office) 110 (lab)

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