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Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute

 
Logo of the Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair founded by the UK MS Society

The MS Society Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair (CCMR) was established in 2005 with the aim of developing treatments that promote myelin repair for people with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Cambridge has for a half a century been leading the research relating to MS biology and as such attracted talent from far to work on MS related research.

CCMR is based on a multi-PI coordinated programme that brings together the diverse but complementary expertise available in Cambridge, coordinating focus on MS regenerative medicine field, where each piece of research feeds into the next like a production line. The multi-disciplinary approach is guaranteed by the presence of PIs and researchers with different resources and expertise, coming together from different departments of the University of Cambridge (Clinical Neuroscience, Veterinary, Paediatrics, Neurosurgery and the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute).

They all are bonded by their shared vision of making discoveries that will directly benefit people with MS, preventing the death of nerve fibres in the brains and spinal cords of people with MS and ultimately live in a world where there are no consequences of an MS diagnosis.

In 2020, funding was renewed for five years to continue to deliver ground breaking research in myelin biology and MS and set up for the first time a structured training programme focused exclusively on training the next generation of MS researchers and academic neurologists. CCMR offers fully-funded PhD positions to motivated students to undertake a PhD at the University of Cambridge.

CCMR is accompanied by the MS Society Edinburgh Centre for MS Research in the journey to discover new treatments.

 


Key research themes

- Age and Remyelination

- Neuronal health and remyelination

- Translational platform for effective remyelination


Leadership


Prof. Ragnhildur Thóra Káradóttir

Director
PI
Steering Committee

Ragnhildur Thóra Káradóttir did her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at the University of Iceland.  For her postgraduate training, she entered the Wellcome Trust 4-year PhD Programme in Neuroscience, at UCL, where she did her PhD with Prof. David Attwell. Immediately, after her PhD she was awarded a Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship of the Royal Society, and in 2011 she was awarded a Wellcome Trust Career Development Research Fellowship.

 Since establishing her lab, she has been awarded a number of awards, most recently the Lister Institute Research Prize (one of 5 in the UK), the Allen Distinguished Investigator Award (one of 5 worldwide, first time given outside of USA) and an ERC consolidator award.  In 2015 she was elected to the FENS-Kavli Network of Excellence (one of 20 in Europe) and in 2017 awarded the Fabiane Carvalho Miranda International Prize for the best paper published in the years 2015-2017 in myelin biology and MS related research.

Her main research interest is to understand how neuronal activity can regulate oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) differentiation and myelin plasticity in health and disease. Her new line of research interest is to determine the changes in myelin and myelin repair throughout the lifespan.

Affiliation: Wellcome - MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, Department of Veterinary Medicine

 

Prof. Alasdair Coles 

Co-Director
PI
Steering Committee

Alasdair Coles is Professor of Clinical Neuroimmunology in Cambridge. He was closely involved in the development of alemtuzumab (“Lemtrada”) as a treatment of multiple sclerosis. Since then, he has set up trials of remyelinating drugs in multiple sclerosis, first bexarotene [which has now completed] and more recently metformin and clemastine. He is also doing a trial of immunotherapy in autoimmune psychosis. He chaired the MS Society group that identified drugs to repurpose to treat progressive MS and chairs the Scientific Committee of the UK’s MS Register.

Affiliation: Department of Clinical Neurosciences

 


Principal investigators

 

Dr Stefano Pluchino

Steering Committee

Stefano Pluchino is Professor of Regenerative Neuroimmunology and Honorary Consultant at the University of Cambridge since 2010. He obtained his MD and PhD at the University of Siena (Italy), and progressed to two consecutive post doctorate appointments at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan, Italy.

His research over the last 20 years has recalibrated the classical view that cellular grafts only function through structural cell replacement and opened up a new therapeutic avenue by which to use exogenously delivered stem cells, or even stem cell-derived acellular therapies that include extracellular vesicles and exosomes.

His main goal is to develop experimental molecular medicines, including those with stem cells and gene therapy vectors, to slow down the accumulation of irreversible disabilities and improve functional recovery after progressive multiple sclerosis.

He has published over 250 papers - including some breakthrough articles in Nature, Cell Stem Cell and Molecular Cell - and is internationally recognised as a leader and pioneer in the field of Regenerative Neuroimmunology. He is the recipient of several international awards, such as the 2003 European Charcot Foundation (ECF) Award, the 2006 Serono Foundation Multiple Sclerosis Award, the 2007 Rita Levi-Montalcini Award, and the 2010 European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Award. 

He was the recipient of the 2007 Rita Levi-Montalcini award (FISM), the 2009 Italian Ministry of Health Young Investigator Award and the 2010 International Royan Award for outstanding research in Stem Cell Biology and Technology.

Affiliaton: Department of Clinical Neurosciences

 

Dr Joanne Jones

Joanne Jones is Principal Investigator at the University of Cambridge and an Honorary Consultant Neurologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital Cambridge, sub-specializing in the care of individuals with multiple sclerosis and other inflammatory disorders of the nervous system.

She obtained her medical degree from Bristol and her PhD from Cambridge University. She became an independent PI in 2015, and now runs a team studying mechanisms of immune regulation. Her group has a particular interest in understanding immune regulation within tissues, and is involved in generating a human immune cell atlas as part of the wider cell atlas project. As a clinician-scientist she has a strong translational track record being Chief Investigator on CAMTHY and a co-investigator on numerous other clinical studies.

Joanne was the recipient of the Royal Society of Medicine Gordon Holmes prize in Neurology in 2007, the British Medical Association Strutt and Harper Immunology Prize in 2010 and in 2014 she was awarded the prestigious Wellcome Trust Beit Prize. In 2015 she was selected as one of 25 female “rising stars” in science by the Royal Physiological Society.

Affiliation: Department of Clinical Neurosciences

 

 

Dr Luca Peruzzotti-Jametti

Luca Peruzzotti-Jametti is a Senior Research Associate, Honorary Neurology Consultant, and Group Leader within the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at Cambridge University (UK), and Honorary Senior Lecturer in the Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction, Imperial College London (UK).

Luca obtained his MD from the University Vita-Salute San Raffaele of Milan, Italy (2007). He completed a residency program in Neurology at the same University (2013) and a following PhD in Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Cambridge, UK (2018). During his early graduate studies, he was a visiting scientist in major European universities, such as the University Hospital in Zürich (Switzerland), the University of Aarhus (Denmark), the Laboratory of Stem Cells and Restorative Neurology of Lund (Sweden) and the University of Innsbruck (Austria). He later progressed towards a post-doctoral position at Cambridge University (2018) and then became Group Leader within the Department of Clinical Neurosciences (2020).

Over the last 10+ years, Luca has made key contributions to the understanding of the pathobiology of inflammation in central nervous system (CNS) diseases. His research in regenerative neuroimmunology led to novel experimental advanced therapeutics with neural stem cells, acellular therapeutics (e.g., extracellular vesicles), and small molecules for the treatment of ischemic stroke, spinal cord injury, and progressive multiple sclerosis (MS).

Luca’s most recent work is focusing on cellular metabolism and mitochondria to find novel ways to modulate chronic inflammation and favour CNS regeneration. To this aim, he has developed unique tools to model metabolic/mitochondrial dysfunctions in vitro (using human cells and gene editing techniques) and in vivo (with animal disease models); as well as cutting edge techniques to detect metabolic changes in rodent and human cells and tissues. His multi-disciplinary approach is setting the stage for a new series of interventions that target cell metabolism in immune cells, as the next opportunity to promote the healing of the persistently inflamed CNS.

 


Dr Mark Kotter

Mark Kotter is a NIHR Clinician Scientist at the University of Cambridge and entrepreneur. As a neurosurgeon, he treats patients with spinal cord injury. Mark is known for discovering the importance of macrophages for brain regeneration, which led to the first regenerative medicine trial for degenerative cervical myelopathy, and for developing opti-ox, a gene targeting approach that enables faithful execution of genetic information in cells. Applied to cellular reprogramming, opti-ox demonstrated that robust activation of a new cell type program (encoded in transcription factors) is necessary and sufficient to deterministically induce a new cellular identity. These findings challenge the theory that cell reprogramming depends on stochastically determined permissive states and enable the production of any human cell within days at purities approaching 100%. 

He is the founder of bit.bio, co-founder of cultured meat startup Meatable, and co-founder and trustee of Myelopathy.org, the first charity dedicated to a common yet often overseen condition causing a 'slow motion spinal cord injury’.

Affiliation: Division of Neurosurgery

 


Prof. David Rowitch

David Rowitch is a pediatrician and developmental neuroscientist. He is Professor and Head of Paediatrics at University of Cambridge, UK, and an Adjunct Professor at UCSF. He obtained his MD from UCLA and PhD degree from Cambridge University. Professor Rowitch is a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator whose laboratory investigates genetic factors that determine diversity of neural stem cells and glia of the brain during development and the response to injury. He has applied these principles to better understand white matter injury in premature infants, brain cancer, multiple sclerosis and leukodystrophy. As practicing physician-scientist and neonatologist, he established the UCSF ‘Neuro-NICU’ and led a Phase I first-in-man clinical study of neural stem cell transplant in boys Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease. His interest in precision medicine focuses on applications of genomic technologies to diagnose and better understand the biological basis and rational treatment of rare genetic disorders in children. He is academic lead for Cambridge Children’s Hospital, researching origins of paediatric physical and mental conditions and preventive interventions within the UK National Health Service (NHS).

Affiliation: Wellcome - MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, Department of Paediatrics

 

Professor Stephen Sawcer

Stephen Sawcer is Professor of Neurological Genetics at the University of Cambridge and an Honorary Consultant Neurologist at Addenbrooke's Hospital. He completed a BSc in Physics at Liverpool University before going to medical school (MB ChB) at Birmingham University. He became MRCP in 1991 and FRCP in 2010. His PhD was undertaken at the University of Cambridge and was supervised by Professor Alastair Compston and Professor Peter Goodfellow. Professor Sawcer has worked on the genetics of multiple sclerosis for 30 years with a main focus on genomewide approaches. He is a strategic group member of the International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium (IMSGC).

 


CCMR Affiliates


Dr Chao Zhao

Dr Chao Zhao is currently a Senior Scientist at Altos Labs Cambridge Institute of Science. He obtained his first degree in Medicine and PhD in Physiology in China. He has been working on myelin regeneration in the central nervous system since 2000, with a focus on the mechanism of stem cell mediated CNS remyelination in a variety of injury models. He joined in Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair from 2015, first as Senior Research Associate and as a Principal Investigator from 2010. He has led or contributed to several important studies elucidating roles of regulatory factors both intrinsic to adult stem cells and in the injury environment. The goal of his research is to identify mechanisms towards developing interventions for promoting CNS remyelination for demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis to minimise the functional deficit and enhance regeneration.

 

Dr Madeleine Lancaster 

Dr Madeline Lancaster is a Group Leader in the Cell Biology Division of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB), part of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus in Cambridge, UK. Madeline joined the LMB in 2015, after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (IMBA) in Vienna, where she developed brain organoids.

Research in the Lancaster lab focuses on human brain development using stem cells to generate brain organoids that allow modelling of human brain development in vitro. The laboratory studies the most fundamental differences between human brain development and that of other mammalian species. The lab also studies cellular mechanisms underlying neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and intellectual disability.

Madeline was awarded the 3Rs Prize by the National Centre for Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) in 2015 for her development of a 3D model of the embryonic human brain created from stem cells (brain organoids), which minimise the use of animals in medical research. She was awarded the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) Dr Susan Lim Award for Outstanding Young Investigator and a Vallee Scholarship in 2021 and honoured as the Laureate for Life Sciences in the 2022 Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists in the UK.

 

Professor Robin Franklin

Robin Franklin founded the CCMR in 2005 and was its Director until 2020. He is currently a Principal Investigator at the Altos Labs-Cambridge Institute of Science, having previously been Professor of Stem Cell Medicine at the Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, University of Cambridge. His laboratory has made many pioneering discoveries on the mechanisms by which adult CNS progenitors replace lost oligodendrocytes during the regenerative process of remyelination. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was the 2017 recipient of the Barancik International Prize for Research Innovation and the 2021 recipient of the King Faisal Prize for Medicine. 

Contact us

CCMR Coordinator
Ms Lois Gibbs - ccmr@stemcells.cam.ac.uk

Please note that Lois’ normal working hours are Mondays 8:30-3:30, Tuesdays and Thursdays 9-6. Lois can be found on Level 3 of the Jeffrey Cheah Biomedical Centre most Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Funding

Logo of the MS Society

We're supported by the MS Society.