I am Nuria Abajo Lima and I am from Barcelona (Spain). I studied Chemical Engineering at the IQS School of Engineering (Ramon Llull University, Barcelona) and a Master in Bioengineering at the same university.

I am doing the PhD in Trevor Dale’s lab at Cardiff University and my project is based on a collaboration with Cellesce focusing on the development of a novel biophysical technique for the fractionation of organoid subtypes.

Project description

Recent studies showing cancer organoids recapitulate the biology of primary cancers have driven tremendous excitement in the potential for cancer organoids to revolutionize drug discovery and personalized medicine. Freshly-prepared organoids from colorectal cancers are composed of genetically and phenotypically diverse populations. Tumour heterogeneity at the genetic and phenotypic level drives differential responses to therapeutic agents. Organoids need to be produced on a large enough scale to adequately supply end users, from university researchers to pharmaceutical companies; importantly there must be minimum batch-to-batch variation. Currently manual processing results in organoids of variable size that differ in their cellular status and drug responses.

For example, small organoids may lack some cell types or polarity, while larger organoids may have necrotic cores. Cellesce Ltd has developed a new bioprocessing technology by semi-automating the process of organoid culture, improving the control of growth conditions and increasing the uniformity of batches. In this project, chemical engineering technologies will be used to separate distinct organoid subpopulations based on their size, enabling the production of a consistent product and improving drug screening assays reproducibility. Fractionated populations of organoids will be used to study differences in organoid subtypes, function and polarity, and to relate genetic and phenotypic differences back to drug response and primary tumour heterogeneity. This project is the result of a collaboration between Cellesce Ltd, expert in bioreactor technology and tissue engineering bioprocessing, and Cardiff University, expert in patient-derived organoid biology.

The outputs of this cross-disciplinary project will be: 1. The development of a novel biophysical technique for the isolation of organoid subtypes. 2. The use of biophysically-purified organoid subpopulations to study the molecular mechanisms underlying organoids phenotypic heterogeneity.