Experienced cell biologist specialising in process optimisation and standardisation, Biobanking, cellular reprogramming into stem cells (iPSCs) and differentiation.
Dr Chukwuma Agu,
Cambridge, United Kingdom
What I offer?
•Expert advice in advanced cell culture technologies including manufacturing and biobanking
•Expert advice (or hands-on) in cost-efficient advanced stem cell production (iPSCs), including xenofree reprogramming, quality control.
• Expert advice on process improvement, standardisation (SOPs) and technology transfer.
•Expert advice on setting up smart tissue culture laboratory with systems automation (LIMs, ELN, etc)
•Expert advice on regulatory issues (ethics and governance) in stem cell manufacturing.
My Academic Background:
My academic background is in microbiology where I have both master and doctoral degrees. I obtained my master’s degree in 2002 and a PhD in 2005 with distinction. My PhD thesis focused on the evaluation of the therapeutic property of a novel protein Holin for cancer treatment. During that time, I carried out my dissertation projects at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Austria and in a start-up company Austrianova (now SGAustria) which focused on drug targeting and gene delivery. My PhD work led to a patent and I published the results in peer-reviewed medical journals (Agu http://********.**, J Gene Med, 2006, Feb;8(2):229-41 and Agu http://********.**, Cell Microbiol. 2007, Jul;9(7):1753-65). After my Ph.D. program, I joined the Medical University of Vienna as a research associate followed by the Hutchison MRC Cancer Unit/University of Cambridge, UK where I pursued postdoctoral training in cancer research. There, I led experimental research projects on cancer research.
In 2010, I joined the scientific operation at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Cambridge as a scientific manager, where I was responsible for managing some of the stem cells research project portfolio. I was involved in setting up the stem production facility, including the recruitment of personnel and further management. This platform utilizes state of the art technologies for the manufacturing of stem cells on an industrial scale for academic, clinical and commercial exploitations. The facility has produced and banked stem cells derived from over 500 patients and made an invaluable contribution to clinical and scientific fields. My role also involved implementing the research ethics for sample procurement from patients and interactions with clinicians. We published that work in high impact Journals (Agu et al., Stem Cell Reports 2015; Kilpinen H et al., Nature 2017). These cells are being distributed globally to academic, clinical and commercial sectors for research and therapeutic use.
After working for the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, I went to Vienna, Austria and joined the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in 2016 as the Head of Stem Cell Facility. Here, I set up the Stem Cell Core Facility, an initiative for an Austrian Centre for Stem Cell Research. The facility provides iPSC reprogramming and Genome Editing service and represents the Austrian first stem cell-orientated core facility. The facility has generated a wide range of stem cells (iPSCs) from healthy and disease-specific individuals for disease modelling. These resources are made available to the academic, clinical and industrial research community.
1. Mukhopadhyay S., Heinz E, Porreca I., Alasoo K., Yeung A., Yang HT., Schwerd T., Forbester JL,Hale C., Agu CA., Choi YH., Rodrigues J., Capitani M., Jostins-Dean L., Thomas D., Travis S., Gaffney D., Skarnes WC., Thomson N., Uhlig HH., Dougan G and Powrie F., (2019) Loss of IL-10 signaling in macrophages limits bacterial killing driven by prostaglandin E2 J Exp Med. 2019 Oct 25 (in press)
2. Wimmer RA., Leopoldi A., Aichinger M., Wick N., Hantusch B., Novatchkova M., Taubenschmid J., Hämmerle M., Esk C., Bagley JA, Lindenhofer D., Chen G., Boehm M., Agu CA., Yang F., Fu B., Zuber J., Knoblich JA., Kerjaschki D., Penninger JM., (2019) Vascular organoids model diabetic vasculopathy Nature 2019 Jan 16.1038/s41586-018-0858-8
3. Stephen J., Nampoothiri S., Banerjee A., Tolman NJ., Penninger JM., Elling U., Agu CA., Burke JD., Devadathan K., Kannan R., Huang Y., Steinbach PJ., Martinis SA., Gahl WA., Malicdan MCV., (2018) Loss of function mutations in VARS encoding cytoplasmic valyl-tRNA synthetase cause microcephaly, seizures, and progressive cerebral atrophy. Hum Genet. 2018 Apr;137(4):293-303
4. Elling U., et al., (2017) A reversible haploid mouse embryonic stem cell biobank resource for functional genomics. Nature 2017 Oct 5;550(7674)
5. Kilpinen H et, al, (2017) Common genetic variation drives molecular heterogeneity in human iPSCs. Nature. 2017 Jun 15;546(7658):370-375
6. Agu C.A., Soares F., Alderton A., Patel M., Ansari R., Sharad P., Forrest S., Yang F., Lineham J, Vallier L., and Kirton MC., (2015) Successful generation of human induced pluripotent stem cell lines from blood samples held at room temperature for up to 48 hours. Stem Cell Reports. Sep 16; S2213-6711(15)00246-5.
7. Pimentel B., Nair R., Bermejo-Rodríguez C., Preston MA., Agu CA., Wang X., Bernal JA., Sherratt DJ and de la Cueva-Méndez G., (2014) Toxin Kid uncouples DNA replication and cell division to enforce retention of plasmid R1 in Escherichia coli cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Feb 18;111(7):2734-9
8. White JK et, al., (2013) Genome-wide generation and systematic phenotyping of knockout mice reveals new roles for many genes. Cell 154(2):452-464.
9. Movadat, O., Gruber, S., Agu, C.A, Marian, B., Wrba, F., Gasche, C., (2008). M1623 Differential Expression of iL10r2, STAT1 and STAT3 in Colorectal Cancer. Gastroenterology Volume 134, Issue 4, Supplement 1, April 2008, Pages A-384
10. Agu C.A., Klein, R., Lengler J., Glatzer C., Schilcher F., Peterbauer T., Bläsi U., Salmons B., Günzburg W.H. and Hohenadl C. (2007) Bacteriophage-encoded toxins: the Lambda-holin protein causes caspase-independent non-apoptotic cell death of eukaryotic cells Cell Microbiol. Jul;9(7):1753-65.
11. Agu C.A., Klein R., Schwab S., König-Schuster M., Kodajova P., Ausserlechner M., Binishofer B., Bläsi U., Salmons B., Günzburg W.H. and Hohenadl C. (2006). The cytotoxic activity of the bacteriophage Lambda-holin protein reduces tumor growth rates in mammary cancer cell xenograft models. J Gene Med, 8, 229-241
Links for more
Ongoing relation / part-time
Full time contractor
• Managed a team of eight staff providing both daily direction and performance assessment
• Developed standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the derivation and maintenance and banking of induced
pluripotent stem cell lines (iPSCs), ensuring the best practices of biomanufacturing processes
• Implemented workflows to enable cost-effective, and efficient manufacturing of iPSCs
• Developed protocols for terminal differentiation of iPSC into red blood cells and cortical neurons
• Implemented quality control (QC) of stem cells such as trilineage differentiation, SNP array-based genotyping, cell
line identification (STR), mycoplasma tests.
• Ensured all facility certifications including ethics and licenses certifications were implemented thus ensuring
proper accreditation which was essential to maintaining operations
• Managed day-to-day facility operations, including budget, lab operations, infrastructure support, and vendor
• Designed process maps, and implemented Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) for sample
• Organised stem cell workshop and training programs both for academic and industrial users.
November /2013- July 2016
• Set up the R&D team and managed 5 full time scientists
• Created and implemented SOPs ensuring its adherence
• Optimised and implemented workflow for efficient manufacturing of iPSCs
• Transferred and adapted academic protocols into operational routine application, including scalability and Standardisation
Senior Scientific Manager: Team Leader IPSC Pipeline: CGaP facility at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Cambridge
September 2012 - October 2013
• Involved in setting up the CGaP stem cell facility
• Recruited and managed 6 full time scientists.
• Provided scientific guidance and training on iPSC generation, expansion, quality control, and banking
• Ensured cell culture media, supplements and reagents are evaluated prior use for stem cell culture
• Created and implemented SOPS, risk assessments and process maps for iPSC derivation ensuring
• The facility has produced and banked over 600 human-induced pluripotent stem cells available for purchase at ECAAC
• Demonstrated for the first time that Holin is cytotoxic to cancer cells in vitro and in animal models and characterised the potential mode of cell death.
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