Research Team

Professor Tony Metcalfe  Dr Yella Martin
Dr Ferdinand Lali Dr Lubinda Mbundi
Dr Saikat Ray Jessika Appelt
Judy Roxburgh Trevor Eydmann


Name: Professor Tony Metcalfe 

Position: Director of Research

Professor Tony Metcalfe is Director of Research at the Blond McIndoe Research Foundation (BMRF). This is a joint appointment with the University of Brighton which also appointed him a Professorship in Burns and Wound Healing Research.  At the BMRF, Professor Metcalfe is developing this exciting new partnership with colleagues at the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences (PABS) at the University of Brighton. Recent advances in regenerative medicine will allow us to build upon this partnership, collaborating with colleagues at the Queen Victoria Hospital (QVH) to translate science into medical applications. The ultimate goal of these exciting collaborative efforts is to create and develop novel technologies and therapies.

Professor Metcalfe graduated from the University of Lancaster with a BSc (Hons) degree in Biochemistry and a PhD in Molecular Genetics. His postdoctoral research at the University of Manchester characterised apoptotic mechanisms in mammary gland biology, cancer and pre-implantation development. As Team Leader at the United Kingdom Centre for Tissue Engineering he developed techniques for creating novel skin substitutes, skin grafting, characterised mammalian tissue regeneration and skin stem cells and investigated scar reduction technologies. 

Tony then joined Renovo Ltd in Manchester, where he became Head of Research and Scientific Opportunities developing scar reduction, wound repair and regeneration therapies and translation of preclinical and clinical research strategies in Phase I-III clinical trials.  He also helped oversee the Patent portfolio of the company.His most recent appointment was as Director of Biology at an antibody engineering company in Cambridge.

Tony’s research interests include wound healing, tissue repair and regeneration, fibrosis and scarring, adhesions, burns, nerve, tendon and ocular regeneration, angiogenesis, neovascularisation, developmental mechanisms, embryology, stem cells, mammary gland biology, cancer and apoptosis.

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Name: Dr Yella Martin

Position: Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Honorary Visiting Fellow at the Brighton Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Brighton since 2012

Research Project/Interests

1. Cell therapy to augment wound healing and reduce scarring following trauma

Major burn injuries continue to present a significant clinical problem. Wound healing can be improved and wound contraction (scarring) reduced by the addition of autologous skin stem cells to treatments such as skin grafts or artificial skin substitutes. We seek to further improve these techniques by addressing several issues, such as the improvement of culturing techniques for skin stem cells, the characterisation of different cell populations, as well as developing topical application methods for applying skin stem cells to the wound bed.


“Topical application of skin cells on microcarriers”
£237,754, 2015 – 2018
£199,250, 2012 – 2015
“The effect of prescription drugs on wound healing and scarring”
£21,250, 2011 – 2014
“Optimisation of cell therapy culture techniques for clinical application”
£14,200, 2011 – 2013

 These images show skin keratinocytes growing on microcarriers. Fluorescent microscopy reveals cellular phenotype (green – cytokeratin 14, red – cytokeratin 6, blue – DAPI). Scanning electron microscopy shows distribution of cells across the surface of the microcarriers in greater detail. Histological analysis shows multiple layers of cells growing from microcarriers along compressed collagen sheets after eight days in culture.

2. Reconstruction of adipose tissue and body contours following trauma

When adipose tissue is destroyed due to injury, trauma or surgical removal of tissue, body contours in the affected area are lost. This can have a negative impact on the patient. We aim to develop the use of autologous adipose-derived stem cells in combination with custom-shaped macroporous materials as an alternative clinical treatment to restore tissue contours. Ms. Jessika Appelt is a PhD student on this project.

Funding (as Co-PI):

“Soft tissue reconstruction”
£265,430, 2010 - 2016

3. Molecular mechanisms underlying malignant melanoma

In collaboration with surgeons at the Melanoma and Skin Cancer Unit (MASCU) at QVH and Dr. Sarah Newbury at BSMS, we have initiated a project which investigates microRNAs (miRNA) in malignant melanoma. miRNAs are non-coding RNAs which have been implicated in post-transcriptional control. Aberrant miRNA expression has been linked to a number of cancers. Our aim is to identify miRNAs which may be indicative of different stages of malignant melanoma, to improve our understanding of the mechanisms underlying disease progression.

Funding (as Co-PI):

“microRNA signatures in malignant melanoma”
£75,000, 2013 – 2015
£45,000, 2011 – 2015


PhD Paediatrics and Child Health – University College London

BSc (Hons) Biochemistry – King’s College London

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Name: Dr Ferdinand Lali

Position: Post-Doctoral Research Scientist

                   Honorary Visiting Fellow at the University of Brighton Centre for Regenerative Medicine since 2014

Research Project/Interests:

Ferdinand is working on a NIHR i4i grant jointly held with the Materials Department of Imperial College to develop novel wound dressing to promote angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels).

This project is based on the understanding that non-healing wounds such as the diabetic foot and leg ulcers, burns and infected wounds have a poor oxygen supply. Normally wounded tissue is stimulated to regenerate blood vessels by cellular sensors which respond to the low oxygen levels. We are using pharmacological mimics engineered into smart biomaterial wound dressing to stimulate this response. We have also recently acquired a Hypoxia Work station in which we culture cells in low oxygen to reproduce the physiological conditions that stimulate the formation of new blood vessels.  Ferdinand also works with Miss Georgina Gyetvai, a joint PhD student of Professor Metcalfe and Professor Ghezzi at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School. Georgina is also interested in both acute and chronic wounds and the role that tissue protective cytokines have in wound healing.


PhD. Immunology, Imperial College London

MSc. Clinical Biochemistry, Leeds University

BSc. Hon Biochemistry/Pharmacology, Leeds University

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Name: Dr Lubinda Mbundi

Position: Post-Doctoral Research Scientist

               Honorary Visiting Fellow at the University of Brighton Centre for Regenerative Medicine since 2014

Research Project/Interests:

Lubinda’s main interests are in the understanding of the complex biological mechanisms and specific features that are vital to tissue integrity, repair and regeneration, and developing molecules and biomaterials capable of mimicking these features for clinical applications. To do this Lubinda is developing polymer based nanoparticles and nanofibre mats to support, accelerate and control cell growth and orientation.

Lubinda is also producing scaffolds designed to support and deliver drugs and cells for use as wound dressing or as skin substitutes. The culture and delivery of skin cells within a 3D matrix is superior to 2D culture as it mimics the natural 3D environment of the cell. Two dimensional transparent scaffolds are also being designed to carry different cells for different applications for eye research.

Since the wound environment undergoes different biochemical and physical changes during healing, there is need to develop materials that can facilitate healing by adapting to these changes. In this regard, Lubinda and others within the group are developing smarter biomaterials that can respond to biochemical stimuli by releasing cargo drugs and cells or degrade proportionately during the healing process.

Some of the biomaterials being created at BMRF A 3D scaffold (A), scanning electron micrograph of the scaffold (B), and fluorescence micrograph of the scaffold-dermal layer supporting fibroblasts (C) and scaffold-epidermal layer supporting keratinocytes at 21 days in culture (D): green = scaffold, red = cells, blue = cell nucleus


PhD. Regenerative Medicine, University of Brighton -2012

BSc. (Hons) Biomedical Sciences, University of Brighton -2008

International Baccalaureate Diploma, Sussex Coast College Hastings -2004

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Name: Dr Saikat Ray

Position: PhD student

Research Project/Interests:

Saikat is jointly working on a project to promote quicker healing and decrease scarring in skin wounds using a patient’s own (autologous) skin cells that can be sprayed to restore the defect.

This project is specifically trying to understand paediatric burn wound treatment and has been sponsored by the children’s medical research charity, SPARKS. Delayed burn wound healing can result in undesirable scarring. This can result in problems with pain, functional disability and psychological distress which affects the victim as well as their family. Specialist long term management in the form of scar therapy with silicone dressings and pressure garments, scar revision surgery, multiple hospital appointments and time taken off by parents and carers has significant cost implications.

In this study, the effects of sprayed skin cells in the treatment of mixed depth paediatric burn wounds is being investigated with regards to the rate of healing and scarring outcomes. Skin cells can be obtained from a small postage stamp-sized skin biopsy and expanded in large numbers in the laboratory before being sprayed back onto a patient’s wound.

Like Yella’s work, another exciting part of this project is the use of small gelatin microcarrier beads to initially grow skin cells and then deliver them to a wound with the aim of promoting quicker healing and a decrease in scarring. These microcarriers have some advantages in the delivery of cultured skin cells compared with spraying them onto a wound bed. Saikat is conducting laboratory studies to assess these beads so that they may be used to treat children with burns and other wounds in the future. Saikat’s background as a clinician in Plastic Surgery enables him to approach this project from both clinical and scientific angles with a view to translate this therapy from the bench to the bedside.


BSc (Hons) - Bachelor of Science ( Anatomy and Developmental Biology): University College London (University of London) -2005

MBBS - Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery: Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’ School of Medicine (University of London) -2006

MRCS – Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England -2010

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Name: Jessika Appelt

Position:  PhD Student

Research Project/Interests:

Jessika is jointly working with the University of Brighton on a project investigating novel scaffolds for soft tissue reconstruction.

Soft tissue (also called adipose tissue or fatty tissue) is part of the three layers of the skin. The deep fat layer provides both thermal isolation as well as giving contour which is important in creating the shape of our bodies. Loss of this fat can occur due to severe burns, trauma as a result of an accident, or removal of tumours. Patients in this situation often suffer from both the physical and psychological impact of the loss of tissue and normal body contour. Current surgical strategies to repair this missing tissue often don’t result in the full restoration of the tissue architecture. To address this important clinical need, the focus of Jessika’s research project is to reconstruct the missing tissue and provide a contour and appearance which is acceptable to the patient and which will reduce the physical and psychological impact, and improve their quality of life.

Jessika is hoping to develop a scaffold that will be inserted into the body defect, where it can provide shape, fill the defect and create a platform for cells to form new fatty tissue. Stem cells from the fat (adipose) tissue itself - ADSCs (adipose derived stem cells) that are already in clinical use, will be utilised together with the scaffold. The scaffold can then slowly degrade and the ADSCs regenerate the missing tissue.

Jessika has just presented the work at the European Tissue Repair Society Conference in Edinburgh.

Photographs and Scanning Electron Microscope images of the 4 different scaffolds showing large pores (macropores) to accommodate cells and small pores in the scaffold walls which provide nutrient flow to the cells (micropores). Freeze drying and freezing steps in the scaffold fabrication resulted in different micropore sizes and size ranges.


Diploma Biologist: Biology student Friedrich Schiller University in Jena (Germany)

Diploma student at the Leibniz Institute for age research (FLI) in Jena (Germany)

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Name: Judy Roxburgh

Position:  Research Assistant

Research Project/Interests:

Judy is working with fat (or adipose) derived stem cells (ADSCs) with an aim to optimise their application for repair and regeneration of tissue in patients who have suffered loss of soft tissue following a burn or other physical trauma.

A recent project has been to optimise the media used to proliferate fat stem cells by seeding cells in ten different growth media then assessing how they look, their rate of growth and proliferation and characterisation of the cells grown in each media.  Using this information Judy was able to proliferate cells in the three best performing media and further assess their ability to differentiate down the fat (adipogenic), cartilage (chondrogenic) and bone (osteogenic) lineages. This work has identified the proliferation medium most suitable for rapid proliferation of cells which express fat stem cell markers and show their potential to become multiple different cell types.

Judy also works in histology optimising stains used to enhance the ability to study tissue under the microscope. This method can be used on tissue sections or whole cells using antibodies to highlight cell components.  A counterstain added to stain other cell features such as the nucleus can help to locate the marker of interest.

Keratinocytes grown on a coverslip with a blue nuclear stain and antibody to Connexin 43 (red) indicating the location of cell connectors (called gap junctions) between adjacent cells.

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Name: Trevor Eydmann

Position:  Research Technician

Research Project/Interests:

Trevor's work is centred on two aspects of our research.

Skin has several distinct layers and the cells we are interested in are found in two of the upper layers of the skin. One of Trevor’s roles is to create stocks of these cells for his own and other scientists use. At the moment he is investigating ways of improving the isolation techniques to increase cell numbers and their growth characteristics.

The second project that Trevor is involved in is looking for specific cell markers in keratinocytes during cell proliferation. Many of our projects involve growing cells on new biomaterials where cells grow in, and on, 3D scaffolds that we prepare in the laboratory. The production of these types of cell laden structures is potentially important for the treatment of patients to reform the original contours of the area of surgical activity, for example, after tumour removal, amputation or burns treatment. This project involves looking at cell surface markers, which allow cells to stick to surfaces or to other proteins. By looking at the gene activity and subsequent protein expression, we can engineer the surface of the scaffold, and we hope to find a panel of markers that can be used to show how the cells respond to the artificial surfaces that we prepare. This work has relevance for many of our ongoing projects.





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