Dr Andrew Hollins

Dr Andrew Hollins

Research Associate

School of Biosciences

+44 (0)29 2087 9073
Sir Martin Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX

I specialise in the generation and utility of 3-dimensional (3-D) organoid culture platforms for the study of tumour biology. Specifically, I work on the development of 3-D model systems aimed at faithfully reflecting populations of cancer patients, both in terms of genetic heterogeneity and cellular composition. These models are intended to facilitate the drug testing / selection / identification of cancer treatments and to replace 2-D cell lines in the longer term. My current work includes the characterisation of tumour material allowing genetic stratification of colorectal organoids and application in a preclinical study paralleling a UK wide colorectal study.

My interests very much lie in 3-D primary cell culture systems, and the generation of patient disease relevant culture platforms. This interest was developed during prior experience working with 2-D primary cell isolation systems over a range of tissues; with directed stem cell differentiation in 3-D; and with pharmaceutical drug delivery system biology.

Role within the School, College and University

  • Scientific lead for the Lung multi-disciplinary research group, Wales Cancer Bank (WCB)
    • Member of the extended WCB executive group
  • Editor of the Biosciences Research Staff Group blog
    • Member of the School's BIOSI Research Staff Group committee

Engagement activities

  • Biology & Geology Rocks at the National Museum of Wales (Oct' 2016)
  • Techniquest Afterhours Does Cancer Research (Sept' 2016)
  • Cardiff Cancer Research open day (October 2015)
  • Biology Rocks! (Oct' 2015)
  • Biosciences Research Staff Group blog (Dec' 2015 – to present) https://blogs.cardiff.ac.uk/biosciences-research-staff/
  • CRUK Cardiff Centre Research Engagement Working Group member (2014 to present)
  • Biology Rocks! (Oct' 2014)
  • Cardiff Cancer Research Open Day (Sept' 2014)
  • Biosciences Open Day (March 2014)
  • A level Biology pupil visit (March 2013)
  • National Science & Engineering Week (March 2011)
  • Science of Me (Nov' 2010).

    My PhD was on “The role of caveolin in alveolar cell differentiation and embryogenesis” from the Welsh School of Pharmacy (Cardiff University) under the supervision of Prof. Mark Gumbleton. A large part of my doctoral thesis work was developing a primary human lung epithelial culture model for drug trafficking assays, during my time with the group I began my research career (2001). In 2002 I joined the Centre for Genome-based Therapeutics for four years working upon the design and delivery of antisense nucleic acid therapeutics, particularly against targets relevant to cancer and diabetes most notably generating and testing novel anti-EGFR complexes.

    In 2006 I stepped across to the field of Neuroscience working first in the School of Optometry and Vision Sciences (Cardiff University; Prof. Marcela Vortuba, 2006-2008), and subsequently two positions within the School of Biosciences in the Neuroscience division on projects exploring the potential for the generation of neural cells from the directed differentiation of neurospheres suitable for replacement therapy in neurodegenerative disease (working with a team led by Prof. Nick Allen, Prof. Anne Rosser and Prof. Stephen Dunnett, 2008-2012). The latter provided an understanding of stem cell biology and culture.

    Most recently, I joined the Cancer Research UK Centre Cardiff having initially worked on a related project titled "Developing stem-cell containing organoids for pre-clinical studies of colorectal cancer therapeutics” funded by the Cardiff Experimental Cancer Medicines Centre (ECMC) for the previous two years. These are a set of projects where I have been able to fuse much of my prior knowledge to refine a colorectal organoid platform, and begin generating a lung organoid program.

Honours and awards

European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute Symposium poster prize 2016.

Professional memberships

  • American Association of Pharmaceutical Sciences (member)
  • Cardiff institute for Tissue Engineering and Repair (member).

Academic positions

2018 – present: Research Associate School of Biosciences, Cardiff University. Working within an Innovate UK funded Biomedical Catalyst project titled "Patient-derived breast cancer organoids to transform drug discovery screening assays". A project based exploring the development of methodologies for the long term and scaled culture of breast cancer organoids.

2014 – 2018: Research Associate with the Cancer Research UK Cardiff Centre, based within the School of Biosciences, Cardiff University. Project based around the development of methodologies and platforms designed to permit stratified approaches to improve drug selection/identification in cancer treatment.

2012 – 2014: Researcher. Cardiff Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre, School of Medicine, Cardiff University. Project – development of 3D cultures as potential cancer models for therapeutic screens.

2008 – 2012: Research Associate School of Biosciences, Cardiff University. Project: “Development of a platform to generate clinical grade neural progenitors for transplantation in Huntington’s disease”. Initial Project: “Stem Cells for Therapeutics and Exploration of Mechanisms in Monogenic Diseases”.

2006 – 2008: Post-Doctoral Scholar. School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, Cardiff University. RoFAR funded Project: “Exploring the role of Erythropoetin and other neuroprotective agents in rodent models of autosomal dominant optic atrophy”.

2002 – 2006: Post-Doctoral Scholar. Centre for Genome-based Therapeutics, Cardiff University (3 appointments). Projects funded by Cancer Research UK, and the British Heart Foundation. Involving nucleic acid therapeutic design and delivery systems.

2001 – 2002: Post-Doctoral Scholar. Drug delivery, Welsh School of Pharmacy, Cardiff University. BBSRC funded project: “Investigation of the potential role of caveolae in uptake of nanoparticulate gene delivery systems”.

Speaking engagements

  • Wales Cancer Partnership meeting (2016; All Wales Centre, Cardiff) workshop session titled "Introducing – Multi-Disciplinary Research Groups"
  • CITER Stem cell symposium (2016; Cardiff) - invited talk titled “Development of a lung organoid platform”
  • Experimental Cancer Medicines Centre invited talk titled “Organoid network: Developing stem-cell containing organoids for pre-clinical studies of colorectal cancer therapeutics” (2014; Kings Fund, London)
  • Stem Cell Research Day (2012; Cardiff University) - symposium presentation titled “Transplantation of differentiated human embryonic stem cells into a Huntington’s disease model: The challenges of generating neural cells suitable for replacement therapy in neurodegenerative disease”
  • Presented at a Neuroscience CafĂ© on Stem Cells (2010; Cardiff), including a Q&A session
  • Lectured as part of module OP1106 “Embryonic development and development of the eye” (Ocular Anatomy and Physiology) of the School of Optometry undergraduate degree scheme
  • Presented “Cell and Organ Culture” within the PhD techniques lecture series run within School of Optometry & Vision Sciences
  • European Association for Vision in Eye Research (EVER) conference (2006; Villa Mora, Portugal) Invited presentation titled “Neuroprotection in OPA1 inherited optic neuropathy: strategies towards retinal ganglion cell rescue”
  • British Pharmaceutical Conference (BPC) (2005; Manchester) - talk titled “Drug delivery system induced gene expression changes in cells in vitro and in vivo”.

Committees and reviewing

  • Editor, School of Biosciences Research Staff Group blog











  • BI1001 "skills for science" (problem solving in Biology) - Group Presentations 1st year Biomedical Science degree scheme (2016 & 2017; BIOSI, Cardiff University)
  • Led small group tutorials as part of the 1st year medical degree scheme (2015-6; MEDIC, Cardiff University)
  • Lectured as part of module OP1106 “Embryonic development and development of the eye” (Ocular Anatomy and Physiology) of the Optometry undergraduate degree scheme (2008; Cardiff University)
  • Lectured on “Cell and Organ Culture” within the PhD techniques lecture series run within Optometry & Vision Sciences (2007; Cardiff University)

My main research interests / activities are:

  • Colorectal organoid platform - characterizing patient derived 3-D organoid cultures (both normal and tumour)
  • Lung organoid platform - characterizing patient derived organoid cultures (both normal and tumour)
  • Exploring the utility of colorectal organoids in drug screening in order to assess their future as part of a novel stratified medicine paradigm
  • PNA-based contrast agent for imaging tumours (project lead Paul Shaw).

I am currently a member of Cancer Research UK Centre Cardiff research group, and based within the laboratory of Prof. Trevor Dale (BIOSI). The research involves members from the laboratories of Dr. Paul Shaw (ECSCRI / Oncology consultant), and that of the late Prof. Alan Clarke (BIOSI / ECSCRI).

Much of our primary cell culture work is undertaken in collaboration with a number of colleagues, including those from Surgical teams and Histopathology teams based within the Cardiff and Vale UHB and the Royal Gwent UHB; supported by the Wales Cancer Bank.


Research Assistants:

Fang-li Chen (2014-2016)

Shona Joy (2008-2012).

PhD and MRes Students:

Luned Badder (PhD) Project post-doc

Shona Joy (PhD; 2009-2012) Project post-doc

Bridget Wu (2009; MRes) Project post-doc.

PTY students:

Jennifer Shone (2015-2016)

Kyle Hawker (2014-2015).


Jordi Perera Rabaiget  (2016) ERASMUS+ traineeship (2nd supervisor)

Samuel Bishop, CUROP student (2016; ENGIN) with Dr S. Armstrong

Sarah Treulieb  (2015) ERASMUS traineeship (2nd supervisor)

Florence Heath (voluntary placement) (2010)

Final year undergraduate project students

Emily Foster (2015-2016)

Abby Older (2011-2012)

Sameer Kumar (2011-2012; ENGIN) with Dr R. Truman & Dr S. Armstrong

Guy Coleman (2009-2010)

Katie Whittle (2009-2010).


  • Co-Investigator (with Sian Armstrong (ENGIN)) £1.6K. Cardiff Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (CUROP) 2016
  • Ser Cyrmu NRN scheme application - £64K
  • Co-Investigator (with Trevor Dale, Alan Clarke, Paul Shaw, Ken Ewan, Keren Paz) £6K. “Extending the development of organoid technology to lung malignancy”. Cardiff CRUK Centre development fund.

Areas of expertise

External profiles

Research links