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Dr Andrew Hollins

Dr Andrew Hollins

Research Development Officer


I work within the Research Development team of Research and Innovation Services, primarily supporting activities around the College of Biomedical and Life Sciences.

I am a former researcher who specialised in the generation and utility of 3-dimensional (3-D) organoid culture platforms for the study of tumour biology. Specifically, I worked 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 interests were 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.


    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.

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 Café 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














My main research interests / activities were:

  • Breast organoid platform development - characterizing patient derived 3-D organoid cultures
  • Colorectal organoid platform - characterizing patient derived 3-D organoid cultures
  • Lung organoid platform - characterizing patient derived organoid cultures
  • Exploring the utility of colorectal organoids in drug screening in order to assess their future as part of a novel stratified medicine paradigm


Research Assistants: Sudha Arumugam (2017-2018); Fang-li Chen (2014-2016); Shona Joy (2008-2012).

PhD and MRes Students: Carmen Velasco (PhD; 2018-  ) as Project post-doc; Luned Badder (PhD; 2013-2017) as Project post-doc; Shona Joy (PhD; 2009-2012) as Project post-doc; Bridget Wu (2009; MRes) as Project post-doc.

PTY students: Jennifer Shone (2015-2016); Kyle Hawker (2014-2015).

Placements: Elisa Ebner (2018-2019) ERASMUS+ traineeship (2nd supervisor); 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: Alice Allsop (2018-2019); 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).


Past projects


Previous 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)
  • 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).