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On the cutting edge
November 2014
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author
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This time in our monthly Tools & Technology roundup, we have on tap massively parallel stem cells, rapid and reproducible antibody/ antigen expression, a stem cell growth matrix and mass spec imaging of 3D microtissues. However, as this is the November issue and not the December issue, we have no lords a’leaping, golden rings or partridges in pear trees.

Can Plasticell’s massively parallel approach help transform regenerative medicine?
 
STEVENAGE, U.K.—Stem cell biotech Plasticell Ltd. announced recently the publication of scientific research which it says demonstrates how the company’s innovative high-throughput Combinatorial Cell Culture (CombiCult) technology allows a single scientist to carry out 10,000 stem cell biology experiments in parallel. The scientific paper points to the potential of high-throughput technologies such as CombiCult to accelerate painfully slow biomedical research, which has hampered the development of new therapies ever since human embryonic stem cells were developed in 1998.
 
“Discovery of robust methods to differentiate stem cells remains a serious bottleneck for the industry. This is a major reason why only two pluripotent stem cell therapies have progressed to clinical trials despite the spending of many hundreds of millions of dollars on pluripotent stem cell translation,” said Chris Mason, professor of regenerative medicine bioprocessing at University College London, whose research group carried out external validation of the technology. “The unique CombiCult technology can dramatically increase research productivity, significantly cutting costs whilst accelerating the development of innovative therapies for serious medical conditions.”
 
Dr. Yen Choo, Plasticell’s executive chairman and senior author of the scientific paper, added: “Optimizing laboratory methods to obtain affordable, industrialized cell manufacturing protocols is absolutely key to the development of cell therapies. The paper describes a study in which we used combinatorial screening to obtain a 250-fold reduction in cell bioprocessing costs, through a 50-fold increase in cell yield accompanied by a fivefold reduction in reagent costs via the use of cell culture media comprising small-molecule drugs.”

Sutro Biopharma to collaborate with UCSF
 
SAN FRANCISCO—Sutro Biopharma, a biopharmaceutical company developing a new generation of protein therapeutics, including next-generation antibody drug conjugates and bispecific antibodies, announced Sept. 9 its collaboration with the laboratory of Dr. James Wells, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of California, San Francisco, as part of the Recombinant Antibody Network.
 
Under the terms of the agreement, Sutro will provide its Xpress CF technology for the rapid and reproducible expression of antibodies and antigens by the Wells Lab for the comprehensive profiling of different target proteins and protein families in a high-throughput manner.
 
“High-quality antibodies that perform well and exhibit high affinity and specificity are not only very important therapeutics for many diseases, they are also essential for basic research,” said Wells. “Technology that allows for parallel screening of many variants to generate quickly validated and renewable antibodies is an indispensable tool for researching the functions of specific proteins under normal or pathophysiological conditions.”

Corning announces new agreement with BioLamina
 
CORNING, N.Y.—On Sept. 11, Corning Inc. announced it had entered into an agreement with Swedish company BioLamina to manufacture and package the Recombinant Laminin-521 (rLaminin-521) pluripotent stem cell (PSC) and neural stem cell (NSC) growth matrix. The collaboration will augment Corning Life Sciences’ portfolio of defined coating substrates and extend the availability of this product to research labs worldwide.
 
Corning and BioLamina recognize a strong demand in the stem-cell research market for chemically defined, xeno-free systems, and rLaminin-521 provides a defined, animal-free substrate that allows robust and scalable cell culture of PSCs and NSCs with greater cell purity—critical attributes for the emerging stem-cell processing market and a vital enabling component for future cell therapies using these types of cells, they say.
 
“As cell-culture and cell-therapy technologies progress, it is increasingly important to offer today’s researchers more powerful and reliable culture systems,” said Dr. Kristian Tryggvason, CEO of BioLamina. Meanwhile, Dr. Lynsey Willetts, Ph.D., director of advanced cell culture at Corning Life Sciences, added, “By working with BioLamina, Corning now offers researchers who work with pluripotent and neural stem cells a more comprehensive and scalable cell culture solution—from research to production.”

Protea and InSphero succeed with MS imaging of 3D microtissues
 
MORGANTOWN, W.V.—The early days of October saw Protea Biosciences Group Inc. and Schileren, Switzerland- based InSphero AG jointly announce an update from their collaboration focused on mass spectrometry (MS) imaging of InSphero’s 3D InSight microtissues. In August 2014, Protea received microtissues from InSphero and hosted members of InSphero’s scientific team for onsite training on the handling and preparation of the microtissues. Protea has since developed workflows for processing the 3D microtissues for MS imaging and direct analysis. In addition, Protea has generated data from 3D microtissues grown from HCT-116 colon cancer cell line that showed the ability for MS imaging to detect and image numerous native proteins in 3D microtissues in a single experiment as well as putatively identify several proteins known to be present at elevated levels in colon cancer cells.
 
“[Now] we look forward to developing new applications through the combination of our respective technologies and moving forward towards commercial offerings for our pharmaceutical and biotechnology customers,” stated Protea CEO Stephen Turner.
 
Code: E111427

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