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Stem Cell Sciences to Develop Novel Muscle Stem Cells for Drug Discovery and Toxicology

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Stem Cell Sciences plc (SCS) has announced the signing of an exclusive agreement with San Raffaele Scientific Institute (Milan, Italy) covering assay validation and future commercialization of novel human muscle stem cells for drug discovery and toxicology applications. Financial terms were not disclosed.

These muscle stem cells, a subset of pericytes (cells located around the circumference of small blood vessels), can be extracted from skeletal or heart muscle and retain the capacity to turn into muscle cells on demand. The cells were discovered by Professor Giulio Cossu, Director of the Stem Cells Institute, and his team at the San Raffaele.

Pericytes can be readily grown in the laboratory and represent a significant addition to SCS’s growing platform of renewable cell types originating from embryonic, neural and adipose stem cell sources. Pericyte-derived muscle cells are believed to be capable of providing the functionality and consistent quality needed for the discovery and testing of new drug candidates on human cells.

SCS will initially conduct in-house technology development of the pericytes at its Cambridge, UK, automated cell production facility. Once consistent and automated muscle cell production is confirmed, the technology will be made available to the pharmaceutical industry via a range of commercial options, including assay-ready formats or under license for in-house use.

“It’s another step for SCS in becoming a leading supplier of stem cells to the pharmaceutical industry,” said Dr Peter Mountford, President and CEO of Stem Cell Sciences. “The agreement validates our approach of working with the world’s elite stem cell groups. Thanks to our European Union supported “Eurostemcell” collaboration with Professor Cossu, well known for his pioneering work on muscular dystrophy, new and improved approaches to drug discovery and toxicology are now possible.”

“This is an important result for the San Raffaele Stem Cell Institute.  It shows the great potential of stem cell research for a varied range of pharmaceutical applications, including discovery and selection of more effective and safe drugs,” commented Daniela Bellomo, Director of the Biotechnology Transfer Centre (BTC) at San Raffaele who negotiated the agreement.