Plasticell, the biotechnology company specialising in high throughput technologies for directed stem cell differentiation, has announced the signing of a collaboration agreement with Sigma-Aldrich, a leading provider of technologies and reagents to the life science research market.
In the collaboration, Sigma-Aldrich will use its CompoZr® Zinc Finger Nuclease Technology to engineer various human stem cell lines that enable tracking of differentiation to specific mature cell types via fluorescent reporters, integrated directly into developmentally expressed genes. The technology enables highly efficient, precisely targeted knock-in of reporters, resulting in more reliable reporter systems than conventional transgenic methods which integrate reporters randomly throughout the genome. Plasticell will then use these cell lines in its CombiCult™ high throughput screening (HTS) system to develop novel stem cell differentiation protocols.
Under the Agreement, Plasticell will own resulting protocols for high efficiency, directed differentiation of stem cells, with Sigma-Aldrich marketing the reporter stem cell lines. Cells and media may be commercialised together in kits, while reporter cell lines can be linked to specific CombiCult™ screens, for optimised differentiation of human embryonic stem cells (ESC) or induced pluripotent cells (iPSC).
“I am very pleased to bring together Plasticell’s CombiCult™ and Sigma-Aldrich’s CompoZr® as part of this exciting collaboration,” said Dr. Yen Choo, Plasticell’s CEO, who has at various times been involved in the development of both technologies. Prior to founding Plasticell, Dr. Choo was founder and CSO of Gendaq Ltd (Sangamo UK), the biotechnology company that developed the zinc finger engineering system now used in CompoZr®. Zinc Finger Nucleases were listed in the Top 10 Innovations by The Scientist in 2008 and 2009, while Plasticell’s CombiCult™ HTS system was awarded the European Technology Innovation Award by Frost & Sullivan in 2010.
Plasticell’s Senior Scientist, Dr. Marina Tarunina, added: “We have already demonstrated that using fluorescent reporter lines in CombiCult™ experiments offers a highly convenient, real-time, visual readout for stem cell differentiation. Providing reporter cells as part of CombiCult™ enables us to offer industry partners a complete ‘turnkey’ solution for HTS with stem cells, ideally suited for in-house screening of compound libraries within pharmaceutical companies.”
Carl Schrott, Director of Marketing for Stem Cell Research Products at Sigma-Aldrich, said: “Efficient, directed differentiation of stem cells to predetermined cell lineages remains a major challenge in the field of ESCs and iPSCs. We are pleased to partner with stem cell differentiation experts Plasticell to develop complementary products that address this rapidly growing market segment.”
The present collaboration is supported by a Technology Strategy Board Regenerative Medicine Competition grant to a consortium led by Plasticell and including Sigma-Aldrich and Queen Mary University, London.
Financial terms were not disclosed.