The pharmaceutical industry's development of new therapeutic molecules requires the development and utilization of experimental cellular models that are both efficient and reliable. For a long time, the only possibility was to use stem cells extracted from human embryos. Apart from the difficulty of ensuring their availability, the use of such cells is also circumscribed by stringent ethical and regulatory constraints, which considerably hamper and slow the discovery of new medicines.
Today, a new scientific approach offers an alternative to the use of embryonic stem cells, which is to start with adult human cells and reprogram them as multi-purpose cells.
The SHIP-In project consists in optimizing this new technology to cater for the demands of the biopharmaceutical industry. The aim is to provide pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies with an unlimited supply of human cells which meet quality criteria that are not available today. Eventually, SHIP-In should facilitate the discovery of new molecules and generally speed up the therapeutic innovation process.
"SHIP-In presents a unique opportunity for participating in the development of scientific advances that have been unanimously hailed at a world level," declared Nicolas Carboni, the Director of the Alsace BioValley cluster, a partner in the project. "Alsace BioValley is proud to have supported and endorsed a project of this importance, which can only enhance the competitiveness of French researchers on the world stage."
SHIP-In is one of three Alsatian R&D projects to have been selected and retained by the French government following its seventh call for projects issued in September 2008. Three organizations based in Alsace are involved in the project: the biotech company Polyplus Transfection, the Institute of Genetics and Molecular and Cellular Biology (IGBMC), one of Europe's leading biomedical research centers, and the Institut Charles Sadron (ICS). The SHIP-In project was selected from more than 190 that were submitted, proof that it is considered to have exceptionally strong innovative and commercial potential. The project is due to run for 36 months.