Fluidigm and Stemgent Awarded One of CIRM’S First Grants to the Biotech Industry
News Dec 23, 2008
California’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the state stem cell agency, has awarded Fluidigm Corporation and Stemgent, Inc. a grant to develop a cell culture chip (C2C) and support system that will help researchers accelerate stem cell research in California.
The new integrated fluidic circuit (IFC) and system will help scientists identify stem cell culture and differentiation conditions, as well as genes and molecules impacting stem cell renewal and reprogramming.
“These awards represent the entry of the biotechnology industry into CIRM-funded initiatives to accelerate progress,” said Alan Trounson, president of CIRM, in a press release from the organization.
“Reprogramming a patient’s differentiated cells – such as skin cells – into stem cells overcomes the inherent ethical and immunological barriers to therapeutic usage of embryonic stem cells,” noted Marc Unger, Fluidigm’s chief scientific officer.
“We believe the C2C IFC would be an enabling tool for stem cell researchers. By designing and building a stem cell-specific microfluidic chip in conjunction with a Fluidigm system we can substantially reduce the complexity and cost of fundamental stem cell research,” said Unger.
Fluidigm teamed with Stemgent, of San Diego, California, to secure this grant. Stemgent will be applying their expertise in stem cell science to Fluidigm’s system to combinatorially screen genetic and chemical reagents for more efficient conditions for differentiated cell reprogramming.
“The recent discovery that over-expression of a few genes can reprogram fibroblasts into induced pluripotent stem cells opens the door to the generation of individual-specific pluripotent cells. This technique could make personalized medicine and personalized therapy possible,” explained Stephen Chang, chief scientific officer of Stemgent.
Reprogrammed cells can be used in cell based therapy, tissue or organ repair, and potentially even organ reconstruction. Understanding what causes stem cells to differentiate into a desired type of cell will direct the development of therapeutic applications. Thus, this tool will help both determine conditions to convert differentiated cells into stem cells and develop therapies using the resulting stem cells.
The proof-of-concept for creating this microfluidic chip and system was published by Gomez-Sjoberg et. al.1 based on work in the laboratory of Stephen Quake at Stanford University. They demonstrated a capability for programmable cell culture and stimulation in a laboratory setting, but in a form factor that was difficult to replicate.
Over two years under the conditions of the CIRM grant, Fluidigm expects to create an IFC-based system that can seed controllable chambers with selected cells. These chambers will be able to feed the cells, provide media exchange and provide an automated means to dose cells with different reagents. The cells will be analyzed using time-lapse microscopic images in both transmitted light and fluorescence.