A new service company focused on the development of customized cells for drug discovery and development applications has been spun-out from Germany’s Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI). InSCREENex aims to commercialize two technologies both for off-the-shelf and customized solutions.
The company says that its SCREENflex platform has been developed to reduce the time taken to produce stable cell lines for primary screening. The other technology, CI-SCREEN, allows the design of cells with tissue-like characteristics for secondary screening and early ADME/TOX evaluation. The SCREENflex technology is ready for market, and the firm says it will use resulting revenues to validate and commercialize its CI-SCREEN technology.
SCREENflex cells are generated using a tagging and screening procedure that has resulted in an isolated set of master cell lines, which support gene-expression levels that are optimal for cells for drug screening. These master cell lines have been generated to harbor single-tagged chromosomal loci, which InSCREENex says guarantees stable expression of a transgene.
To generate the desired cell line the platform employs a single transfection step to exchange the tagging cassette of a SCREENflex master cell line for a drug target gene or a customer's gene, such as a GPCR, ion channel, or kinase. InSCREENex claims that as no other chromosomal regions are touched, all positive expression and growth features of the optimized master cell line are transferred to the new screening cell line.
The CI-SCREEN technology, meanwhile, is designed to generate biologically relevant cell systems in sufficient numbers for use in drug development and toxicity testing. The platform aims to address bottlenecks associated with the traditionally limited proliferation capacity of primary cells by implementing expansion genes into freshly isolated primary cells from the required tissues.
These expansion genes can be controlled through a gene switch, according to InSCREENex. When the expansion gene is turned on, the cells expand and are amplified. In this state the cells exhibit a physiology that resembles tumor cells. However, once this gene switch has been turned off again, the cells’ physiology reverts to a normal state, and they remain viable for weeks.
InSCREENex has been established with the aid of Ascenion, the HZI’s technology transfer partner. Ascenion has also taken an equity investment in the new company. “InSCREENex has hit the nail on the head, as the biopharmaceutical industry struggles to improve the productivity of its research and drug discovery efforts,” states Christian Stein, the IP management firm’s CEO.