Class of compounds found by Riken team will enhance effective scale-up.

Stem Cell Sciences (SCS) secured rights from Riken to a discovery that overcomes the key challenge in the effective scale-up of stem cell technologies—cell death. The company expects that this discovery will significantly accelerate the application of human embryonic stem (hESC) cells in both research and cell-based therapies.

The discovery, made by Yoshiki Sasai’s team at The Institute of Physical and Chemical Research of the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology (Kobe, Japan), uses a class of compounds known as ROCK (Rho-associated kinase) inhibitors to block the onset of stem cell death when the clusters of growing cells are dissociated for transfer and scale-up. SCS notes that the use of a selective ROCK inhibitor to increase the robustness of the cells will allow for the large-scale automated production that is needed for industrial research and clinical application.

“The RIKEN discovery will not only transform human ES cell production but will also enhance our ability to engineer human ES cell lines needed by the pharmaceutical industry for specific drug discovery assays,” remarks Peter Mountford, CEO of SCS.

SCS gained an exclusive license to the discovery in all global territories except Japan where the company holds nonexclusive rights. “In commercial terms, it will build revenues for SCS through new and improved human ES cell culture media and cell-based drug discovery products as well as further strengthening our longer term position in cell-based therapies,” concludes Mountford.

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