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Banking iPS cells

Ten pharma companies led by Roche of Basel are to set up a human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell bank in collaboration with 23 academic groups coordinated by Zameel Cader, of the Stem Cell Institute at Oxford University. The €55.6 ($72)-million project known as StemBANCC is part of Europe's public-private Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). At the same time, the UK will launch a national iPS cell bank, Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Initiative (HIPSCI), with £12.75 ($20.5) million in funding from the Medical Research Council and the research charity Wellcome Trust. Both projects aim to develop standardized, genetically defined iPS cell lines and protocols for use as research tools. The biopharma industry has recognized the value of using iPS cells for high-throughput screening, toxicity testing and disease research, but views the generation of cell lines as precompetitive work. The IMI, whose brief is to improve the environment for pharma research in Europe, decided to set up a pan-European iPS cell repository after assessing the situation in the US. There, many small, privately funded cell banks, struggle to be viable despite an exponential increase in stem cell research such that demand outstrips supply. This points to a “unique opportunity,” according to an IMI document, to create an industrial-scale, not-for-profit cell bank that will act as a pan-European storage and distribution center for iPS cells. The StemBANCC aims to generate 1,500 standardized, genetically defined iPS cell lines from 500 patients to develop models to study a range of diseases. It has a business plan to become self-financing in the next six years. The UK's national iPS cell bank HIPSCI aims to generate iPS cells from over 500 healthy individuals and 500 people with genetic disease. The goal is to use these cells to study the effects of genomic variation on cellular phenotypes. The aim of both projects is to standardize protocols for differentiating iPS cells to specialized cell types; neither mention potential clinical applications of the cells themselves. However, Keith Thompson, CEO of the UK's national Cell Therapy Catapult Centre, said that advancing the use of iPS cells as tools will also “inform strategies around the development of therapies.” The UK national stem cell resource project will be led by King's College London and the Hinxton, Cambridge–based Wellcome Trust Sanger Centre.


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Moran, N. Banking iPS cells. Nat Biotechnol 31, 11 (2013).

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