Laboratory systems

Stem Cell Sciences wins EU funding for drug discovery from neural stem cells

16 October 2007

Stem Cell Sciences plc (SCS; AIM:STEM, ASX: STC) is to lead an EU-funded, multinational novel drug screening collaboration using stem cells. The project, named NEUROscreen, will use Stem Cell Sciences’ proprietary neural stem (NS) cell technology and has received a contribution from the EU’s 6th Framework Programme for Research and Technical Development (FP6).

The EU’s contribution to the NEUROscreen project is worth €2.4 million over three years, of which approximately €0.42 million will flow directly to SCS over the three-year period.

NEUROscreen brings together a unique partnership of leading European academic research institutes and biotech companies from several nations, including the UK, Germany and Italy. The Programme involves designing unique bioassays based on SCS’ neural stem cell technology, which will then be used to discover new candidate medicines for the treatment of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and epilepsy. Neural stem cells can differentiate into neurons and glia, therefore offer potential in treating CNS disorders.

SCS’ NS cells grow stably and uniformly, consistently producing neurons after many months in culture. The cells adhere to tissue-culture vessels and can be expanded to large volumes using state-of-the-art laboratory robots. These are features that provide a direct advantage to users of neural cells for drug screening.

SCS has validated a process for NS cell expansion using robotics from its commercial partner, The Automation Partnership. This process guarantees a consistent production of high quality cells delivered in quantities to suit most drug-screening campaigns. SCS’ component of the project will be performed at its automated stem cell production facility in Cambridge (UK) by the SC Services team of assay design specialists.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to validate our human NS cell and NS cell-derived cell types for drug discovery, all within a single, well defined programme of work,” said Dr. Lilian Hook, SCS’ European Research Programme Manager. “We expect that NEUROscreen will significantly add to the value of our NS cell platform and broaden its utility in neural drug discovery and development.”

Peter Mountford, Chief Executive of SCS, said: “We are very pleased that the EU has decided to fund SCS as co-ordinator for NEUROscreen. The €420,000 that SCS will receive as leader of this project demonstrates that our technology and capabilities are distinctive in the industry. We look forward to increasing the range of drug discovery applications and adding to our list of four large industry licensees of the technology. NEUROscreen also provides SCS with the exciting prospect of discovering proprietary drug leads.”

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