An iPSC partnership

Fujifilm and Axcelead collaborate to advance drug discovery solutions using iPSCs

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TOKYO―In July, Fujifilm Corp. and Axcelead Drug Discovery Partners Inc. announced a collaboration on a human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-based integrated platform for drug discovery solutions. By combining Fujifilm’s iPSC-derived products from its U.S. subsidiary Fujifilm Cellular Dynamics Inc. (FCDI) and Axcelead’s compound evaluation and analytical services, the companies plan to work toward developing new drug efficacy evaluation methods and toxicity testing to meet specific needs of clients.
FCDI, located in Madison, Wis., specializes in the development, manufacture and application of human iPSC and iPSC-derived cells. Fujifilm offers a selection of 15 kinds of iPSC-derived differentiated cells—such as cardiomyocytes, hepatocytes and microglia cells—for supporting drug discovery. FCDI’s expertise in stem cell technologies, combined with Fujifilm’s know-how in production process technology across a range of life-sciences businesses, is expected to ensure the delivery of consistent high-quality iPSCs, iPSC-derived cells and applications.
According to Takeshi Yamamoto, CEO of FCDI, “Fujifilm Cellular Dynamics Inc. is the global leader in developing and manufacturing induced pluripotent stem cells and iPSC-derived cells with a robust process to provide reliable cells to the research community. FCDI, using its know-how, has enabled researchers to develop disease models and assays relevant iPSC-derived cells. Axcelead, a spin-off from … Takeda Pharmaceuticals, is a comprehensive drug discovery solution provider from target identification to IND submission with a state-of-the-art GLP accredited facility.”   
Axcelead is fully equipped to provide nonclinical customized services from exploratory research and optimization of candidate compounds to the process of bringing initiatives to clinical development for its customers. The company is unveiling unique services, such as its Integrated Drug Discovery service that undertakes drug discovery research in project units, and is working to expand its business operations.
“By combining complementary capabilities, the partnership provides customers a one-stop-shop for drug discovery solution using human relevant models of cells derived from healthy donors and patients,” Yamamoto continues. “FCDI and Axcelead initiated the partnership discussion in January 2019 and formally signed an agreement in July 2019.”
Through the collaboration, Fujifilm and Axcelead aim to use iPSCs to accelerate drug discovery for clients. For example, they plan to combine FCDI’s iPSC-derived myocardial cells with Axcelead’s service to evaluate and analyze drug candidate compounds, offering a broad range of services such as evaluation of potential cardiotoxicity. The collaboration will utilize both companies’ technologies and expertise to develop evaluation methods and services that meet customers’ specific needs, and contribute to acceleration of new drug development.
“In collaboration, a more predictable cardiotoxicity testing model will be developed. Furthermore, FCDI’s neural cell portfolio and access to a variety of patient-derived cells enables more relevant disease models to develop assays for drug target identification to screening. The goal of this partnership is to accelerate and increase efficiency of the drug discovery process by creating more relevant models and assays,” notes Yamamoto.
By offering high value-added products and services that meet broad-ranging customer needs, Fujifilm and Axcelead will help customers create innovative new drugs. Fujifilm will also consider further collaborations in the field of drug discovery support by combining the culture media and reagents owned by Fujifilm Irvine Scientific Inc., a leading company in the culture medium business, and Fujifilm Wako Pure Chemical Corporation, a comprehensive reagent company.
In new drug research and development, there is a need to evaluate the safety, efficacy and pharmacokinetics of drug candidate compounds more efficiently and with even greater precision, prior to starting hugely expensive clinical studies—iPSCs possess infinite reproduction capabilities and the ability to differentiate into diverse cells, and for that reason they are attracting lots of attention for use in R&D purposes. These cells can recreate environments close to the human body by inducing target cells to differentiate, and the iPSC-derived differentiated cells are being utilized in evaluating drug candidate compounds in a growing number of cases. As more measures aimed at standardizing safety tests using iPSC-derived differentiated cells are being carried out, the demand for iPSCs is anticipated to expand even further.
“Fujifilm is committed to the development of unique production processes for biopharmaceutical and regenerative medicine fields in the U.S. and Japan. This partnership will use FCDI’s core expertise in the scalable production of diverse, human iPSC-derived cells. This human cell-based platform has a potential to assess drug toxicity more accurately than currently used methods and find new drug targets not possible in animal models. We are excited about the great potential of new capabilities, which we believe would lead to identifying drugs in the areas of unmet needs,” Yamamoto said.

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