EMD Millipore, Promethera Biosciences announce collaboration

Companies will develop a liver assay for toxicological testing of pharmaceutical products

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MONT-SAINT-GUIBERT, Belgium—Promethera Biosciences, a pharmaceutical company spun off from Université Catholique de Louvain, has begun a collaboration with EMD Millipore, the life science division of Merck KGaA, for the development of an improved, ready-to-use microfluidic perfusion liver assay. The resulting assay is meant to enable more robust studies in preclinical toxicity and drug metabolism, and the work will be funded by 900,000 euros ($1.25 million) from the Belgian Walloon region and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC).
The Belgian Walloon region and the MLSC are partners in the International Collaborative Industry Program, which seeks to promote collaboration between life-sciences companies in Massachusetts and other countries by supporting promising projects.
“We are very pleased to initiate this collaboration with EMD Millipore and to combine our expertise to develop a ready-to-use liver-based assay. We sincerely thank the Walloon region and the MLSC for funding this innovative project,” Eric Halioua, CEO of Promethera Biosciences, said in a press release.
The companies’ respective expertise will support development of the assay, as Promethera Biosciences specializes in isolating, expanding and characterizing human liver progenitor cells for cell therapy and liver cell-based assays and EMD Millipore brings with it a portfolio of cell analysis instruments and advanced microfluidic cell culture and drug discovery services.
Promethera Biosciences has discovered a novel adult human hepatic progenitor cell population capable of being maintained in vitro in two- and three-dimensional cell culture conditions, which provides new models for testing in-vitro drug metabolism: Promethera H2Screen and H3screen. The technology offers long-term stability in culture and potential for large-scale production, with reproducibility across batches. For its part, EMD Millipore’s ‘Pearl’ microfluidic technology can maintain hepatocyte functionality by mimicking the microenvironment of the liver, with liver cells cultured in the ‘Pearl’ format recovering key metabolic functions and displaying phenotypic profiles of the intact organ for more than a month.
“The opportunity to work closely with Promethera over the course of the project speaks to the nature of our organization, enabling our partners to conduct potentially life-saving research,” Robert Yates, president and CEO of EMD Millipore, commented in a statement regarding the deal. “We are looking forward to building our relationship and more importantly to the outcomes this partnership has the potential to deliver. A sincere thanks to the MLSC for the opportunity to see what this collaboration can achieve and more importantly the continued support of the Massachusetts Life Sciences industry.”
“The partnership between EMD Millipore and Promethera Biosciences will help bring new health technologies to the market along with economic benefits for Massachusetts,” added Susan Windham-Bannister, Ph.D., president and CEO of the MLSC. “We are also excited to announce the second year of the ICIP Program, including two new partner regions in Israel and Medicon Valley. No one country or region can address on its own the urgent health challenges that still face our global community, and we are pleased to be partnering with some of the world’s leading regions in life sciences innovation.”
Approximately 30 percent of drug candidates fail in clinical development stages as a result of toxicity issue, and currently, liver cells-based studies represent 85 percent of in-vitro toxicology assays.
SOURCE: Promethera Biosciences press release

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