BASEL, Switzerland—Early March brought news that Roche andStockholm, Sweden-based BioLamina had signed a research and developmentagreement to jointly develop new cell culture systems for various applications,including stem cell research.
Specifically, the collaboration will focus on assessinglaminin-based in-vitro cell culture matrices,reportedly "offering highly physiological microenvironments for living cells."
Laminins are proteins located in the extracellular matrixproviding the stability essential for cell growth and behavior, the companiesexplain, and they are so far the only known protein group in this environmentthat have a tissue-specific distribution, including expression of specificlaminins during embryonic development.
This makes them a very interesting target for newbiologically relevant cell-culturing techniques, notes Ruedi Stoffel, head ofthe Biochemical Reagents & Custom Biotech unit at Roche, who tells ddn, "This collaboration was driven by market forces.You've had this first generation with cell extracts that are not very welldefined, but now we're more into targeting for certain cell lines, which hadn'thappened much in the past. There is more and more evidence that some of thelaminates for certain cell lines have a very special effect, and there isdemand in the market for cultivation of certain cell types."
"Our aim is to develop laminin-based culture systems thatprovide biologically relevant, standardized environments," Stoffel explained inthe news release about the deal. "We are looking forward to this collaborationto build on the revolutionary cell cultivation techniques developed by ourcolleagues at the Karolinska Institute and BioLamina."
Under the terms of the agreement, Roche will provideresearch and development funding and scientific expertise to BioLamina.Financial details were not disclosed.
As BioLamina CEO Kristian Tryggvason noted in theannouncement about the deal, "We're delighted that Roche has recognized thepotential of our products and technology, which we believe will significantlycomplement their expertise and capabilities in cell culturing. By resolvingmany of the technical obstacles currently blocking the road to modern celltherapy, we expect this collaboration to accelerate the development ofinnovative cell culturing solutions that possibly can enable cell therapy."
Tryggvason tells ddnthat Roche approached his company roughly a year ago, at a point whenBioLamina, with its staff of 10, was looking for various opportunities. The twocompanies had not previously worked together.
"Of course we think we have the best technology in theworld," Tryggvason says, "but we don't have the resources to do all the thingswe want to, so we were looking for different options to help develop newproducts, and Roche is known for their good, high-quality products and theirability to structure a good R&D deal."
The deal is open-ended with no specific timeline or enddate, Roche's Stoffel says.
BioLamina's current product offerings number about nine,Tryggvason says, though only one is being commercialized in a major way rightnow, as it is the one with the most validation data behind it. All of thoseproducts are based on recombinant laminins developed by Prof. Karl Tryggvasonat the Karolinska Institute.
According to BioLamina, "The use of laminins solvespractically all the technical problems confronting stem cell culture. When cellculture dishes are coated with biologically relevant human recombinantlaminins, many primary cells, including stem cells, feel comfortable and do notchange their phenotype. In principle, this allows infinite culture of stemcells and other primary cell types in completely defined environments invitro."
Laminins provide solutions to issues of repeatability andundefined and complex culture systems, BioLamina notes, making cell biologicalresearch and development of clinical applications faster, easier and morereliable. The company has been producing laminins for different cell types anddistributing them to all continents since 2009, and its goal is to become the"one-stop shop for superior reagents for scientists working in the primary cellculture and stem cell therapy fields." With its proprietary technology,BioLamina sees its reagents as a potential key to accelerating the developmentof new cures in regenerative medicine therapies for many serious diseases.