CARLSBAD, Calif—Invitrogen Corp., which has been steadily building its cell therapy expertise, announced in mid-May the formation of a separate cell therapy business unit focused on the specific needs of the clinical cell therapy market. The Cell Therapy Systems business aims to integrate a number of in-house technologies, including Dynal magnetic beads for cell isolation, Gibco cell expansion media and Molecular Probes cell characterization tools in an effort to aid companies involved in developing cell therapies.
"Setting up the cell therapy business unit is a very strategic move," says Joydeep Goswami, VP of stem cells and regenerative medicine for Invitrogen. "It is important to be a leader and enabler in this field where the benefits of these things come in the longer term."
The cell therapy unit will both fall under, and operate in much the same way as, the stem cell and regenerative medicine unit which Goswami heads. The idea is to create a small, highly focused management team that can both reach horizontally across Invitrogen to identify products and technologies that can have applications for researchers and clinicians developing cell therapies, while also reaching out to the market to effectively understand the needs of its potential customers.
Paul Pickering, GM of the cell therapy business unit, says Invitrogen has been stepping up its engagement with potential customers over the past six to 12 months and the formalization of creating the business unit is a continuation and deepening of the company's commitment to the market.
"What we want to be able to do is help our customers understand that not only are there better and cheaper ways to create cell therapies, but also that we can help them in finding solutions that help them create these therapies," says Pickering.
One strength Invitrogen brings to the table, Goswami notes, is its ongoing commitment to creating "animal-free" media that its customers can use to grow their cells.
"It is very clear that the FDA is very concerned with everything used, right down to the nitty gritty," Goswami notes. "Because they are using cells that are then put into a patient's body, the requirements for the FDA are very strict and the requirements of what touches the cells, how they are treated, how they are handled, how they are characterized, all of those become very important."
Invitrogen provides for these market needs based on how it has created its research reagents for stem cell and cell therapy researchers. Goswami says many reagents available to researchers in the field are undefined or contain animal components. The result is essentially needing to re-do all of the protocol for creating the therapies once they are moved to the clinic.
"When we started off, we focused on technologies and platforms that make things more defined and more 'xeno-free', if you will, to get rid of the animal components," he says. "That work that we have been putting in for more than two years now really is starting to pay off with this customer group."
To ensure the company stays on top of developments in the field, it is recruiting clinicians experienced in developing and administering cell therapies, as a way to tailor its products and services.
"We have a small team of practitioners that are working with our customers who can work with these reagents and platforms to make sure these solutions are meaningful to our customers," Pickering notes. DDN