MADISON, Wis.—Fujifilm Cellular Dynamics Inc. (FCDI) and the University of California, Irvine (UCI) have begun an exclusive patent license agreement centered on UCI technology for deriving microglia from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Facilitated through the UCI Applied Innovation offices, the agreement covers the licensing and commercialization of UCI’s technology in the commercial research field, as well as a non-exclusive patent license agreement for commercializing microglia media formulation. Financial details for the deal were not released.
This technology is relatively new, all things considered, having only been detailed in a paper in Neuron in April 2017. Commercial interest from a company like FCDI, which is a market leader in the development and manufacture of human iPSCs and differentiated tissue-specific iPSCs, is an encouraging sign for UCI. FCDI is looking to leverage this technology to produce better models for studying degenerative neurological diseases.
“Until now researchers have relied predominantly on animal models, which do not sufficiently mimic the human disease, to study the role microglia play in neurodegeneration,” said Seimi Satake, chairman and CEO of FCDI. “With UCI’s technology, FCDI will bring to market iPSC-derived microglia that will provide researchers with better tools to characterize microglia from donors with neurological diseases, to develop assays that distinguish between normal and diseased behaviors and to advance efforts in discovering new therapies.”
“We are delighted that FCDI has recognized the importance of iPSC-derived microglia to model and study human neurological disease and advance our understanding of microglia biology,” Matt Blurton-Jones, a UCI associate professor and co-inventor of the technology, said in a press release. “We hope that, by making this new technology readily available to the scientific community, researchers worldwide will uncover important new findings and accelerate the discovery of promising therapies.”
Blurton-Jones’ UCI faculty page notes that in his research group, “[We] are using iPSCs to generate human microglia and understand the effects of disease-associated genetic risk factors on microglial function and AD [Alzheimer’s disease] pathology. Working with immune-deficient AD mouse models, we have also recently uncovered an important role for the adaptive immune system in AD, finding that peripheral immune populations slow the development of beta-amyloid pathology by modulating microglial function.”
A 2017 press release penned by Kirsten M. Klein, assistant education coordinator of the UCI Mind institute, covered the publication of the iPSC-derived microglia technology in Neuron, noting that “In the brain, microglia mediate inflammation and the removal of dead cells and debris. These cells make up 10 to 15 percent of brain cells and are needed for the development and maintenance of neural networks.”
“Microglia play an important role in Alzheimer’s and other diseases of the central nervous system. Recent research has revealed that newly discovered Alzheimer’s risk genes influence microglia behavior. Using these cells, we can understand the biology of these genes and test potential new therapies,” Blurton-Jones explained at the time.
Details of this technology appeared in the 2017 Neuron paper titled “iPSC-derived Human Microglia-like Cells to Study Neurological Diseases.” As noted in the abstract, “We find that iMGLs develop in vitro similarly to microglia in vivo, and whole-transcriptome analysis demonstrates that they are highly similar to cultured adult and fetal human microglia. Functional assessment of iMGLs reveals that they secrete cytokines in response to inflammatory stimuli, migrate and undergo calcium transients and robustly phagocytose CNS substrates. iMGLs were used to examine the effects of Aβ fibrils and brain-derived tau oligomers on AD-related gene expression and to interrogate mechanisms involved in synaptic pruning. Furthermore, iMGLs transplanted into transgenic mice and human brain organoids resemble microglia in vivo.”
“We are pleased that FCDI has licensed our protocol to make and distribute microglia to the scientific community. As leaders in the field of providing iPSC-derived products, we are confident that FCDI will provide researchers and scientists with a reliable product in large scale to carry out quality studies,” Wayne Poon and Edsel Abud, UCI co-inventors of the technology, said of the recent licensing deal.
This isn’t the first iPSC-focused deal for Fujifilm Corp. so far this year. In February, the company launched a collaboration with Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. for the development of regenerative medicine therapies using iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes to treat heart failure.
Takeda gains a “right of first negotiation” to collaboratively and globally commercialize regenerative medicine products featuring iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes currently being developed by FCDI. The companies will work together to investigate the safety and efficacy of any produced therapies. While no specific financial details were disclosed, Takeda will make a one-time payment to Fujifilm.