BERGISCH GLADBACH, Germany—Miltenyi Biotec and Boston-basedStemgent recently announced that the companies will collaborate on theco-development and commercialization of stem cell research products.
Miltenyi Biotec will make an equity investment in Stemgent,and Stefan Miltenyi, CEO of Miltenyi Biotec, will join Stemgent's board ofdirectors. According to the agreement, Miltenyi Biotec will be responsible forworldwide marketing and sales of Stemgent's existing stem cell productportfolio outside of the United States, while Stemgent will continue to serveits U.S. customers. Both companies will jointly develop products to serve unmetneeds of the international stem cell research community. New products developedas part of the strategic collaboration will be globally commercialized byMiltenyi Biotec on an exclusive basis.
"The philosophy of both companies is very similar—scientistsworking for scientists to enable high-quality research," says Miltenyi."Additionally, the portfolios fit very well, and there are a lot of synergiesusing Stemgent and Miltenyi Biotec technology together. Stemgent smallmolecules and Miltenyi Biotec's magnetic-activated cell sorting (MACS)separation technology for embryonic stem cell (ES) and induced pluripotent stemcell (iPS) research. Stemgent small molecules like the hES cloning and recoverysupplement allow single-cell passaging of human ES and iPS cells, which is aprerequisite for MACS separations to enrich pluripotent stem cells.Furthermore, ES and iPS cell–derived cells can be influenced in theirdifferentiation by using Stemgent small molecules and Miltenyi Biotec andStemgent cytokines. In such differentiation, protocol results can be furtherimproved by depleting unwanted cells or enriching the target cells with theMACS separation technology."
The molecular characterization of stem cells and theanalysis of mechanisms governing reprogramming, self-renewal anddifferentiation of cells necessitate homogenous cell populations. Stemgent'sexpertise with antibodies for pluripotent cells and Miltenyi Biotec's expertisein MACS separations will result in straightforward approaches for the gentleand fast isolation of numerous stem cells and derivatives thereof, Miltenyistates.
Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell generation hastraditionally been achieved by viral transduction of oncogenic transcriptionfactors—a challenging process. Recent studies, however, have shown that some ofthe four genes originally thought to be required for iPS cell generation may bedispensable. Several alternative defined conditions are capable of improvingefficiency and kinetics, generating more homogeneous iPS populations. Thesedefined conditions are now made possible with the use of various combinationsof Stemgent small molecules affecting reprogramming, self-renewal anddifferentiation.
Commenting on the collaboration, Ian Ratcliffe, presidentand CEO of Stemgent, notes that, "partnering with Miltenyi Biotec is atremendous step for Stemgent, as we instantly increase our global reach with atop-tier partner allowing us to better serve our customers' needs. Theco-development aspect dramatically increases our ability to combine MiltenyiBiotec's technologies with Stemgent's stem cell expertise. We are especiallypleased to have Stefan join Stemgent's board and welcome Miltenyi Biotec as astrategic partner. Stefan's experience in building a world-class organizationin the research tools space brings an invaluable perspective as we continue tobuild Stemgent."
Commenting on the commercial opportunities implicit in thecollaboration, Miltenyi notes that research on pluripotent stem cells isgrowing rapidly and the funding situation is very strong in many countries.
"Additionally, numerous Big Pharma companies have recentlyshown strong interest in these cell types. Miltenyi Biotec and Stemgent aim atserving academia, biotech and pharma with innovative products to improve stemcell research," he states.
The United States is the biggest market for ES and iPS cellresearch with billons of funding (e.g., $3 billion over 10 years fromCalifornia's Proposition 71), but there are many other countries which significantlyinvest in ES and iPS cell research, Miltenyi points out, naming, specifically,Japan, Australia and the European Union.
"Until now," he says, "a lot of money has been invested ininfrastructure. We now expect that more money will be spent for stem cellresearch reagents and instruments. The stage of development is similar in theseleading countries."
With approximately 1100 employees in 18 countries, MiltenyiBiotec develops, manufactures and commercializes innovations for both, researchand clinical applications. Stemgent provides proprietary reagents and toolsspecifically optimized for and screened against stem cells, and includes smallmolecules for pluripotency, self-renewal and differentiation, viral-deliveredtranscription factors, matrices, cell lines, cytokines, antibodies andtransfection reagents.