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Dundee joins 9.5M stem cell research collaboration programme

10th May 2007

ITI Life Sciences is very pleased to announce that it has reached its first technical milestone in its Stem Cell Technologies (SCT) R&D programme, and as a result Dundee University has joined the 9.5 million programme, which started in January 2007.

Dundee University will join the programme’s other research providers, Swedish biotech firm Cellartis AB and the University of Glasgow, in a collaborative effort to develop technologies that will enable automated processes to produce high volumes of high quality human stem cells. This capability does not exist anywhere in the world and its development will put Scotland at the forefront of stem cell research as well as bringing closer the use of stem cells as therapeutics.

The initial phase of the programme has focused on developing optimal conditions under which human embryonic stem (hES) cells can be tested (screened) for their ability to differentiate into specific cells. Having achieved this crucial step, ITI Life Sciences is now in a position to bring in Dundee University’s complementary screening expertise, which will be instrumental in developing additional technologies towards the programme’s ultimate objectives.

Dr Eleanor Mitchell, ITI Life Sciences’ acting CEO, said: “We are extremely pleased to have reached this milestone in our Stem Cell Technologies programme so quickly. This technical advance allows us to progress our programme quicker than expected and to bring in an additional excellent research provider in the form of Dundee University.

“Stem cell research offers huge potential for the life sciences sector in Scotland. Scottish academic studies in this field, as well as the location of a growing number of international stem cell players here means it is viewed as one of the country’s major strengths. The ITI programme aims to accelerate Scottish research and reinforce its prominence and reputation in this important area.”

Professor Julie Frearson, University of Dundee, said: “Novel technologies, such as these under development within the ITI programme, require expertise across a range of disciplines. The ITI programme provides a great opportunity for groups with such complementary skills to collaborate effectively in a situation that otherwise could not exist in any single emerging company or university.”

Professor Graeme Milligan from Glasgow University said: “We are delighted that progress on the Stem Cell Technologies programme has been rapid. This new phase means we can now begin detailed interactions with our new partner university in what is a very exciting project.”

Mr Mats Lundwall, CEO Cellartis AB, said: “We are delighted that the programme is proceeding to plan and welcome the addition of Dundee University to what is a very exciting programme.”

ITI programme

The ITI programme will use pre-existing hES cell lines (meaning that no new hES cells will need to be collected). This phase of the programme will be deemed a success if it results in a robust and standardised procedure for generating multiple human cell lines of interest to the pharmaceutical industry from undifferentiated hES cells.

Such cells will be extremely valuable tools for pharmaceutical companies, enabling them to test new drug candidates for activity (efficacy) and toxicity in biologically and disease-relevant human cells. For example, human heart cells may be used to test drug candidates designed for treating heart diseases, or human liver cells may be used to assess drug toxicity. ITI Life Sciences will own all intellectual property generated by the programme.

The market for cell-based tools within the pharmaceutical industry is large and rapidly growing: according to ITI Life Sciences’ foresighting analysis, it was worth US$1.4 billion in 2001 and has grown at a considerable rate ever since. Rapid growth is expected to continue in the future and stem cell based tools are forecast to capture a significant share of this market.

ITI Life Sciences

ITI Life Sciences is a unique and entrepreneurial organisation contributing to Scotland’s economic growth in life sciences; it aims to leverage Scotland's research excellence to develop new technologies targeting future market needs.

Publicly funded, but commercially driven, ITI Life Sciences funds and manages early stage technology research and development programmes in the life sciences arena. It selects programmes based on assessing future market needs, identifying technology opportunities, and responding to ideas, initiatives and proposals from the research and business communities. ITI Life Sciences works in collaboration with partners from industry, academia and the financial community.

ITI Life Sciences is one of three Intermediary Technology Institutes (ITIs) focused on important areas where Scotland has strong economic and business potential; the other areas are Techmedia and Energy.

ITI Life Sciences commenced full operations in April 2004. It plays a key part of Smart Successful Scotland, the Scottish Executive’s strategy for economic growth. ITI Life Sciences is based in Dundee, Scotland.

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